Seems like it was just last month that I was shoveling snow off the sidewalk in front of the house and Patricia and I were popping the cork on a bottle of bubbly to celebrate New Year’s Eve. I honestly think this must be a symptom of getting older as just about everybody around my age says that it seems as if time is speeding up. All I know is that years ain’t lasting as long as they used to so I better stop being lazy and get busy.
How have you been? This is another one of my updates which are supposed to be a regular thing but usually end up being in the nature of me doing it when I look at the date of my last post and go, “Holy shit…has it been that long?” So here I am to catch up to date on what’s going with me and what you should be on the lookout for as far as my work goes. So let’s dive in, shall we?
Hopefully by now you should have your copy of STRAIGHT OUTTA DEADWOOD, the Weird Western anthology edited by David Boop. The story I have in there; “The Relay Station at Wrigley’s Pass” was one that I originally had written for my collection of Sebastian Red stories; “The Trail of Sebastian Red” which will collect the following stories:
“Of All The Plagues A Love Bears”
“The Tale of The Baron’s Tribute”
“Storms of Blood and Snow”
“Sorrowful Are The Souls That Sleep With Gold”
“The Cost of Employment” by Brent Lambert
“The Bloodstained Trail”
Most of those stories have appeared in the “How The West Was Weird” anthology and most of you guys reading this have read them. I wanted to have at least two or three new stories in the book to make it worth getting for those who already have all the “How The West Was Weird” volumes. Brent Lambert was good enough to offer to write a story as he’s a huge Sebastian Red fan and a marvelously talented writer so I’d have been worse than foolish to not take him up on it. The downside is that it’s taken me so long to get this book together the brother has probably forgotten he wrote it. But never fear, I’ll make sure I do the right thing.
So anyway, I had “The Relay Station at Wrigley’s Pass” all done and was in the process of finishing up “The Bloodstained Trail” which is definitely going to be the longest Sebastian Red story to date. At least until I get around to writing “The Seven Guns of Sebastian Red” which is going to be a “Magnificent Seven” homage. Don’t ask when I’m gonna do that one. I’m trying not to lie to you guys. David Boop contacted me and asked me would I like to contribute something to the anthology and I jumped at the chance. I actually had to cut the story down considerably due to word count restrictions and that took me about a week.
So now my dilemma is this: should I go with the stories I have ready and publish “The Trail of Sebastian Red” or write another story in place of the one I gave David Boop?
By now I hope you’ve discovered SUPERHERO CINEPHILES, the podcast I’m co-hosting with Perry Constantine. If not, look to the right and you’ll see a link there in the sidebar that will take you there. We’re going to be talking about, dissecting and debating about our favorite superhero movies. So far we’ve tackled “Superman: The Movie” 1989’s “Batman” Wes Craven’s “Swamp Thing” from 1982 and “X-Men” is coming up soon.
Already I’ve got people asking me via email and on Skype; “Why aren’t you guys doing the MCU or the DCEU movies?” There’s a simple answer to that: we didn’t want to. At least not right away. You can find hundreds of podcasts about the current wave of superhero movies and eventually Perry and I will get to them. But we wanted to have some fun with revisiting old favorites that essentially laid the foundation for the superhero movies we’re enjoying now.
As for myself, I’ve been having more fun than I thought I would have and that’s a good thing. For awhile now I’ve had the urge to get back into podcasting but I had no idea what I wanted to talk about or what my podcast should be. It was a blessing that Perry came along at this time so that I could ease back into podcasting and exercise that particular set of creative muscles. I’m still thinking about doing my own podcast and my wife Patricia and I have talked about doing one together as well. I’ll keep you posted on that as well.
But in the meantime, I’ve been doing some 20-30-minute audio posts on my Patreon. I’ve done three so far and there will be more to come. There’s no real structure to any of ‘em. They’re just thoughts I have about my stories and my work. Just some insights into how I think about what I do. If you’re interested, again, just look to the right. And the three serials over at Patreon are still going strong; “Dillon and The Island of Dr. Mamuwalde” “Shadows Over Cymande” and “One Night In Denbrook”
Speaking of Dillon, there just might be a new Dillon Christmas story this year. It’s an idea I had last year but it involves another character belonging to another writer and I had to get his permission to use him. We’ll see. I’m also thinking of giving the Dillon website a whole new facelift and update. There’s information there that badly needs updating and the best time to do it is when I’m in the mood. And right now I’m in the mood. So there.
What else? Oh, I’m also working on a new Bass Reeves story for the latest volume in Airship 27’s BASS REEVES-FRONTIER MARSHAL anthology series. I missed Vol. III but Ron was good enough to invite me back for Vol. IV so be on the lookout for that.
I guess that’s it for now. All my contact information is over on the right if you want to get in touch with me as well as links to everything I do online so feel free to check out everything else I’m doing. As always, I thank you with all my heart for your kind attention and support. It sustains me in more ways than you can imagine. Until next time, watch some good scary movies and be good to yourself and others. Take Care and God Bless.
Derrick Ferguson: It has been a really long time since we’ve done this so we have to bring folks up to speed. Let’s start off with The Basics: Who is Lucas Garrett? Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors away?
Lucas Garrett: I am a 40-year-old Marine Corps veteran with over twenty years of experience in the security industry, and one year of experience in building engineering. I currently reside in the Lawrenceville, Georgia area where I have lived for close to 9 years. I am a security professional working in the Midtown Atlanta area for a notable security company for the last 8 years.
My personal interests include all things pulp fiction (anything considered Classic Pulp and New Pulp), superhero comic books and movies, action flicks. I am an Afrofunk, Steamfunk, and Cyberfunk book collector. I highly recommend Dark Universe by Milton Davis and Gene Peterson.
I love cutting edge science fiction books like “Killing Time” and “The Labyrinth Key,” television shows “Fringe” “Eureka” and “Warehouse 13” and movies like “Dark City”, “The Thirteenth Floor” and “The Matrix.”
I’m a fan of Tokusatsu series like Go Go Sentai Boukenger and Kamen Rider Black, and I love Mecha and mature anime series like Mobile Suit Gundam 0079,Guyver, and Golgo 13.
Most importantly, I look for crossovers found in various forms of literature, television shows, movies, cartoons, anime, and video games.
DF: You are an astoundingly knowledgeable and enthusiastic fan of Comic Books/Movies/Science Fiction/Classic Pulp/New Pulp/The Wold Newton Universe. How did your interest in all things fun and fantastic come from?
LG: My love of reading goes back to the sixth grade when I read Isaac Asimov’s “TheFoundation”. That book did a lot to open my eyes to the imaginative worlds of literature and possible sciences on the horizon.
And I also had my love of superhero and action comics like Ron Fortier’s and Jeff Butler’s TheGreen Hornet comic book series for the now defunct NOW Comics line, as well as “Classic X–Men” that reprinted old issues from Uncanny X-Men for Marvel Comics.
I still remember when Nick Fury disbanded S.H.I.E.L.D. and Steve Rogers became Captain America again back in the late 1980s. And I remember when Bruce Wayne met Tim Drake after the tragic events of Death In The Family that saw the apparent death of Jason Todd and his mother at the hands of The Joker around the same time.
All of these characters and their stories helped to shaped my young mind.
And by the time Chris Claremont and Jim Lee revamped the X-Men in 1991 that many have come to remember and revere, I was all in.
And in 1992, I was introduced to Black Panther, the Warrior King of Wakanda, and member of The Avengers, when I saw his profile on one of the Marvel Comics trading cards my brothers and I collected in the early 1990s. And I found my hero. King of the most technologically advanced society on Earth in the Marvel 616 Universe. Yes, I was definitely all in.
And I stayed in for 18 years.
I took my first hiatus from mainstream superhero comics around the time Jeph Loeb’s Ultimatum concluded, and came back in 2010, for six years, with the release of Cable and X-Force. My current hiatus is in response to Nick Spencer’s Steve Rogers Captain America #1 and Ta Nehisi Coates run on Black Panther. You don’t make Steve Rogers a member of Hydra and you don’t turn Wakanda into Rwanda. Two big no-no’s in my book.
Now I just keep up with the latest shenanigans and story-arcs that are “so original and so edgy” from online articles that I read, and whatever praise or rants my friends post on Facebook and Instagram.
Nevertheless, there are three books that I consider required reading, and I highly recommend finding, if you want to understand the evolution of superhero comics: Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, and Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday.
And it was around the time of the release of Planetary that I realized that there was more to the modern mythology I had been reading and watching. There were stories yet to be uncovered that led to the creation of the stories I grew to love.
And as time went by, I became aware of the Wold Newton Family and Wold Newton Universe initially through websites articles by Jess Nevins, that led me to the Philip Jose’ Farmer Wold Newton Universe website ran by Win Scott Eckert. The Wold Newton Family concept was developed by the late great science fiction writer, Philip Jose’ Farmer back in 1972 and 1973 when he wrote Tarzan Alive: The Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke (1972) and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (1973).
The premise of this concept concerns the real-life exploits of the men who would inspire the fictional Lord of Apes and the Man of Bronze.
And here’s the thing: these men were part of an illustrious family of heroes and villains descended from a group of noteworthy historical characters who happened to be riding in two carriages in Wold Newton, East Riding, Yorkshire, England on Friday, December 13, 1795, when a bizarre event occurred that would have lasting effects for the world of literature and popular fiction.
I went in depth in my last interview, however, I would much rather have new readers find and read these books than spoil them.
Trust me, for anyone who is a fan of fictional biographies, and television series like “The X Files”,“The Pretender” and Heroes, and if they are a fan of crossovers, they owe it to themselves to read these two books, and then seek out other books in the Wold Newton series.
Part of the fun is the hunt for these books and seeing how they connect to one another. You will not be disappointed.
DF: You hit the lottery and win $100 million. What’s the one movie you would make and why?
Because it’s long overdue. And the movie will shake things up a bit. However, it will need a director like Zack Snyder, Matthew Vaughn, or Christopher Nolan to make Planetary work on the big screen or small screen.
A lot of new directors and producers will find a lot in Planetary to be problematic from their point of view. They will not have the stomach for it.
And I would have the films stream on Amazon Prime or Google Play as a series of six 90-minute films. The scope of Planetary is too big to contain in the theaters. At least, for what I would do with that particular project. And I would have Warren Ellis and John Cassaday as Executive Producers on the film series.
Unfortunately, Warner Bros. and Hollywood would need to strike the iron while it’s hot. The actors I have chosen the project are not getting any younger. And the superhero comic movie bubble is bound to burst in the near future. Many don’t want to believe it, but it’s coming. That train will not be late. So, for now, it’s best to get out as much superhero live action content as possible. Because it will be on the decline sooner than many think.
DF: What are your favorite Comic Books; past and present.
LG: Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday remains my favorite comic book series of all-time, with the recent run of The Ultimates by Al Ewing and Kenneth Rocafort, and the always on hiatus S.H.I.E.L.D. (2011) series by Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver coming in as the second and third tier series I love to read. Right now, Mark Millar’s Prodigy series might be joining that exemplary group of excellent comic book series. The jury is still out. But it’s looking like it might be.
DF: You’ve been reading Comic Books for a long time. What’s wrong with them? How can we fix them? And does the Comic Book industry as a whole have a future?
LG: To be frank, half-ass political posturing and pandering, and the need to reboot comic book universes are becoming the death nails for superhero comic book industry at the moment.
The writer’s personal political agenda should service the story, not the other way around, as it currently is. And right now, that’s a lot of comics these days. Furthermore, I don’t think that these writers actually care for the characters they are writing about.
And sadly, I don’t see this changing anytime soon. The current crop of writers and artists are riding the wave of outrage culture, and the bandwagon they are riding on has been losing traction and is about to go over a cliff. And instead of fixing the mess they started, they reboot.
That’s why I hate trends. And I hate to say it, but it needs to be allowed to go on until it’s no longer a thing. When the readers become completely immune to these trends, then matters will correct themselves. But we aren’t out the woods yet. We have a way to go before we are in the clear. But we will get there.
The future of comic book publishing resides with the independent publishers.
Disney is going to eventually shut down publishing at Marvel Comics, and Warner Bros. will follow suit with DC Comics. And it will happen in the next few years. It’s no longer profitable for Disney and WB to keep their comic book publishing divisions going. They are losing revenue yearly, and from a financial standpoint, it is better for Disney and Warner Bros. to maintain control of the licensing for their catalog of characters than to continue publishing comics that are being bought by retailers who are having a hard time selling those comics to readers at the price tags they are currently selling them at.
That’s why smart readers, like myself, wait for the trade paperbacks of the series that interest us.
DF: Why does it seem that the Comic Book industry and Hollywood has such a problem getting Classic Pulp right?
LG: It comes down to present day prejudicial mindsets about Classic Pulp.
Some of these mindsets are justified, while others border on juvenile.
There’s a rugged no-nonsense masculinity that Classic Pulp has that, for the most part, has little traction with current generation. Some get it, while others will not only not get it, but will refuse to even look at it.
Mostly, because if it hasn’t been a thing for the last forty years, then why bother looking at it? It’s a sad way of looking at pop culture enthusiasm, or lack thereof, but that’s the world we live in at the moment. And that’s why we had a Doc Savage film planned by Shane Black who had Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the actor who would have played Doc Savage, thinking that Doc Savage is a “weirdo.” Apparently, Shane Black and Dwayne Johnson don’t understand The Man of Bronze or the world he and his colleagues inhabit.
Therefore, what they can’t relate to, they lampoon. Because lampooning is allowed and encouraged. That seems to be acceptable behavior in Hollywood for some reason. Just look at the recent Sherlock Holmes film with Will Ferrell, The Lone Ranger film with Johnny Depp, or The Green Hornet film with Seth Rogen. There’s definitely a pattern.
DF: Do you think that New Pulp is doing a good job in terms of addressing issues of race, sexism and stereotypes that Classic Pulp gets criticized for?
LG: In my opinion, New Pulp is the avenger and saving grace of Classic Pulp, cleaning up the outdated customs, practices, and prejudices that gave birth to that genre, all the while providing more depth and gravitas to Classic Pulp. Especially when you look at anthology series like BlackPulp and Asian Pulp.
People of color were more than racial stereotypes seen as either servants, savages, or nefarious. We were adventurers, explorers, inventors, detectives, soldiers, sailors, and spies. We were there when America and the world needed us. But very few back then were mindful or brave enough to translate real life heroism as pulp adventure fiction for the people to read. Finding a Black Pulp hero back then was like finding a needle in a field of haystacks. Good luck finding one.
These anthologies redress those issues and correctly brings them to light, and inspired the creation of Pulp heroes and adventurers who could have stood shoulder to shoulder with Tarzan, Doc Savage, The Avenger, The Shadow, The Spider, G-8, Operator #5, and Secret Agent X back in the Golden Age of the Pulps. No joke. I am very serious.
And some of the strong female characters I have read come from New Pulp. They are not to be underestimated. Do so at your own peril.
My advice to new readers is to search online for New Pulp books, read and enjoy these books, and go back and read the book series that made up Classic Pulp. And include international titles as well so that you understand the world of Classic Pulp. America wasn’t the only country producing pulps back then. France and Germany were big on pulp literature for a while before the Second World War.
DF: Where do you see New Pulp right now? And where should it be going?
LG: New Pulp is in Phase 3 of its development. This is an important time for the genre and the movement that brought it into existence. Where it goes next is the key.
In order for New Pulp to thrive in the new age, New Pulp needs to expand into graphic novels, comic books, video games, and tabletop RPG’s. Continue to publishing amazing stories, however, the future of New Pulp will be boundless and have a lasting impact when it branches out into these markets.
And now is the best time to start this transition.
DF: I’m still waiting to see your name on a book/novel. Are you working on anything now? What are your plans (if any) for a writing career?
LG: Projects are in the incubation phase right now.
But it’s not over. Not by a longshot.
I’m working on something that combines my love of espionage pulp, spypunk, cyberpunk, Tokasatsu armored heroes and villains, and Mecha. And it will all be set twenty-five years from now.
It’s a Hail Mary opportunity. But it’s one I have to take. And it’s a story I have to write. Now I have to make the time to truly start and finish it. And that is why, other than sending Birthday greetings, and prayers for those in need, my time on social media will be limited substantially very soon.
DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Lucas Garrett like?
LG: Mostly working, there’s a lot of hours to go around at my worksite because someone either got fired, quit, or had to take medical leave for personal or family medical emergencies.
What free time I have is spent writing, editing, researching, and assembling Mecha plastic model kits for frame of reference, 111and Facebook. I’m about to use Facebook a lot less. It’s a time waster. As much as I love using it, that’s what it is.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
Lucas Garrett: I think that about covers it.
You can check out my WordPress website: Luc’s Speculations – https://garrettluc.wordpress.com/ for my fan fiction head canon crossover theories and analysis. And like my writing, I need to post something new in the very near future.
And you can find me on Facebook and Instagram.
Thanks again for interviewing me, Derrick. I appreciate your friendship and support.
I suppose that out of the many reasons that I’m not yet rich and famous, the fact that I’m notorious lousy at promotion is either #1 or #2. I seem to have this unreasonable faith/belief that those who want to find my work will find it, one way or another. That includes my Patreon site. And while you may know I have one you may not know exactly what content is available to you there and if it would be worth your time and money. Okay, we can take care of that right now and hopefully the information I’m about to impart to you will assist you in making an informed decision as to you becoming a Patron of mine or not.
Let’s start with the crown jewel of the lot, shall we? I always have a brand-new Dillon adventure serial running as the main attraction and the one currently going full steam is Dillon and The Island of Dr. Mamuwalde. I beg your kind indulgence for a few minutes while I go into the backstory of this one:
Remember when the SyFy Channel was doing all those weird monster movies with outlandish creatures fighting each other? Like “Dinocroc Vs. Supergator”? “Piranaconda Vs. Frankenfish”? “MegaPython Vs. OctoShark”? Don’t front. You know you watched them. And if I can ‘fess up to watching them, you can. Anyway, I’m watching one of these movies one night with my wife and as I often do, I say; “I could write a better movie than that” And Patricia responded as she always does; “So why don’t you?”
And I did plan on doing one. I even had a title for it; “Flying Great White Shark Vs. Albino Amphibian White Tiger.” But outside of jotting down notes and characters sketches, I never got past the planning stages. One thing I did know that I wanted to have in the story was a mad scientist. And I wanted him to be black. I absolutely love mad scientists and since there were no great black mad scientists in popular fiction, I decided to create one in the grand tradition of Dr. Frankenstein (Peter Cushing version, natch) and Dr. Fu Manchu. I would model his physical appearance, demeanor and voice on the Great, Great Man, William Marshall and in further tribute, name my mad scientist Dr. William Mamuwalde (students, fans and scholars of Blaxploitation will know where the Mamuwalde name comes from) Clear so far? Okay. We move on.
The idea for “Flying Great White Shark Vs. Albino Amphibian White Tiger” stayed in my notebooks and subconscious for an obscenely long time, lemme tell you. The concept of Dr. Mamuwalde was one that wouldn’t go away and in my development of the character he gained a son who is a master of over 100 Martial Arts since because Dr. Mamuwalde was in part a homage to Dr. Fu Manchu then he needed a son who is a homage to Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. He also gained a nagging, shrewish, alcoholic wife always scheming behind her husband’s back to sell his inventions on the black market simply because the idea of a mad scientist with a nagging wife tickled the hell outta me.
But still, I just could not find the right story for Dr. Mamuwalde to make his debut. The problem was I was not happy with none of the protagonists for the story I had in mind. None of them were formidable enough to present a challenge to the character I conceived and I definitely wanted to have Dr. Mamuwalde to have a worthy challenge to his intellect and his talents. I knew I wanted to have a film crew stumble upon his island (in homage/tribute to 1933’s “KingKong”) but the characters that presented themselves to me didn’t turn my crank. They weren’t alive. They weren’t vital.
Until I happened to re-read “Dillon and The Bad Ass Belt Buckle.” One of the major characters in the story is Jenise Casile, an actress who has won an Academy Award and when Dillon meets her, she is in the middle of filming an epic science fiction trilogy directed by the eccentric director/producer Rigoberto Orr. Dillon and his partner Eli Creed have been hired to rescue Jenise from kidnappers and that’s all I’ll tell you about the story. You wanna know more, go read it.
Anyway, switches clicked in my brain and I realized that I could marry Jenise, Rigoberto and their current film project with my Dr. Mamuwalde character. In addition, by throwing Dillon in the mix I could satisfy my desire to have Dr. Mamuwalde go up against a foe worthy of him. And what better way for a character in my universe to make his debut by going toe-to-toe with Dillon?
There’s some other things thrown into the mix of the story such as Dr. Mamuwalde experimenting with African Cryptids which came out of when I had planned on doing “The Island of Dr. Mamuwalde” as an “Island of Dr. Moreau” homage for the “Cryptid Clash” project my good buddy Josh Reynolds is associated with and briefly talked me into it. And yes…that most definitely is a whole other story.
But once I got Dr. Mamuwalde, Dillon, Jenise and Rigoberto and the whole idea of Dillon rescuing a film crew from a war zone where they were trying to shoot authentic footage and then finding themselves the captives in a “Dr. Moreau” like situation in my brain…everything just sorta fell into place. And this now concludes my long winded Behind The Scenes of Dillon and The Island of Dr. Mamuwalde
One Night in Denbrook is a work in progress going back to 2009. The origins of the story are mainly because I wanted to see if I could do a prose version of a 1980s Action Movie. That’s all. My aspirations as a writer on this particular piece really don’t go any further than trying to put a movie on paper. Most of you who have been following me for a while and know that I usually say that I consider myself a frustrated film director so One Night in Denbrook is my shot at writing a story visual as I possibly could, throwing in all kinds of off-the-wall characters and situations.
The plot is simple: Denbrook’s criminal element is hunting for the heart of Toulon The Magician, Denbrook’s #1 crime lord and one of the main characters of “Diamondback” Some characters who appear in Diamondback also appear in this one as the events of One Night inDenbrook take place about a year before the events of “Diamondback.” The heart of Toulon falls into the hands of one J. Cadwallander, a cab driver who turns out to have an eclectic and incredibly lethal skill set that no respectable cab driver should have and he spends one wild night trying to stay alive while everybody and their mother is trying to kill him for the heart.
The city of Denbrook was created by one of the most imaginative and creative writers I know. Mike McGee is flat out brilliant. That’s the best I can say about him. I truly appreciate the fact that he created the city of Denbrook and then just turned it over to a bunch of writers to use as we please.
Shadows Over Cymande takes place in another city, one in South Carolina. And it’s something of an experiment as in this one I’m trying to mash-up my love of Soap Operas with a genre that I personally call The Little Town With A Big Secret. You know what I mean if I mention fictional towns such as Peyton Place, Collinsport and Twin Peaks. These are towns that on the surface seem like such happy, idyllic places to live and raise a family. But strangers come to each one of these towns and discover that they all have frightening, hair-raising subcultures and dark underworlds of crime, madness and even the supernatural.
In Shadows Over Cymande just such a stranger comes to Cymande in response to a very lucrative job offer. Alexandrea Ainsley thinks that Cymande is just another sleepy Southern town but she soon discovers it is home to two enormously wealthy and influential black families; the Jalmaris and the Redferns. Two families who have roots and rivalries going back to The Civil War and maybe even before then.
Growing up I got hooked on Soap Operas such as “All My Children” “One Life To Live” “Days of Our Lives” and “General Hospital” especially during that period in the 1980s when “General Hospital” was a batshit insane daily cliffhanging pulp adventure serial. And of course, I loved “Dark Shadows” which is without a doubt the greatest Soap Opera ever. I wanted to see if I could take the elements of the Soap Opera and throw in horror, science fiction, pulp, black humor/comedy and even vintage 1980s Grindhouse and see if I could make it work. Do I succeed? There’s only one way for you to find out.
So that’s it. That’s what up there right now. From time to time I throw up a short story I dig out of my digital files just as a treat and from time to time I offer a freebie just for the fun of it. By all means, if there’s something I can do that would entice you to sign up and become a Patron of mine, by all means let me know here or by email: DerrickFerguson@gmail.com
And RIGHT HERE is the link that will take you directly to my Patreon page. There’s another link here somewhere right to the right but why aggravate you by making you look all over the joint for it?
As always, I thank you for your time and kind patience. Blessings on you, your household and all that live there and I’ll talk to you again soon.
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 Richardson, Frank 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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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:
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.
“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?”
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:
IMARO by Charles Saunders
DOSSOUYE by Charles Saunders
MEJI by Milton Davis
GRIOTS Edited by Milton Davis and Charles Saunders
GRIOTS: SISTERS OF THE SPEAR Edited by Charles Saunders and Milton Davis
ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRICA by Balogun Ojetade
THE CONSTANT TOWER by Carole McDonnell
ABENGONI: FIRST CALLING by Charles Saunders
SONGS OF THE SUNYA: TALES FROM THE SANDS OF TIME by Mansa Myrie
CHANGA’S SAFARI by Milton Davis
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!
From the mean streets and crime-ridden boroughs of the modern metropolis to the dusty western wastelands where the only thing more precious than a bullet is a drop of water to soothe a parched throat, Derrick Ferguson takes the reader on journeys as visceral and vivid as a waking dream. Herein find eight stories, written for cash on the barrel to put food on the table. Sail the Seven Seas with Sinbad the Sailor, run headlong into gunfights against overwhelming odds with lawman Bass Reeves, battle against super-villains, and get hard-boiled with two-fisted detective action. Pick your poison. And make it a double.
“The Undercover Puzzle”
“The Knobloch Collection Assignment”
“Sinbad and The Voyage to The Land of The Frozen Sun”
“The Ruckerville Arraignment”
“Unto You Is Born…Rayge!”
“A Town Named Affliction”
“The Bixbee Breakout”
Derrick Ferguson: It’s been something like 42 months since we last talked like this so we’ve got to do the obligatory thing where you tell the folks reading this something about you and what you’re all about. So, who is Percival Constantine and what are you all about?
Percival Constantine: I’m a professional author and university lecturer originally from Chicago, but I’ve been living in southern Japan for almost ten years. Basically, I’m a huge geek. Growing up, I was a massive fan of superhero comics, video games, and movies, and those interests haven’t abated now that I’m in my mid-thirties. I started writing comic book fanfiction when I was in high school and I published my first novel, Fallen, in 2007. Since then, I’ve been continuously writing and have produced over twenty novels, plus several short stories collected in various anthologies. My writing has been spread across many different genres, such as science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and action/adventure.
DF: You’ve been writing professionally for quite a few years now. Have you found your audience? Or have they found you?
PC: A little bit of both. When I first began publishing, I didn’t know what I was doing and I had no idea how to find an audience, so I’d just throw stuff out there and hope it stuck. Nothing ever really did. Over time, I learned about the importance of self-promotion and began doing things like paid advertising through avenues such as Facebook, Amazon, and different book recommendation email lists. That helped me find an audience for my work. In the process, as I was able to advertise my work to more people, it led to my books ending up in search results for related books, so it helped other readers find me.
DF: What’s the secret to good writing? Have you cracked the uncrackable code?
PC: I don’t think anyone will ever crack that code because the definition of good writing depends so much on the reader. I think as writers, the only thing we can really do is write books that we’re interested in writing. Readers are savvy and they can smell a phony a mile away. If you’re writing a book that you’re not interested in, readers will pick up on that and it will turn them off.
DF: What keeps you motivated to keep writing?
PC: My entire life has been devoted to storytelling. I devoured it as a fan, I studied it as a student, and I write and teach it as a professional. To me it’s as natural as breathing. I’ve had moments when I was frustrated and swore, double-swore, and triple-swore that I would give up writing. But I always ended up coming back. I’ve got stories I want to tell and that’s what motivates me to keep going even when readers aren’t buying.
DF: How much room in your head do you allow for critics and criticism?
PC: As much as is needed. My approach to criticism is to consider the source. Sometimes you’ll get criticism from people who simply aren’t part of your audience—and that’s fine, not everyone will be part of your audience. That kind of criticism I’ll consider, but I won’t stress myself out over it. Other times, you might get criticism for not doing something you never set out to do in the first place. I’m not going to worry about that kind of critique at all.
The most important criticism that I’ll consider is criticism that comes from people who are my intended audience. Those are the comments I’ll think about and it will make me take another look at my work. But sometimes, even after considering those critiques, I might still choose to go my own way.
I think the writer who ignores all criticism is too egotistical and the writer who takes all criticism personally is too sensitive. It comes down to something Stephen King said in On Writing: “You can’t please all of the people all of the time. You can’t even please all of the people some of the time. You just have to settle for pleasing some of the people some of the time.”
DF: What are your thoughts on where New Pulp is at today?
PC: To be honest, I don’t give a whole lot of thought to New Pulp these days. It’s something that kicked off with a lot of fanfare, but I think too many people who identify with New Pulp are more hobbyists than serious about creating a professional movement. And if they just want to be hobbyists, that’s fine. But I see far too many frustrated at a lack of momentum, yet those same people aren’t doing much to help change the landscape.
DF: Is New Pulp going anywhere? If so, where is it going? If not, why isn’t it?
PC: I don’t think so. I think it will remain a niche field for hobbyists and I doubt you’ll see a whole lot of momentum, and this ties into my previous answer. There’s a wealth of information out there for how people can take advantage of the new indie market. We have more tools than ever before—access to affordable advertising, access to wonderful cover designers, access to the kind of market research that publishers would have killed for twenty years ago.
And yet, the people in New Pulp aren’t taking advantage of these things. If you look at the successes in indie publishing, a few commonalities start to emerge: they produce books quickly, they get genre-appropriate covers, they pay attention to the genres that are hungry for books, they target the right categories on Amazon, they take advantage of advertising and mailing lists, etc. How many people in New Pulp are doing these things? I know I do it and I’ve seen my success grow as a result. But too many people are tied to the romantic notion of being an artist who doesn’t worry about the business side.
Problem is unless you’ve got someone to handle that business side for you, you aren’t going to make any money.
It’s a bit tragic, I think, because I see so many immensely talented New Pulp writers who should be killing it. I’ve read these books and they’re very good. But they aren’t getting the right covers, they aren’t targeting the right categories, they aren’t advertising or reaching out to readers with mailing lists, their production schedules are inconsistent and have far too much of a gap between releases, etc.
And yet the readership is hungry for New Pulp, they just don’t know it’s called New Pulp. Space opera came from pulp. Urban fantasy came from pulp. Superheroes came from pulp. Romance came from pulp. Horror came from pulp. Westerns came from pulp.
These genres are big right now and there are authors who are producing books in those genres and making a lot of money selling those books. But none of them are part of the New Pulp crowd.
And the difference between us and them? It’s not the quality of the writing. It’s not luck. It’s because those other authors are treating it like a business. A New Pulp writer thinks, “I want my western to have an illustrated cover just like the westerns during the pulp era had and I want readers to find me.” A successful genre author thinks, “What westerns are selling well? What do those books have in common? What do those covers have in common? How can I get my book in front of those readers? How can I get those readers onto my mailing list?”
If New Pulp writers want to be more than hobbyists, then they have to start asking these questions of themselves.
DF: Who is Luther Cross?
PC: Luther Cross is a character that came to me a long time ago. I was in the midst of writing the second novel in the Infernum series, Outlaw Blues, when tragedy struck. My computer crashed. For some reason I can’t remember, I had to wait several months before I’d be able to use software computer on the failing hard drive. So instead, I got the hard drive replaced and rather than keep writing from memory, I thought about doing something else. I’d just started binge-watching Supernatural at the point and it made me want to write something in the same vein. I was also a big fan of John Constantine from the Hellblazer comics as well as Warren Ellis’ Hellstorm: Prince of Lies comic book from the early 90s, so all those went into my conception, as well as a bunch of other stuff.
Luther Cross is a cambion—half-human, half-demon. He was raised and trained by a secret society called the Sons of Solomon in the hopes that he would use his abilities against the forces of darkness. As an adult, he works as a paranormal investigator in Chicago. Also, somewhat uniquely in the world of urban fantasy, he’s a black man whereas most protagonists are white. That wasn’t really a conscious decision on my part, when I first visualized the character, for some reason I just pictured Idris Elba with glowing red eyes (though I’ve come to believe that if a live-action version were ever made, DB Woodside would make the perfect Luther).
I never finished that first novel, but the character stuck with me. Years later, Tommy Hancock of Pro Se Press came to me about Pro Se’s Single Shot Signatures line and asked me if I wanted to contribute. I pitched him a few ideas, including Luther, and he liked that one the best. Jeff Hayes designed a wonderful cover and I started writing 10,000-word short stories starring Luther. Some setbacks pushed back the publication schedule and eventually, Tommy had to make the decision to scale the line back. I’d already been planning to do some novels with Luther, which Tommy was fine with and we had talked about doing some cross-promotion. But when the scale-back came, Luther’s series was one of the victims. That actually did work out for me though, because I was able to then focus solely on the novels. And so far, those books have been doing very well for me.
DF: Have you always been a fan of urban fantasy?
PC: Yes, but I didn’t always know it was called urban fantasy. Growing up, I became a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then the spinoff Angel, plus short-lived series like The Crow: Stairway to Heaven and Brimstone. I became a fan of horror movies in college and that led me to comics like Hellblazer and Hellstorm, plus later on I watched TV shows like Supernatural and Constantine. So I’d always liked the genre, but it wasn’t until I became active in publishing that I learned it was called urban fantasy.
DF: One of the things I enjoyed most on reading your Luther Cross books is the cosmology involved that Luther operates in. I’m especially tickled by the notion that the hierarchies of Heaven and Hell are no more than celestial bureaucracies. Did you draw upon established religious doctrines for your conceptions of Heaven and Hell?
PC: I’ve looked at various sources when describing them, but I haven’t relied too heavily on any one source. When angels were introduced in Supernatural, one of the things that I really liked was that the angels were portrayed as haughty, self-righteous assholes. And it made sense. It also got me thinking a lot about the nature of both. The whole notion of 100% good or 100% evil is something that I don’t really agree with and seems very simplistic.
So that got me thinking: what is the difference between Heaven and Hell? What is the difference between angels and demons? They had to be two sides of the same coin, but it couldn’t just be good vs. evil. I needed more there.
Then it hit me: angels were made to obey. They follow orders. Lucifer was banished because he refused to follow orders, because he was prideful. So that meant Heaven was a place where rules matter more than anything else and it became a simple calculation—not good vs. evil, but order vs. chaos. And that’s when everything clicked.
DF: What are your plans for Luther Cross as a character and as a franchise?
PC: I’m currently writing the fifth book. I won’t reveal the title here because it might spoil the ending of the fourth book, Devil’s Conflict (which came out this past August). But I have at least six books in the series planned and I also have ideas for a potential spin-off series. As long as fans are still reading and I can still come up with ideas, Luther will continue on.
That’s what I have control over. Absolutely I would love to see Luther translated into other mediums. Nothing would please me more than to see a Luther Cross series on TV or a Luther Cross movie. I’d totally be willing to write a Luther Cross comic book. I’d love a Luther Cross video game. But those things are beyond my control at the moment.
DF: Tell us about Vanguard.
PC: Vanguard was my first attempt at publishing my own original superhero series. The concept is that the world experienced a strange phenomenon in which a small percentage of humanity was granted superhuman abilities, called specials. In the face of these new challenges, the US government in secret gathered together a team of these specials in order to deal with superhuman threats. It was influenced by my love of superhero comics, especially the X-Men and the Avengers.
My original idea was to reproduce a structure similar to many of the comics I loved growing up, where I’d write it as a serial with each installment featuring a self-contained story, but with subplots stretching out across the length of the series.
The serial approach didn’t work so well and I abandoned it about halfway through and just released season compilations. The series lasted for a total of five books (or seasons), which was my initial plan going in. I do have ideas for further books and the books that are currently out there go through periods when they experience a bump in sales. At some point, if both time and sales are preferable, I would like to return to that world.
DF: Are we going to see more adventures of Elisa Hill, The Myth Hunter?
PC: The final book ended with Elisa’s death, but there’s always the possibility for resurrection, and I’ve thought about doing more books in that world. At the moment though, there aren’t any plans. Unfortunately, the sales on The Myth Hunter books were never very strong, so it’s hard to justify it at this time when I’ve got other books that are selling far better. But I still love that character and that world and would love to return to it at some point.
DF: Are we going to see the Infernum series return?
PC: No, no plans whatsoever. That series definitely performed the poorest of all the ones I’ve written so far. I didn’t leave open a lot of doors for future installments, either, so even if interest were there, I’m not even sure where I would go with it.
DF: What’s a Typical Day In The Life of Percival Constantine like?
PC: I wake up around 6-7 am, shower and have my morning coffee, then I check email and do some writing. I try to shoot for 2,000 words every day, but some days are better than others and some days I just don’t do it at all. I teach at a few different locations, so my schedule every day is a little bit different, some days I’m working until evening, other days I have the afternoon off. When I get home, that’s just my decompression time. I have dinner and then either play video games, read comics or books, or watch a movie or some TV. Nothing very exciting.
Derrick Ferguson: Since it’s been three years and eight months since I last interviewed you we have to refresh people’s memories. Who is Raymond Embrack? Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors away?
Raymond Embrack: A member of Usimi Dero. Los Angeles. Haven’t kept them away yet. Have taken up day trading as my new art form.
DF: Any major changes in your life since we last talked?
RE: Retired from close to doing 20 in L.A. County. Soon to move back to Washington DC.
DF: Last time I interviewed you I asked you if there was an audience for Raymond Embrack. Have they found you or have you found them?
RE: The weirdness has been out there long enough an audience is actually finding me, almost a following today. Mostly younger, a mix of exiles and hipsters. Who thought I would wind up the Jeff Goldblum of nobodies?
DF: How do you feel you’ve grown and developed as a writer in the past three years?
RE: Since Kindle Create I do all parts of production, plus design my covers.
DF: How has your attitude about your work in particular and writing in general changed or modified?
RE: I ended the intent to make book sales. I cut half my book catalog, now only write my desert island catalog of only Surf product. Turns out I only like writing Surf.
DF: Update us on Peter Surf. First off, for the folks who don’t know who Peter Surf is, tell us about him.
RE: Peter Surf is my private eye series private eye since 1996. His name comes from the music in Pulp Fiction. First published 2000. Operates in west coast Blonde City, the city Trump would build with Madonna. Surf is in part composed of Derek Flint, Hunter S. Thompson, John Shaft, Chris Rock. He runs a dojo to meet women, invents martial arts like Aztec Karate. He specializes in unusual dangerous and difficult cases, never does missing persons cases because most PI novels are missing persons cases.
DF: Where is Peter Surf going as a character and what are your future plans for him?
RE: Perfecting the swagger this began with.
DF: What else are you working on now?
RE: Nothing. For now less writing, more reality.
DF: What is the one book of yours you would recommend to someone to start with? And why that book?
RE: Pick the description you find hottest, work your way to the coolest. Or vice versa.
DF: What keeps you motivated to continue to write?
RE: My aspiration to build a series of at least 20 dope Peter Surf units, a collection of WTF? to one day gaze upon with chill self-gratification.
DF: Drop some much needed Words of Wisdom on all the young aspiring writers reading this that are thirsting for knowledge.
RE: Only write what you love most. Be your own favorite writer.
DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Raymond Embrack like?
RE: Day trading from a desktop, earning more, losing less, learning by doing, writing my own textbook as I go. Each person has to write their own textbook. Night, that’s another question….