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Posts Tagged ‘pulp novels’

The Scent of Death, the second in the Adventures of Captain Swashbuckle, is live today here and here. Fresh from their deadly trip to the Amazon, the crew find themselves trapped in a web of intrigue and murder that stretches from the halls of Washington, D.C. to the steppes of Mongolia! Hot on the trail of a missing diplomat, hounded by spies from the Japanese Imperial Army, and dodging assassins on two continents, they must solve not only the mystery of the kidnapped ambassador, but of an ancient weapon that kills without a trace–and may claim them as its next victims!

Plus, the first book in the series, The Choking Rain, is on sale in September at the bargain price of $1.99. When an invisible killer terrorizes the streets of Los Angeles, an ex-fighter pilot tries to get to the bottom of the plot, only to end up its latest victim! Can four ordinary people, following in his murdered footsteps, stop an international conspiracy to bring the United States to its knees as a prelude to war?

 

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Well, thank you for your interest! Somehow (and I honestly don’t know how), I pushed along at a respectable clip this week. I am now at 46,510, almost 6700 words ahead of last week. I should come in at 60,000 words by August 12, right on schedule. Woohoo! Right?

Well, yes and no. You never thought it would be that easy. I can see now that this book is not going to come in at 60,000 words. It’s probably going to run around 65,000 words. (Don’t you love how we authors can so blithely throw around estimates in the thousands of words? Don’t you wonder how we do that? So do we.) Fortunately, that only means about a week’s extra work (even including fixing a major problem I recently discovered), so if I edit quickly, I can stick to my publishing schedule. It also means, though, that I have to put some thought into a cover… I’m thinking of doing something classic, like the less lurid of the old Black Mask and Dime Detective covers. We’ll see.

In the meantime, by the time you read this, there will be only 24 hours left in the Smashwords July sale, which means you have hardly any time left to pick up The Invisible City for free, and all of my other books at a steep discount. This is your last chance to save some money on quality fiction, and time is running out…

#SFWApro

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As you are aware, by this point in the proceedings, the plan was to have reached 40,000 words, the putative 2/3 mark of this monument to one man’s ambition. However, as you are also aware, from having read the title of this post, things this week did not go entirely as planned.

Through a combination of events largely out of my control, I couldn’t keep up the pace this week. Apparently, 32,000 words per month is my limit. (Already the experiment is yielding valuable data.) Even before Life took precedence, I had decided that 2000 words per day, even working only four days a week, was just too much. It was eating up all of my “free time,” and this gig doesn’t pay well enough for that. (Doubtful that it ever could.) So I ratcheted my goal back to 1500 words per night, which will extend the time it takes to finish, but not as much as you might think, since I’m so far into it already. I’m thinking ten weeks instead of eight. This should still leave enough time to make my September 15 deadline. (And if it doesn’t, I-the-publisher can fight me-the-writer over it.)

For the record, I am at 37,418 words. Since I already gave myself permission to slack off, however, this means I am only about 1100 words behind schedule on the sequel to The Choking Rain, which will now with 90% certainty be called The Scent of Death. Our Heroes, having hied themselves to an Asian kingdom where they don’t know anyone, don’t speak the language, and which is threatened by both revolution from within and invasion from without, have been attacked by a mob in the market square, resulting in becoming separated from their guide, the princess they’re protecting, and one of their own gang. Add to this a mysterious method of assassination, a gallery of untrustworthy high officials, and a couple of “allies” with their own secret agendas, and it’s all pretty much business as usual.*

And that’s all I can tell you. Fortunately, as part of the outlining process, I know who’s who and who’s not. Unless you count this character, who just kind of showed up and introduced himself, and that guy who’s not what I thought he was, and the other fellow who’s now…

I’m telling you, this would all be a lot easier if the characters would just read the outline first.

*And that’s not including the fact that their fearless leader has taken on a new identity so secret he won’t even tell them.

#SFWApro

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I’ve never really tried writing to an outline before, but now I’ve outlined the sequel to The Choking Rain, provisionally titled Something in the Air (but very much subject to change), and I’ve spent the last two evenings writing the first 4300 words. The idea is to write 2000 words a night, which would bring in the first draft before Labor Day.

I hadn’t planned to write another novel so soon; the idea was to concentrate on short fiction this year. But after a couple of tries (and one completion), the Muse wasn’t hanging around. “Well,” I thought, “no plan to do something is good if it keeps you from doing anything,” so I allowed myself to think about writing another book–but only if I could get it done quickly. None of this “twelve months and a bit” this time. None of this foundering in the middle trying to figure out how the plot was going to get from A to Z. (A and Z are easy. It’s L, M, and N that will kill you.)

So I tried outlining, and surprisingly, it wasn’t tough. (I’ve had this idea for a long time, so that helped.) I had the outline done in half the time I had allotted, including details for the first dozen chapters, so I started even sooner than I thought I would. So far, I’m 300 words ahead of schedule. We’ll see how tonight goes.

I’ll keep you all updated every week or so, unless I fall completely behind, in which case I will close this page and start writing under an assumed name, something with fewer expectations. I’m leaning toward “Will Shakespeare,” since no one thinks he ever wrote anything anyway…

#SFWApro

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We went to a presentation the other day featuring cast members and show runners from the CW‘s four superhero shows: Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow. We had a fine time; all of the panelists were entertaining and the whole thing was moderated by Kevin Smith, who had the audience in stitches. Kevin’s introduction described how as a kid, he had read comic books to be transported, and how they always made him feel like a better person because they were all about the good guys and their triumphs.

This made me think: Literature is virtually always about the good guys winning. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, for example George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman (no relation to The Flash), but you’d really be hard-pressed to find a book or comic where in the end you weren’t supposed to root for the good guys. Oftimes, the good guys are bad guys, but those are anti-heroes, bad guys you root for because their adversaries are even worse. Are with you with me so far? Of course you are, this isn’t controversial.

So why is it, then, that comic books are blamed for the decline of Western Civilization?* These are highly moralistic stories. The good guys virtually always win. They put their lives on the line, without pay, issue after issue for decades, sometimes (in the case of Marvel heroes) in the face of public ridicule, scorn, and even persecution. Who doesn’t want to live in a society where everyone is ready and willing to take on evil and stand up to oppression? How can a medium which produced Superman be bad?

I know a lot of the knocks against comic books are the same as are leveled against science fiction: it’s juvenile, it’s poorly written, it’s unbelievable. And I ask each of those the same thing: Have you read this stuff lately? Have you ever read this stuff?

Granted, comic books have a tendency to make you believe that violence (no matter how reluctantly practiced) solves every problem. But I would argue that being a “force” is less important than being a “force for good,” or at least it was when I was reading.

When I was a kid, reading comic books was not viewed by my parents as an optimal use of my time. I would argue though, that comic books (and later pulp novels) did as much to form my moral outlook as religious education, or upbringing. I’m not saying I’m going to stand in front of a runaway truck or face down bank robbers–but I am saying that if I had a little influx of cosmic energy, you might hear…

“Who is that masked man, anyway? He’s straight out of a comic book!”

 

*Yes, there were the EC comics of the 1950s. But really, it was the 1950s!

#SFWApro

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Smashwords is sponsoring “Read an Ebook Week” in an attempt to promote ebooks to readers with discount coupons, and my Depression-era pulp thriller The Choking Rain is participating with a 50% coupon.

Los Angeles, 1932. Six months before the Olympic Games are to bring relief to a Depression-battered city, men are falling dead in the rain-swept streets, their necks broken as if by an invisible noose. Pulled into a shadowy, rain-slick storm of murder and kidnapping, an ex-fighter pilot, a cop, a couple of football players-turned scientist, and a Kewpie-doll blonde with a black belt join forces to track down the terror plotters and stop their deadly spree. But when tragedy strikes the group, the survivors must brave one of the last untamed places on Earth to learn the secret of the Invisible Death–a secret designed to destroy America’s greatest cities, one by one…

The promotion ends on March 11.

shelfscreen

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You might have heard that they made a movie out of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “John Carter” novels. It only took them 100 years. Actually, they made the movie three years ago, but due to circumstances (including its horrendous reviews), I only watch it recently, on cable.

As so often happens, the movie is not so bad as the reviews. It has some good points, mostly in the visual effects. I am told by people who understand these things better than I that the direction is wooden and good actors are wasted. My problem with it, though, is with the script. Specifically, they took a 100-year-old classic and tried to update it for modern audiences. I understand why they did it–Dejah Thoris is not exactly an paragon of agency in the original novel–but I don’t understand why they couldn’t leave it at that.

When I say they adapted the “‘John Carter’ novels,” I mean just that–because instead of adapting “A Princess of Mars,” they combined elements of the first two books, and then added in a bunch of stuff on their own. Fellas, if the story has been around for a century, and it’s still popular enough that you want to make a movie about it, don’t you think the author knew what he was doing? Give the princess more to do (and make the cavalry shoot first if you must), but leave the main story alone.

The movie, like the book, deals largely with Carter’s advent on Barsoom and his adventures with the Tharks. There’s a hell of a lot of material there, and they just tossed it aside for their own mish-mash of shapeshifting priests (huh?) and energy weapons (energy weapons and they still fight with swords? You know, the book explained all that…) There were no shapeshifters or energy weapons in the original, and the first three books are still one of the most entertaining trilogies ever written. What made you geniuses think you knew better than one of the best-selling authors in the history of the human race?

Of course, the whole endeavor failed miserably, a movie I had anticipated since I was 13 years old tanked, and the possibility of opening Burroughs to a new generation (not to mention adapting some of his other dozens of books) collapsed. All because somebody forgot why he was adapting that book into a movie in the first place.

It’s not the first time this has happened, and won’t be the last. But hey, please remember, just because you can make something newer doesn’t mean you make it better. I mean, in 1912, Mars was still largely unknown. Now we can see firsthand the canals aren’t canals and there are no hordes of green men. But if a story 1912 is still worth telling despite all that, then maybe you should stick with the story from 1912. When your story is 100 years old, then it will be your turn.

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