Seeker's Bane, P.C.Hodgell

Mapping the Action

“Remember in your story that setting is the other character. It is as important to your story as the people in it because it gives them context and can ideally be used to heighten drama and tension, depending on where it is.” — Rob Parnell

And Then There Were None , Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None , Agatha Christie

The best, most effective, time and editor-saving way to make your setting real is to find or draw a map. This holds whether the whole thing takes place in a single room, on an airplane, in Vancouver, in the bowels of the London Tube station, or on an imagined planet in an alternate universe.

There is no better way to keep the action straight. You don’t need to know how to draw—as long as you can scratch and scribble, keep it by you. Draw upon it. Make notes for revision.

And then maybe someday an artist will ink it all in, to make fantastic endpapers for your novels.


Journey Prize

It is a lovely irony of literature that the largest Canadian prize for short fiction was endowed by an American.  James A. Mitchener’s Canadian royalties from his 1988 novel Journey fund the $10,000 Journey prize, or at least they used to, since the prize is now officially called “The Writers’ Trust of Canada/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize.”  (It is also a literary irony that a man known for his lengthy novels — remember The Source? – endowed a short fiction prize; but Mitchener won a Pulitzer for his excellent collection Tales of the South Pacific.)

The truly fantastic aspect of the Journey prize is that it does not go into the coffers of writers who’ve made it in the publishing world, but to writers just getting started and who need both the money and the encouragement that this prize affords.  Nominees are “new and developing Canadian writers during the early stages of their career…  Writers who have published more than three books of fiction, or who have won national awards for their fiction, or whose fiction has already received substantial attention are not eligible for consideration.”

Part of Pulp Literature’s mandate is to publish works from emerging writers, so we had lots of material to choose from.  It was hard to choose only three stories, but after borrowing editions of past winners from the library, we three editors made our choices as to which stories stood the best chances of winning.  We are proud to announce and congratulate Pulp Literature’s three nominees for the Journey Prize:Mich_journey_1st_ed

SL Nickerson, ‘Only the Loons Know’
Pulp Literature Issue 1, Winter 2014

Trevor Shikaze, ‘The Tun’
Pulp Literature Issue 2, Spring 2014

Ace Baker, ‘Victory Girl’
Pulp Literature Issue 4, Autumn 2014

Best of luck to these deserving authors.  We’re rooting for you!


Swallows Contest Open

The Swallows Sequential Short Story Contest opened on New Year’s Day, and I’m thrilled to announce that the fine folks at The Comicshop in Vancouver will be our judges.  Not only do veteran funny-book connoisseurs Brent, Keith, and Tim have a fine eye for the best in comic book art and storytelling, they’ve been managing my comics reading list for years and I have utter faith in their judgement.

What are we looking for in this contest?  Aside from the nitty gritty details of size and format, which you can find on the Contests page, we are looking for what we always want between the pages of Pulp Literature:  beautiful art and good storytelling.  To give you an idea of our taste here are a few sample pages from previous sequential shorts we’ve published.

mechanics_p1 sample

‘The Mechanics’ by Angela Melick

‘Unwanted Visitors’ by Kris Sayer


‘Dragon Rock’ by Sylvia Stopforth & Mel Anastasiou

'The Wolf' by Kimberleigh Roseblade & JM Landels

‘The Wolf’ by Kimberleigh Roseblade & JM Landels

So sharpen your pencils, get out your brushes and digital pens and send us your best 1 to 5 page long short comic.  The earlybird entry fee is only $20 until January 15th, which includes an e-subscription to Pulp Literature, and the contest deadline is February 15th.  First prize is $500 plus publication in issue 7 of Pulp Literature, alongside feature author Robert J Sawyer!

Contest rules and guidelines are here.



Standoffs and Battle Scenes: Thanks for the Tip, Rob Edwards

“Standoffs keep the story going”. –Rob Edwards

Mind you, I do love a good fight. Battles in books are supreme acts of creative imagination.  The best are exquisitely described and as gripping as a hand around my throat.  When they’re over, satisfied and smiling as long as the hero won, I put the book down.  I think, Wow.

By contrast, standoffs offer your main character a chance at multiple dilemmas, so that he or she is not choosing between a paltry two options. Yes-or-no has its place, but if used continually binary storytelling makes me want to throw the book across the room.  With standoffs, you don’t simply have have fight-or-retreat.  As Donald Maas* explained in an excellent workshop, a stand-off can make your character believably do what he would never do, going a long way in few words towards explaining how character development works throughout a story.

Standoffs … yes. Rob Edwards has it nailed. Standoffs are about struggles towards exchanges of power.  Everything changes, but nothing is resolved.  I turn the page.  I think, What now?

I’m devouring CJ Sansom’s new Lamentation and, along with some ripsnorting fight scenes, there’s a fantastic standoff between Henry VIII and the hunchbacked lawyer sleuth Matthew Shardlake. Grand.

*If you ever get a chance at the Surrey International Writers Conference or anywhere else in the world, I recommend you attend Donald Maass’s powerful, inspiring and entertaining workshops.



North Pole Blue

A Story by Bob Thurber

This Christmas tale comes with a bite, as all Bob Thurber stories do.  For more, go to, and look for some of his short sharp stories in Pulp Literature issue 6.

The first time I saw Santa’s eyes they were the same pale green as the plastic holly my mother hung on the door on a hook she left up all year, and the rawness of the flesh around them was the same blood-shot red as actual holly berries, which are technically ‘drupes’ and contain the plant’s seeds.  The second time I saw his eyes (a year later, same store, after waiting in a line for nearly an hour) they seemed larger, but less round, and their color had cooled to the crystal blue you find in glacier ice — which, at the time, I called North Pole Blue — and this made sense, even though I was only six, still too young to understand the density and compactness of anything so old as a glacier.  That was the year Santa asked my name, and, when I stammered Bobby, he said, “Ah. Bobby. Of course.”  As though we were old friends.

The third time I sat on Santa’s lap and looked up into the old man’s eyes they had changed dramatically, become far less wrinkly and slightly almond-shaped, with pupils the burnt brown of old acorns.  I got a good long view because Santa was focused on the camera the whole time, fidgeting like he had someplace better to be, and he repeatedly scratched the same spot of his beard; in a faint and tired voice he asked what ‘big gift’ I wanted for Christmas, and though I don’t remember what I said, I do recall that he didn’t acknowledge the request, or in any way signal that he had heard, so when I climbed off his lap I felt less sure of everything.  Oddly, my mother always liked that picture the best because of the shy, inquisitive, almost contemplative expression on my face, plus the camera’s flash put a dot of sparkle in my left eye, so there is, I will admit, a dreamy magical quality, but it’s purely an illusion, a trick of light, because my absorption at that moment was really my gut-wrenching disturbance at the weariness I saw on the man’s face, and my utter confusion at his not remembering me.

Years and Christmases and more photos went by.  Santa took to wearing glasses with wire frames made of gold or silver, which I liked.  Though, whether I looked through their lenses or above them, I’d be lying if I said I glimpsed anything other than vagueness.

The last time I had an up-close, personal view of Santa’s face I avoided his eyes entirely, focusing on his nose, which had not only widened and flattened but now contained tiny broken veins like intersecting highways on a roadmap.  He asked how old I was and I said ten.  He asked what I wanted for Christmas and I said, “A pocket knife.”

He shifted me slightly on his lap.  “You a Boy Scout?”

I wasn’t, though I wanted to be.  But I felt he didn’t need to know that.

His breath rolled out the smell of coffee and cigarette smoke.  I turned my head, found my mother behind the elfish-looking girl working the camera.  Mom was waving, trying to get me to smile.  She’d painted her nails a garish Christmas green, and I didn’t like the color.

Right before the flash went off Santa pulled me closer and I felt his beard brush against the top of my ear.  “You know,” he said, “you’re a little too old for this crap.”

And that man, I’m certain, was the real deal.

Nothing but troubleBob Thurber’s latest short story collection Nothing But Trouble is now available at bookstores everywhere.

Pulp & Prosecco

The Not a Launch Party Party

Wow, it’s been less than a week since we hit our funding goal, and in that time the print copies of issue 5 have arrived, the ebook proof has come in, and we’ve been busy organizing our mailing list to get your rewards out to you … while working on issue 6 content!  All of which means we’ve been too busy to put together a big bash like we did for last year’s launch.

But that’s not going to stop us from celebrating! Mel will be arriving back in town on Wednesday and we three editors invite you to join us at the Irish Heather in Gastown.

time: Wednesday December 10th, 7pm till ??
location: The Irish Heather Gastropub, 212 Carrall St, Vancouver
facebook event:

The food’s great, the beer, wine and whiskey list impressive, and the company’s fantastic, since it will consist of all you people who love good books … and beer!

It’s not often you catch all three of us at the same event, and we’d love to meet as many of you as we can.

See you there!

Jen, Sue & Mel

Pulp & Prosecco


Thanks to all our amazing backers our Kickstarter campaign was fully funded on Monday night!

We are amazed and humbled by the generousity of our backers, who have supported us  financially and with their valuable time.  There were so many people in our corner this time, tweeting, re-sharing, and pounding the virtual pavement on our behalf, that it would be impossible to post all their names without forgetting some.  You know who you are though, and please know that we thank you from the depth of our hearts!Issue 5 box

As icing on the wonderful cake that was yesterday, our boxes of Issue 5 arrived from First Choice Books.  Even after five issues it’s still a thrill to slice open the packing tape and reveal a stack of freshly printed books.  We can hardly wait to share them with you!

We’ll be mailing these out to subscribers on Friday or Monday, along with the packs of note cards some of you ordered.

If you missed the Kickstarter and still want to renew your subscription in time to have Issue 5 mailed to you please contact us right away!

You can subscribe or renew here, or email us at and we will send you an invoice.Mel Summer

Once more, thank you to all of you who contributed to the Kickstarter and subscribed by conventional means.  You have helped ensure the continuation of a paying market for multi-genre fiction and great reads for the price of a beer.

Please join us as we raise our glasses to you, our supporters, and to Pulp Literature Year 2!

Jen, Mel & Sue


raven with branch

And the Raven Contest Winner Is…

Pesky Summer Jobs by Tais Teng

Pesky Summer Jobs by Tais Teng

Our third contest was a tough one: write a story to go with the intriguing and detailed cover painting, ‘Pesky Summer Jobs’ by Dutch artist Taïs Teng.  Some of the stories submitted merely touched peripherally on the theme of ravens or the ancient artifacts, while others made full use of the visual images, but all of the finalists had something, whether in the theme, the writing, or cleverness of the plot, that caught our eye.

We congratulate once more our finalists:

  • ‘The Hemisphere Stone’ by Mike Glyde
  • ‘Dear Louis’ by Sara Cedeno
  • ‘Claws In’ by Ace Baker
  • ‘Odd Jobs’ by KL Mabbs
  • ‘Family Relics’ by Katherine Wagner
  • ‘The Ravens’ by Anna Belkine
  • ‘The Inner Light’  by Krista Wallace
  • ‘The Jealous Valley’ by Kiril Lavarevski

From this list the editors would like to make special mention of ‘Odd Jobs’ by KL Mabbs, which was a witty encounter with Babylonian mythology, and ‘Family Relics’ by Katherine Wagner, which managed to encorporate almost all the elements of the painting in an excellent story.

The winner and runner up were both so good that we have decided we will publish both stories in Issue 6, with the runner up receiving our regular per word rate.  We would love to be able to award first prize to both of these, but a favourite must be chosen.  The Runner up in the 2014 Raven Cover Story Contest is

  • ‘The Ravens’ by Anna Belkine.

And the winner is …

  • ‘The Inner Light’ by Krista Wallace!

Actor, author and swordsman CC Humphreys took time out of his busy speaking and writing schedule to choose our winner, and he had this to say:

“The subtlety of Inner Light won me over.  I loved the total immersion in a clearly realized world.  Of course I am an actor and I get the references.  But the story works on many levels other than the theatrical. The writing is clear, precise from the beginning. The unease is there, but subtly, making me want to read on. In such a short piece, the several characters are distinct.  Matilda is nicely nuanced, the arrogance of an award winning director, the fear of someone dealing with forces beyond control.  There’s a distinct sense that the characters will go on – except perhaps for one who won’t!  Sacrifices must be made for art. For success.  As Macbeth discovers. Bravo!”

Our congratulations to Krista Wallace for writing the winning story — and even more for garnering such praise from the brilliant CC Humphreys!

Krista Wallace will be the featured author for Issue 6 of Pulp Literature.  Along with publication and her name in large font on the cover she will receive a prize of $500.00. We are so pleased!

Congratulations and thanks to everyone who took the time to write such wonderful stories for our contest.

From Jen, Sue and Mel