bedside reading

Back Issue Blowout!

pulp year 1Spring is here and it’s time to clean house!  Help us empty our back issue shelves with a fabulous special offer!

All 2014 print issues are on special, and the more you buy the more you save.  You can get one issue for $12 ($3 off the regular price), two for $20, three for $27, four for $32 and five or more books for only $7 each!

You can mix and match any number of each issue as long as our stock holds out.  And if 2014 issues aren’t enough you can also get a 2015 print subscription for only $35 (regular $40), or an ebook subscription for $15.

Use the order form below to request your back issues and we will send you an invoice.  The offer is subject to availability, and ends this Friday April 6th. Get yours while they last!

 

Issue 4 cover

Moliere Likes Your Page One

Small treeEvery first page is a challenge, often happily so.  We have to establish time and place, hint at the central character and establish tone and authority that lets the reader know she is in good hands.

But Moliere said, The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.

As I leaf through Issue 4 of Pulp Literature, I am struck by the excellent craft of the opening lines throughout. Here’s a challenge for you:  match these wonderful first sentences with author and story title.

  1. I’m baking myself a boyfriend, kneading him out with my hands, my elbows, my shoulders.
  2. The boy fell last.
  3. If my mother had insisted it be above the knee, I would have said something.
  4. My name is Chouko (‘butterfly gGirl’) Takeda, and I was born on August 29th, 1967, in a little town called Slocan, BC, just outside of where the old Japanese internment camp used to be.
  5. Standing on her front porch, her eyes crinkle up in that way I love, the laugh lines flowing up from her cheeks, the shadows, as the moon rises overhead, lacing her cheeks.
  6. I was taking a piss and I fell over.
  7. The fight with Carollus was the end of my formal training as a magician.
  8. There is a particular and odious smell that permeates the underworld.
  1. Soldier, Wake by Susanna Kearsley
  2. Victory Girl by Ace Baker
  3. Doughboy Lovers and the Appetites of Desire by Karlo Yeager
  4. Things to Live For by Richard Gropp
  5. Blackthorne & Rose: Agents of DIRE by KG McAbee
  6. Below the Knee by Susan Pieters
  7. The Death of Me by KL Mabbs
  8. Allaigna’s Song: Overture by JM Landels

We will send a free ebook issue of your choice if you are the first person to correctly match these first lines with their titles.  Put your answers in the comment section below.

First pages and opening lines… say, what was Moliere’s first line? I checked out the start of his most famous oeuvreTartuffe….

“Mme. Pernelle: Let’s go, Flipote, let’s go. I hate this place.”

Not bad at all, sir. Well played.

Spring 2015 cover image small

Issue 6 is here!

swordThanks to our wonderful printers, First Choice Books, Issue 6 is here ahead of schedule and available for tonight’s Pen & Sword event at the Vancouver Public Library.

Subscribers are invited to come down and pick up their copies early and get them signed by one or more of our authors.  And of course if you haven’t yet subscribed, here’s a chance to thumb through an issue and be seduced by the stories and artwork inside.

Special event pricing will be in effect, which means copies are $12 each or two for $20, including back issues.  That’s up to $5 off per copy!

Swordfighting and stories:  is there a better way to spend the evening?

Pen & Sword: The Author’s Journey in Writing Swordfights
Monday, 23 March 2015,  7:00 – 8:30pm
FREE! (come early)
Alice MacKay Room, Lower Level
VPL Central Library, 350 West Georgia St, Vancouver

Rapier with JM Landels & Gareth Antle

Kris 2

Pen & Sword: The Author’s Journey in Writing Swordfights

CC Humphreys

CC Humphreys

How far would you go for your art?  Would you risk a duel at dawn?  Face an armoured warrior?  Fight an axe-wielding assailant, with only a spoon?  Authors CC Humphreys, Sebastien de Castell, Kris Sayer and JM Landels will discuss their personal journeys studying swordplay (and spoonplay) to enrich their writing, characters and stories.  With live sword fights and show and tell by Academie Duello, fans of fiction, fantasy and history will be entertained and delighted!

Sebastien de Castell

Sebastien de Castell

Monday, 23 March 2015,  7:00 pm
FREE! (come early)
Alice MacKay Room, Lower Level
VPL Central Library, 350 West Georgia St, Vancouver

Pen & Sword Giveaway
Kris Sayer

Kris Sayer

Three out of the four authors in this panel have had works published in Pulp Literature.  Do you know which ones?  The first five people who can name these authors and the stories they have had published in Pulp will receive a free ebook issue of their choice.

JM Landels

JM Landels

Email info(at)pulpliterature.com with the subject line ‘Pen & Sword Giveaway’ to enter.

Issue 6 Sneak Launch

Pulp Literature Issue 6Hot-off-the press copies of Issue 6 will be available at this event!  There will also be a number of other Pulp authors present including Laura Kostur, Susan Pieters, Kimberleigh Roseblade (who will be enacting one of the sword spoon-play scenes from Kris’s work) Melissa Mary Duncan, Kate Austin, Beverley Boissery, and KL Mabbs.  We will have copies of issues 1 through 5 available, and there will be book sales and author signings by the panelists.

CC Humphreys & JM Landels in 2013. Will revenge be involved this year?

CC Humphreys & JM Landels in 2013. Will revenge be involved this year?

It’s going to be a fun night — see you there!

Find out if poet Kimberleigh Roseblade (right) is as wicked with a spoon as she is with an umbrella!

Find out if poet Kimberleigh Roseblade (right) is as wicked with a spoon as she is with an umbrella!

 

VISS

The panel is a prequel to the biennial Vancouver International Swordplay Symposium happening March 27 – 29th.  This event is a great resource for authors, with audit passes and lectures allowing you a glimpse into the history and technique of many western martial arts.

 

Making the Cow Creamer Matter

UntitledWriting light comic fiction is tricky, because funny won’t carry a full-length novel on its own. Something big needs to be at stake, and I always think it’s cheating to have characters risk death in this genre. Jerome K Jerome in Three Men in a Boat manages an episodic arc that keeps me in stitches every time I read it (Montmorency!). But above all others in my estimation, PG Wodehouse is most skilled at writing comic narratives. He can weave a plot more complex than a Rube Goldberg machine and still have me rolling on the floor on the tenth read. Take The Code of the Woosters, where Bertie Wooster’s goal is to adhere to his family’s traditional code: “Never let a pal down.” All his pals therefore shovel the worst possible duties upon his narrow shoulders, all of which are life and death to them: stealing a cow creamer, saving an engagement, avoiding a beating, swiping a policeman’s helmet, being flung into jail. And this in a “Golden Fleece”-type narrative clearly and hilariously told, all because no matter what, Wooster’s duty to his pal is more important than life itself. Here, a former girlfriend begs Bertie to take the rap for a crime.

‘I can’t have my precious angel Harold doing a stretch.’

‘How about your precious angel Bertram?’

‘But Harold is sensitive.’

‘So am I sensitive.’

‘Not half so sensitive as Harold. Bertie, surely you aren’t going to be difficult about this? You’re much too good a sport. Didn’t you tell me once that the Code of the Woosters was ‘Never let a pal down?’

 Wodehouse’s themes are lofty and literary, involving loyalty, true love winning out, and apotheosis after sacrifice, each of which resonates grandly with readers’ hearts while we belly-laugh over individual scenes. (And I didn’t even mention Bertie’s valet Jeeves yet.) There is none like you, Wodehouse. None.

PG Wodehouse. The Code of the Woosters. Herbert Jenkins, London. 1938.

innerlight

Spring is here!

Pulp Literature Issue 6

Pulp Literature Issue 6

Or at least the print proof of our Spring 2015 issue is.  We never get tired of that first glimpse of the book in its ink and paper glory, even if it’s an unbound proof.

Sadly for the rest of you, it will be a few weeks more before bound copies are ready to ship to your doorsteps.  However, to tide you over until then, here’s a snippet of the cover story, ‘The Inner Light’ by Raven Contest winner Krista Wallace, based on the cover painting by Dutch artist Tais Teng.

And if you haven’t ordered a copy yet, be sure to subscribe here to make sure yours will be in the mail.

The Inner Light

by Krista Wallace

“I’m trying my best,” Matilda said.

“Yes, of course I hear you.” Matilda stared into the shiny blackness.

“I know.” Matilda stroked the glossy surface.

“I’m sorry.” Matilda’s pitch rose as anxiety crept up her throat. “There is more coming, I promise.”

“No, please. Please don’t.” Fear scratched at her chest. “Please. I promise there’s more. Lots more. Just please leave Andrew alone.”

Matilda backed away, her fingertips kissing the cold sphere before finally disconnecting. Then she turned and hastened out of the lobby and into the theatre, where the cast was waiting. The stage manager had handed out scripts, and they were all seated around the table on the stage. Waiting for her. Ah. There was Andrew, at the head of the table, of course. She strode down the stairs through the seating in the house.

“Right, ladies and gentlemen.” She articulated the next word distinctly. “Macbeth!”

Predictably, the theatre erupted in the hysterical shrieks of high-strung, superstitious actors. Matilda went up the stage-right steps two at a time, while Lady Macbeth dashed down the stage-left steps and ran through the house into the lobby, likely to turn around three times and yell, “Shit!” Banquo and Duncan fled into the back hall, probably to do the same. Macduff spun around on the spot and spat on the floor to his left, while the three witches clung to each other and recited some piece of verse to chase away the evil spirits Matilda had summoned by not referring to the work as ‘The Scottish Play’ within the theatre. The rest of the actors made all sorts of noises and protestations, complaining that Matilda should have known better. The stage manager had to go and invite Lady Mac, Duncan, and Banquo back into the theatre.

“And it must follow, as the night the day / Thou canst not then be false to any man.” Lady Mac intoned the line from Hamlet to nobody in particular, thereby completing her antidote to the curse. Only Andrew — Macbeth himself — remained completely calm; he had stayed seated at the table, patiently awaiting the read-through, with only a glance and an eye roll to indicate he was aware of the panicked bustle surrounding him. Andrew’s calm was an important element of his character.

Matilda smiled to herself at the minor chaos. Fear. Anxiety. Irritation. Anger. If only she could see the sphere from here.

Read the rest in Pulp Literature Issue 6, available soon!

magicforestmagpies3

Magpies on Cherry Trees

magpiesmallerIt’s the season for spring flowers in Vancouver, and the birds outside our window are singing their poetry to the beat of the wind in the trees.  (Our apologies to the rest of Canada.)   At Pulp Literature, it’s the season again for poets to submit their best works to our Magpie Award for Poetry, with final recognition given by Vancouver’s first poet laureate, George McWhirter.  Last year’s entries were inspiring, and the winner received $500 in addition to publication. Our contest is open until April 15th, and we challenge you — no, we double dare you — to make us cry, laugh, or revel in the awful beauty of this temporary condition called life.

Earlybird entry fees are in effect till March 15th.  Submission guidelines here.

lightmercer

A Great Exchange

swordAn exchange of power between characters is a fantastic way to get a tight rhythm going, whether in dialogue or with a physical struggle.  In Shakespeare’s Rebel, watch how author CC Humphreys handles an exchange of power between his hero John Lawley and John’s friend Will Shakespeare.

At first, John seems stronger than Will:

It was John now who took his friend’s arm. “You have been careful, William?” he asked softly.

“Regarding what?”

“This play.  Its themes.  The times are tender yet and it is only a month since you were called before the Privy Council to answer for Richard the Second.”  He lowered his voice still further.  “They let you off with a warning, I heard. You do not want to test that now.”

“This is different.”

“Indeed?  As I recall the piece, it still features regicide, rebellion, usurpation…”

“All themes well established in Hamlet,”  Shakespeare looked at the activity around him.  “I do but rework an old piece, truly.”

John looked into his friend’s eyes.  “And ghosts, Will?”

“They have always been in the story, too.”

“Not your own.”

Here, John has pushed too far, and now the tables begin to turn as Will shows by his body language as well as his words.

The playwright looked sharply up. “I do not know what you mean.”

Will here takes back his power and now begins to block John at every point. CC Humphreys is a swordsman as well as an author and writer, and he’s skilled at these turnings.  Note that exchanges of power are not limited to struggles between enemies; allies must have them too.

If characters are trading information or threats, if they’re setting up for a trial of strength or a big reveal, writing their meeting with an eye to exchange of power is a mark of exceptional storytelling.

 Shakespeare’s Rebel by CC Humphreys.  Orion Books, London. 2013.

 

 

book &Pen small

Writer’s Block: Resources, and Strategies

This week I promised to write up some ways to bypass writer’s block.  If you have more I’d love to hear them. Like sleep mnemonics, it’s wise to change up strategies to keep them effective.

  1. Often “writer’s block” occurs at about a third of the way into the story.  What’s stopping you might well be your own excellent professional intuition, your feel for story.  Because this is where any weaknesses begin to show up and the storytelling energy flags.  Thank your intuition — disguised as “writer’s block” —  because this is the time to address any structural flaws in the first act of your story.  What if you weren’t blocked?  You would have to make changes through the whole thing instead of just the first third or so.  Whew.  Thanks, writer’s block!  To sharpen your first third, here are some strategies and resources:
    • The best way I have found to strengthen Act 1 of a short story or novel is to visit the masters of story structure:  screenwriters.  Visit scriptlab.com and listen to the superb five minute talks on Act 1.  Read Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.  Take out your favourite films and examine the first 8 of 24 chapters.
    • Re-outline your first act, and use the screenwriter’s rule of 15:  make a list of 15 different ways you could have opened the story, could have established tone, setting, saved Blake Snyder’s Cat, etc.  That’s 15 each.  You’ll be digging so deep you’ll be sweating.  It’s worth the effort.
    • Cut your story from the beginning, page by page or chapter by chapter, saving all for possible use as backstory later.  Do this until you reach a moment when the energy seems fantastic and your character is making a strong choice, preferably a sacrifice.  This is the point that no matter how irascible, misguided or irresponsible, your protagonist is a hero.  When you and the reader desire what your hero desires it’s easy to write what the hero will do next.
    • Use Donald Maass’s brilliant advice: think what your character would never do, and have her do it — believably.  This is possibly the best recipe for character development ever devised.   And buy his books and attend his talks if you possibly can.book &Pen small
  2. Trust your craft and story prompts.  Record yourself reading story prompts (I record Dale Adams Segal‘s Hour Stories for my own use) and set yourself in your best writing spot with a timer and the knowledge that your talent never has and never will fail you.  The story prompts set your inner writer on autopilot. If you try this and nothing happens, do return to point 1 in this article and try one of the preparations again.
  3. You love writing. Remember what that feels like.  As often as you may, for a few moments imagine yourself where you want to be.  Picture yourself in your best writing spot.  See your hand moving your pen across paper, your fingers tapping at your keyboard.  Feel the smile on your face.  Think, I love writing.  Think, And I’m very good.  And my characters rock.

In a writers’ life as in a writer’s work, pacing is everything, and there have to be times of rest and beauty.  Writer’s block is the eye of the storm.  It’s a moment of reflection, a pause to gather strength.  Don’t worry, because your work has been, will be, and is, wonderful.

Untitled 3

50 Shades of Fan Fiction

I’ll admit I only made it through a quarter of 50 Shades of Grey.  It needed an editor, but more importantly, it needed to be free.  It needed to be free of the patriarchal misogynistic stereotypes that are so easily embraced and overdone by romance fiction writers, but also, it needed to become its own book.  Writing fan fiction is like writing a Hollywood script and labelling the characters as famous actors, or in this case, as “played by Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.”  It steals backstory from other films, and leaves a void of storytelling so that new audiences are lost and feel something is missing.

I’ve read the Twilight series and enjoyed it.  As a romance reader, I appreciated the uniquely insurmountable barrier between the two lovers.  It was a well designed difficulty: if you kiss, you die.  Nice problem.   Romance is all about love overcoming obstacles, and romance readers want to see that love conquers all, even vampires.  But 50 Shades of Grey is fan fiction that tries to stand on its own feet and fails.  Granted, it has been a huge commercial success because sex sells; but behind the titillation there’s no substance.

Because 50 Shades lost the vampire problem it has much weaker obstacles than Twilight.  It has a less interesting barrier with a messed-up male protagonist/antagonist (I’m not sure which he really is).  After a few more tinkers down the road, the weakened plot and weakened characters have become so watered down that they are fifty shades lighter than the original.

Writing fan fiction can be a fun chance to play in someone else’s universe.  It can also be excellent practice for honing your craft.  And like any craft, writing takes practice.  After all, most composers learn to play other people’s songs before they create their own masterpieces.  However, make sure your borrowed characters face obstacles that are at least as interesting and challenging as those created by their own author.  Otherwise you’ll just be writing fifty shades of bland.