All posts by Jennifer Landels

Happy International Women’s Day

I love our cover art.  For me, one of the greatest joys of the magazine is finding and choosing paintings to wrap our words in.  But I’m always a bit sad when the necessary banners and text cover up some of the beautiful images.

So to celebrate International Women’s day,  we offer you a sneak peek of the cover art for Pulp Literature Issue 15, Summer 2017 by the amazing S. Ross Browne.  Here is The Huntress, in her full undecorated glory.  Enjoy!

The Huntress, by S. Ross Browne.

Find more of Ross’s wonderful paintings here.

Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries

For my money, here’s the best reward on Something Novel

Mrs Stella Ryman is an amateur sleuth, trapped in a down-at-heel care home.
You’d be cranky, too.

Have I mentioned how much I adore Mel Anastasiou’s Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries?

Of course, I may be biased.  I was there when Stella was born, in Mel’s beautiful house on Bowen Island, overlooking the water, with the sun flickering through the towering trees around us.  In fact, I feel sure the opening sentence that came from Mel’s pen in that Hour Stories session, and which has remained unchanged since, was a product of benevolent Bowen sunshine.

“On this particular sun-and-shade April morning at Fairmount Manor, Stella Ryman no more entertained the idea of becoming an amateur sleuth than she had of entering next spring’s Boston Marathon.” 

Isn’t that brilliant?  I’m sure that a hundred years from now it will be one of those oft-quoted first lines, right alongside “It is a truth universally acknowledged …”

But Mel’s prose isn’t just elegant and witty … it’s also warm, compassionate, and insightful.

48944aa0e49fc0f95a6d49b4a2911610_originalIn Stella, she has written a character who is brave, intelligent, wise, and stubborn, but who is also trapped.  Stuck in a care home, limited by physical fraility, and at the mercy of her slightly less-than-reliable memory, she is nonetheless a warrior, seeking justice for the powerless within the walls of the Fairmount Manor care home.  While the context is mundane and the situations treated with gentle humour — the erratic wisdom of Mad Cassandra Browning, the convoluted plot to allow Thelma to take an unsupervised bath, the snarky observations of ‘The Greek Chorus’ of elderly harpies — Mel’s sharp and compassionate writing makes us care about defending the defenceless and righting the wrongs of the nursing home as much as Stella does.

Heroes come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities; and Stella, for all her eighty years and circumscribed life, is a hero that can stand proud in any Hall of Worthies.

If you haven’t yet met Stella, or if you have and want to get to know her better, consider ordering a copy on Pulp Literature‘s Something Novel Kickstarter campaign.  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

-Jen

 

 

The Magic of Bowen

There’s something about Bowen Island that feeds the writer’s soul, and this magical place, a stone’s throw across the water from Horseshoe Bay, is central to the very existence of Pulp Literature.outdoorsI first went there to write over a decade ago as part of Dale Adams Segal’s writing retreat through Langara.  Her Hour Stories cards were a breakthrough for me, allowing me to muffle my harsh inner critic and revel in the joy of storytelling.  And my early morning walks through the quiet, misty woods near Snug Cove allowed me to empty my mind and let stories pour in.  Without that retreat, I’m not sure I would ever have written a novel — or even another short story.

Allaigna 1 croppedA year later I returned to The Lodge at the Old Dorm with some of the attendees, and we hosted our own informal retreat.  There, curled up on the luxurious bed in the Lady Cecilia room, I wrote the first lines of Allaigna’s Song: “If you walk down the grand staircase of Castle Osthegn, you will see a family portrait …”

If I hadn’t mentioned that writing holiday to Mel — who has lived on Bowen much of her life — I would never have known she was a writer too, she would not have introduced me to Sue, and the three of us would never have begun writing together using the Hour Stories.  Our writing sessions together have produced the drafts of all three Allaigna novels, the delightful Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, Mel’s new mystery series The Seven Swans (see Issue 9!), Sue’s captivating historical novel about Esther, and many of the exquisite short stories you see from her in the pages of Pulp Literature.

Winter 2014 cover proofBut perhaps the largest creation to emerge from one of our writing sessions was the magazine itself.  After a productive morning writing at Mel’s place on Bowen, the idea for Pulp Literature sprang almost fully formed:  like Venus rising from the sea below the sunny deck where we drank our beer and supped on the inspiration of trees and wind and ocean.

Maybe Pulp Lit could have been born in Sue’s welcoming home, or my chaotic one, or even on the ethernet waves of Skype where we meet so often.  But I tend to think the vital spark came from the magic of the island itself.  Which is why we held our first Year of the Muse Retreat there this year, and why I’m so delighted to be returning in January 2016.alexandra

Fellow writers, I hope you’ll join us at the place where it all began, to steep your writing in the magic of Bowen.

The Muse Revisited
An all-inclusive writers retreat surrounded by natural beauty, with gourmet meals, luxurious rooms, and good company.
The Lodge at the Old Dorm
Bowen Island BC
8 – 10 January 2016
Register here

The writing table. Photo by Rosie Perera

 

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
p.3
‘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.

 

The Art of Asking … and Offering

When you pass a busker and throw some change in the open guitar case, what are you paying for?  It could be for the good feeling of helping another human being; or it could be a gesture of gratitude, a ‘thank you’ for filling that corner of your day with music.

For me it’s often the latter, but there’s another motivation as well.  My coin in that case is a vote that says, “I like what you’re doing, please keep doing it, because I’m willing to pay you for it.”

Last year when we decided to launch a magazine to print the stories we love, this TED talk by the amazing Amanda Palmer was a large part of the inspiration.

viellaIt’s a vulnerable feeling to stand on the street corner with your hand outstretched.  When we ran our first Kickstarter campaign we weren’t just asking for your money, we were asking for your trust.  We had no white flower to hand you, and we hadn’t already filled your ears with music.  All we had were the reputations of great writers like CC Humphreys, JJ Lee, Susanna Kearsley and Joan MacLeod, and the promise of a year’s worth of fabulous stories.

One year on Amanda Palmer has published her first book, The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help, and we have four beautiful issues of Pulp Literature that we’ve been proud to put into your hands.

We hope you liked the medley of stories we’ve brought to your doorstep.  Once more we are asking for your help, this time to publish the next four issues.  Lend us your support and we’ll be your troubadours, bringing you fabulous fiction four times throughout the next year, and for as long as there is a public that wants to pay for it.

Whether you can afford to back us to the tune of $1 or $1000, your pledge on the Kickstarter page is your vote.  It says “I like a good story, I want to see more of them published, and I’m willing to pay to make that happen.”

We thank you for your vote.

The art of asking

For more on Amanda Palmer’s book and the new model for arts funding, see this excellent essay in the New Statesman by Cory Doctorow.

 

 

Meet Sidnye (Queen of the Universe)

Sidnye Dupree was going on thirteen years old when she broke the Bishop’s nose with a dodgeball and dreamed the dream of the shooting star. But even if she’d known then what was happening to her, it would have been far too late to stop it.Sidnye

Scott Fitzgerald Gray has created scores of memorable characters in his novels and short fiction, but Sidnye (Queen of the Universe) is undeniably my favourite.  I fell in love with Sidnye and years ago when I had the privilege of reading an early draft of the novel.  The spot-on characterization of this rebellious and compassionate thirteen-year-old and her equally outcast best friend Emmett, both stuck at boarding school in Moose Jaw, would be wonderful enough on its own.  But then things go all SF on the pair, the story blooms and expands, and the reader follows them out of this world  on a cosmic ride.  I can’t really tell you more without spoilers, but I can tell you I was entranced.

Imagine my delight last year when I learned Scott was finally releasing this gem of a novel and following up with the sequel.  I am even more delighted to be able to share it with you.  For free!

That’s right, free.  Scott will generously donate an ebook of Sidnye (Queen of Universe) to all of our first-month Kickstarter backers if we reach our mid-point goal of $13,000 by November 5th.  You can find out more about the offer here:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/899865359/pulp-literature-year-2/posts

Share the link, and tell all your friends you want your ebook. You don’t want to miss this one!

Black and White

Pencils for page 5 of 'The Wolf'
Pencils for page 5 of ‘The Wolf’

When I was a student at the Cartoon Centre in London, David Lloyd would sometimes take a fat marker to a student’s lovingly finished pencils and obliterate half the panel in solid black to illustrate the power of ink.  He did it to me more than once.  And while inside you scream as black envelopes your precious work, with luck you absorb the lesson.  You learn bravery, and balance, and the value of black.  And with time you realize that those precious pencils weren’t worth saving after all.

The page partially inked
A partially inked page

Ink frightens me.  It’s so black, so solid, so permanent.  My comfort zone lies in pencil sketches, which are soft, mutable and contain infinite shades of grey.  Perhaps because I’m lessed skilled with it, I often find ink stills and deadens the picture.  Which is why most of the illustrations in Allaigna’s Song are pencil sketches darkened just enough to reproduce well in a black and white publication.

But sometimes a story requires solid black and white.  ‘The Wolf’ is a poem by Kimberleigh Smithbower Roseblade.  Originally a spoken-word piece, it is full of contrast between the wild and vicious ‘wolf’ — the poet’s autoimmune disease, lupus — and her health, represented by the walls of her home.  The words are direct and visceral, devoid of ambivalence or shades of grey.  For this story, pencil sketches would not do.

The finished page
The finished page

When I must ink, I normally use a fineliner, creating a cartoon overtop of the pencils.  I then use a brush pen or chisel tip marker for shadows and depth.  This is the safe, minimalist approach.  This time though, I pulled out old fashioned brush and inkpot, and let the liquid black pour onto the page.

It was scary and liberating all at once, and pulled me right back into my student days with David.  It’s too early for me to tell critically whether I’ve made the right call, but my gut tells me this suits the story.

‘The Wolf’ will be printed in Pulp Literature Issue 4, Autumn 2014.

 

 

The Pleasure of Paying

Last month’s Pulp Literature bank statement came this week.  It was a long one, and contained all the cleared cheques written to our Issue 1 contributors.  This made me much happier than you might think.

Because, you see, I enjoy writing cheques.

Yes, read that again.  I enjoy writing cheques.  Especially to writers and artists.  It means that here at Pulp Literature, in our very small way, we are contributing to the sustainability of the Arts as a profession.

We’re able to do that because of you, the people who backed our Kickstarter campaign, and those of you who have subscribed and bought single issues since then.  Every issue purchased helps us pay creators to do what they do best.

When you buy a copy of the book, its worth lies not in the printed page or file you download onto your reader.  The worth is in the inspiration the artist has shared with you when she put words or brush strokes on that blank page.  The story stays with you when you put down the book.  Even if you never read that story or see that illustration again it is still a part of your memory.  How do we even put a price on that?

Sublime intangibles of Art aside, we must put a price on it.  Writers need to be paid to write.  Artists need to be paid to create.  Otherwise they have to spend their time making a living in other ways, and the world becomes a poorer place.

And that’s why it makes me happy to write cheques to contributors.  The funds in our bank account are not ours.  It is money you have entrusted to us to distribute to the creative minds that make this magazine what it is, and we’re happy to be that conduit.

We wish we could pay our creators more, though.  After production costs for our first issue we were able to pay the contributors 50% of our full rates.  So we’ve promised to pay them the same amount again when sales of the first issue reach 500 copies. The promise applies to stories and artwork for future issues as well.  And if we reach 1000 subscribers we’ll be able to pay full rates on acceptance, and make the magazine viable into the future.

You can help make that happen by encouraging your friends to subscribe, spreading the word in person and on social media, and asking your local bookstore to carry Pulp Literature.

And I will be happy to continue writing cheques.

 

 

A Countdown Calendar

Whatever your holiday persuasion is at this time of year, one of the best things about the season is anticipation.  Even growing up as I did in an entirely secular household, I loved the countdown to Christmas.  Not every year, but every once in a while, I would receive an advent calendar.  They were just gaudy pieces of cardboard with cheap and nasty confections that somehow had the nerve to be called milk chocolate , but I loved them.  Each tiny thrill of opening a new window and getting closer to the big one somehow added up to much more than a collection of 24 candies.

We here at Pulp Literature are more excited than kids on Christmas eve as we get ready for Launch Party on December 20th.  We thought we’d share the anticipation by making an advent calendar of sorts for you, our blog readers.  Each day until the 20th we’ll be posting a special offer on the blog, most of them good for one day only.

However, to start off with a bang our very first special will be good for the whole month!

Advertising Special

For the month of December we are offering ad rates of three issues for the price of two in our 2014 print and digital editions!  For details, see our adverts page.

Check back tomorrow, to see what special offer is available on December 2nd …

The Reign of Short Fiction

We take it as a good omen.  On the very day our Kickstarter campaign reached it’s funding goal, the Giller prize was awarded to Lynn Coady for her short story collection, Hellgoing.  Add that to last month’s Nobel prize win by the Queen of Short Stories, Alice Munro, and it looks like it’s a very good time indeed to be writing and publishing short fiction.

I love the novel, and it will always be my medium of choice for storytelling.  But the succinct beauty of a well-crafted short story always leaves me slightly breathless.  I don’t write short fiction because I am ever so slightly in awe of the form and its masters.

As with poetry, every word in a short story must count.  That there are 5000 of them, rather than a few dozen, makes the short story writer’s job that much harder.  Each paragraph in a well-written short is a poem unto itself.

A novelist has the luxury of developing her characters, themes and settings over time.  A short fiction writer encapsulates these in a few sentences, all of which must advance the plot.   In many ways the short story is the pinnacle of the written word, marrying the clarity of poetry to the complexity of prose.

As a writer I am inspired to continue to push my own prose up to reach that short fiction bar.  As an editor I feel privileged to play midwife to the stories that travel through our submissions inbox and onto the pages of Pulp Literature. And as publishers, we are thrilled and honoured to be able to offer to you. 

Long live the short story!