A Return to SKULLDUGGERY (A Free Serialized Novel by Tim Byrd)

Drogarth.

The name alone conjures dark images of spilling blood, of blackest magiks, of lawlessness and chaos. Throughout the kingdom children hear stories of this evil city and are told they must never go there — and they wish with all their hearts that one day they will. For children are the custodians of wishes, of dreams; they know in their hearts, in their souls, that only in the darkest of pits can the brightest adventures be found…

A couple of years ago (oddly enough, exactly two years ago, to the day, as I type this, now that I check), I started to post my novel Skullduggery, A Tale of Thievesas a free serialized novel at its own site. Then, life happened, and the project very quickly faltered.

Today, I’m pleased to renew my commitment to making this book available, and there are several new chapters up. I’m going to try to put up at least some new material weekly from now on, which I’ll announce here on my blog (probably on Fridays, click the “Follow” button in the sidebar to the right if you want to make sure to get updates).

Click below to join me on this dark adventure…

SKULLDUGGERY, A TALE OF THIEVES

ANNOUNCEMENT: The Third Doc Wilde Adventure Will Be…

In my post about this year’s Doc Wilde relaunch, I told you that Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom would be re-released in its deluxe improved edition in June, Doc Wilde and The Mad Skull would follow in August/September, and the third book, to be named later, would follow in November.

I’m ready to give you the third title…

Doc Wilde and The Dance of the Werewolf!!!

 I’d originally planned this to be the second book in the series, and wrote a chunk of it, but it was vetoed by my editor as “too scary.” And, indeed, it is a darker, bloodier tale than the first book (even considering Frogs of Doom’s Lovecraftian horrors), exactly as I intended it to be. I mean, it’s werewolves. It should be scary.

I wondered if I’d ever actually be allowed by Putnam to publish the book without toning down the scares and neutering it.

Well, now I get to write the book I want to write, and you get to read it.

The Republican Vision

A great bit of political reportage from novelist Lucius Shepard:

Watching the GOP debate yesterday I had the idea that I was watching a Nostradamus prophecy coming true, these four evil fucks blithely discussing the ripping away of entitlements, like the four heads of some Hydra-esque creature, the subject of a quatrain that begins, When the four-headed beast rises in the west, pus will burst from the eyes of the populace. It was an amazing scene. John King lobbing questions like gobbets of fat and these monstrosities lazily plucking them out of the air and swallowing them, then regurgitating a processed answer…all except the dimwitted Ron Paul, who seemed constantly on the verge of cackling and bursting into flames, an itchy little demon whose mouth outsped his brain. And the audience…tanned, corpulent lesser imps and imp-ettes. Jesus. Like a scene from the Middle Ages.

“Past Imperfect,” A New Scorpion Story! (Review)

Back in 2009, I reviewed a modern pulp adventure titled The Sting of the Scorpion. As I said then (review here), I enjoyed the hell out of it, and ever since I’ve been hoping to see new Scorpion adventures. A second book has been due for a while, and looks to finally be coming soon, but in the meantime, the author has released a short story featuring the hero, called “Past Imperfect.”

As I wrote before:

As for the hero, in classic pulp fashion, The Scorpion by day is a wealthy paragon, living in the tallest building in the city, assisted by a mysterious Asian woman, dedicated to his mission against evil…but he’s not just a hero with a dark past, he’s a hero with a really dark past. And he’s not really human, in some very interesting and dangerous ways. Richard Wentworth dressed as The Spider to scare criminals into thinking he was a monster; Kurt Reinhardt becomes The Scorpion because he is a monster.

Reinhardt is a compelling protagonist, the action frequent and brutal, the city a violent and noirish place, and the plot interesting. Not only that, but Stockholm can actually write very well…I do have to warn readers of delicate tastes away, however, because this is a very grim and blood-splashed work.

 I just read it, and it’s understandably slighter than its longer predecessor, but still a lot of fun, and a good taste of Scorpion action and craziness. It needs a bit of editing (little things, like having a character “pouring” rather than “poring” over some documents), but is a sleek and clever read and easy to recommend at an ebook cost of 99¢.

You can buy it here. You can also buy The Sting of the Scorpion here for only $2.99 (and you should).

(Also, if you’re a fan of pulp adventure, make sure to check out the news about my Doc Wilde series!!!)

ANNOUNCEMENT: The Return of Doc Wilde!!!

In a young adult book market crowded with the depressing and the dour, Tim Byrd’s Doc Wilde swings in on a jungle vine to raise the flag high for adventure. Infused with pace, fun, and all the two-fisted action a reader could ask for, Wilde lovingly riffs on situations straight out of the old pulps, even while making them fresh for a new generation.
— Zack Stentz, screenwriter, ThorX-Men: First Class

In 2009, Penguin/Putnam released my book Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, an adventure novel for all ages, my homage to the great pulp adventure stories of the thirties and forties. I conceived it as the first of a series, but Putnam waited to see how it was received before committing to more books.

The reviews were great, and the sales very good. As a result, Putnam asked for two more books. But, as regular readers of this blog know, I went through some rough times that delayed completion of the second book, and in the time since Frogs was released there has been a great deal of change in publishing. Thanks to digital distribution, the rapid rise of ebooks, and print on demand, the options for authors are much better than they used to be.

So, today, I’m excited to announce that Doc Wilde is going indy.

Written in fast-paced, intelligent prose laced with humor and literary allusions ranging from Dante to Dr. Seuss, the story has all of the fun of old-fashioned pulp adventures. A tale ‘terrifying and dark, of indescribable horrors and eldritch mysteries,’ this is sure to be Wilde-ly popular, and readers will anxiously await future installments.
                                                     —Kirkus Reviews

Putnam treated me well enough, but I was largely underwhelmed with my experiences with them. The  money was relatively lousy (and usually delivered months after it was contractually supposed to be), they did no promotion, and I thought they failed to take advantage of important opportunities. At no point did I get the idea that my input was valued, except insofar as delivering a printable text was concerned. And they allowed the hardback to sell through its print run and fall out of print before even scheduling a paperback printing, meaning the book’s effective shelf life and opportunity to find new readers was less than two years. In other words, I was treated like most authors are treated by the Big 6.

The thing is, I want to make a living at this, and unless the series really took wing, I was never going to do that under standard publishing terms. Everybody in publishing makes a good living, with benefits, except the folks who write the books. Going independent is a gamble, but honestly, if it doesn’t work, I’m not out much income, and if it does (and I expect it will) I’ll at least be able to keep the roof over my head.

So this is the year of Doc Wilde.

Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom is an adventure yarn in the old tradition. It gets that reading is an intellectual activity, and that an adventure, to be really good, has to engage the reader’s brain. I love a smart book!
—Daniel Pinkwater, author of The Neddiad and The Yggyssey

The fact that Putnam allowed Frogs to fall out of print turned out to be a great thing, because it allowed me to retrieve the rights and I can start the series anew, the way I want to. There were things I wanted to do with the books that I wasn’t getting to do with Putnam, and now I can.

One of those things is working with Gary Chaloner. As I’ve written before, well before I finished writing Frogs, I tried to find the perfect artist to depict the Wildes, and Gary was my choice. Not only was he a gifted graphic storyteller with a distinctive style, he was also a huge fan of pulp adventure and had an instinctive understanding (and love) of the material. Together we decided to produce lavishly illustrated books, and he put a lot of time into honing his designs to match my vision of the characters. (To see some of his early designs, go here.)

The Wildes à la Chaloner

When I signed with Putnam, they completely disregarded my wishes. The resulting book had a really nice cover, but I never got so much as an email consultation from the artist and I have a few minor issues with some of its details. There were no lovely illustrations inside. Instead, there were some goofy typographical effects that (I felt) distracted the reader and made the book look like it was meant solely for very young readers, rather than for young and old as I intended.

Well, Gary’s back on board, and we’re doing the books the way we originally envisioned.

Here’s the plan:

Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom will be released in its new edition in June, in both ebook and paper. It will offer my preferred edit of the novel, along with a new short Doc Wilde adventure, and (like future books) will have a new cover and be fully illustrated by maestro Gary Chaloner.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be putting together a Kickstarter project so folks can help us with the relaunch and get assorted boons ranging from being named in the acknowledgments to autographed limited editions and other exclusives.

Then, in August or September, the long-awaited second adventure will finally appear, Doc Wilde and The Mad Skull, in which the Wildes face a mind-blowing mystery and a truly bizarre villain. Doc Wilde and The Dance of the Werewolf, a dark tale featuring lycanthropes and witchcraft, will follow in November.

Had I remained with Putnam, by year’s end there would have possibly been a paperback of Frogs of Doom, and The Mad Skull might have seen print some time next year, though more likely it would have been in 2014. Doing things this way, you get the first three books by Christmas, with more to follow next year.

This is all very exciting for me. Going indy will allow me not only to produce nicer books, not only to make more money (at less cost to readers), but to have a more organic and personal relationship with fans. It’s a great time to be a writer.

Stay tuned for more news, including the details of the Kickstarter project…

A true delight…Tim Byrd has taken Doc Savage, added in a pinch of Robert E. Howard, a liberal dose of H.P. Lovecraft, and mixed it all together in a well done, enchanting pastiche of the pulps that will appeal to the adult audience as well as the young adult readers. It is an over the top at times, rip roaring adventure that returns us to the days of yesteryear and leaves us wanting more.
—Barry Hunter, The Baryon Review

(Note: At the time I post this, Putnam’s ebook version of Frogs of Doom is still available online. The wheels of publishing grind slowly, and they haven’t yet gotten around to removing it as they’re supposed to. If you’re interested in the book, I encourage you to wait for the new version later this year. It will be a much better edition, will cost you less, and I’ll benefit a lot more from the sale.)

The Comedy of Terrors

For your Halloween consideration…

This classic horror comedy stars Vincent Price as a conniving undertaker who resorts to murder to drum up business. Peter Lorre is his bumbling, soft-hearted assistant, Boris Karloff his senile father-in-law, and Basil Rathbone his hardnosed landlord-turned-victim. Directed by Jacques Tourneur, with a brilliant script by horror great Richard Matheson, this is the sort of film Abbott and Costello might have made had they been into Shakespeare and worked for Hammer Films. Very smart, wonderfully entertaining, and family-friendly; we watch it every year.

You can watch it streaming on Netflix, or rent it on Amazon for $2.99.

Happy Hallowe’en (and the Song of the Week, 10/31/2011)

Halloween/Samhain has always been my favorite holiday. To celebrate, here’s Springsteen channeling the raging ghost of Howlin’ Wolf with a perfect Halloween song…

For the interested, here are some posts from back in my blog somewheres related to Halloweeny goodness…

5 Classic Horror Flicks to Goose Your Bumps

…for those who might like to watch something scary and good, I figured I’d throw you a few bones. Collect ‘em all and you can build a skeleton.

These are just five classics, not my all time favorites or anything with that much thought behind it, not in any particular order. All of them are first rate.

5 New Classic Horror Flicks You Might Have Missed

Some more contemporary works that many people haven’t seen, and everybody who loves a good scare needs to.

Saturday Night With Cthulhu

Sebastian’s Voodoo (A Great Short Film)

A wonderful short animated film by UCLA student Joaquin Baldwin. It’s visually amazing, and the story is very moving.

“The Show Is Over” by Nora Keyes

Last Halloween’s Song of the Week, Nora Keyes gettin’ her serious creep on.

My Pulp Pit Column at IMJ Returns! Pulp Pit #2: “I Am Not Doc Savage”

After many travails, my second column at Inveterate Media Junkies is now finally online:

I AM NOT DOC SAVAGE

Spiders Are Wonderful (An Even Better Wack Kids’ Book)

Everyone is all abuzz about Go The Fuck To Sleep, which is pretty funny, especially as read by Nick Fury of SHIELD.

But over on his blog, Dennis Detwiller offers up an even better “alternative children’s book,” Spiders Are Wonderful by Toby Vok. As Dennis rightly puts it, “If I had to describe it, I would perhaps call it a children’s book of existential horror. Toby Vok is a twisted, wonderful man.”

You can read it in its entirety by clicking the image below. Toward the bottom of the page, Vok also graciously offers it up for free in both PDF and epub formats.

Free, Easy Ways You Can Help Authors (Please Do These Things!)

Writing has always been a questionable way to make a living.

Yeah, occasionally one of us gets lucky and makes millions, but you may as well plan around winning the lottery. It’s not even a matter of talent…while the bestseller lists are often ruled by writers whose output is an insult to paper and ink, ungodly talents struggle to pay the rent and have to work other jobs to support their families.

But you, as a reader, have the power to help writers you like. Your most basic use of this power, of course, is simply spending money on their work, which is a sacred act. You can take that further by buying additional copies as gifts for others. You can even make a point of actually buying books new, rather than nabbing used copies or reading them at the library.

(Neither of which, I have to tell you, I really have much issue with. As a writer, I write to be read, so the more people reading my work, wherever they get it, the happier I am, on a certain overarching level. And it’s true that someone who reads one of your books for free or cheap may like it so much that they’ll buy your next one fresh off the shelf, where the sale does you the most good. All the same, it’s indisputable that succeeding as a writer is tough, and as a reader your decision to buy new is a powerful act and can make all the difference. I want most of all to be read…but the more sales I get, the better able I am to stay in print and publish even more stuff and make a living at all.)

So yeah, buying is very important. But it’s not all you can do to help struggling scribes, and there are easy things you can do that don’t even cost you anything.

Back in April, author G.P. Ching (who apparently kicks patootie at Guitar Hero) blogged about this very topic, and did such a good job, I don’t think I can improve on it. Her full post is here. In it she offers five ways readers can help writers “that cost absolutely nothing but go a long way toward helping to foster their potential.”

As a struggling mid-lister, I assure you that if you do these things not only will they help, they will be enormously appreciated.

Here are G.P.’s suggestions on free ways to help writers:

5.  Forward their press 
Whether it is a tweet, post, or status message, someone who follows you might be interested. Retweeting or sharing a post only takes a second but could mean connecting a potential reader with an author they’ll love.
4. Tell a friend
If you like someone’s work, there’s no better way than word of mouth to promote their cause. Even if you haven’t read the specific book yet, your comment can inform someone of the book’s availability.  And, of course, if you have read the book, let others know you liked it.  Indie authors don’t have large publicity budgets and rely on personal connections more than anything else for promotion.
3.  Tag and “like” their book on the bookseller’s site
At the bottom of a book’s page on Amazon, there are check boxes to tag a book.  When you check one, it strengthens the association between the book and that category. So, when someone else searches on the category, books with more tags appear higher in the search results.  This increases exposure for the work.
When you “like” a book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, it adds a message on your Facebook newsfeed and is good promotion for the title.
2.  Add the author’s book to your To-Be-Read pile on Goodreads
All of your Goodreads followers get a glimpse of the cover and can see that you added it. Plus, it increases the number of people associated with the book which can garner interest in the title.
1.  Write a review
Often if your intention is to write a review, an author will provide you with a free copy of the book.  Whether on a blog or on a bookseller’s site, reviews help authors sell more books and are greatly appreciated.
All great suggestions.

“Dead Folks” Now Available

Click To Buy!

My story “Dead Folks” is now available from Amazon as a Kindle download for 99 cents. In the near future, it will be going up at other online venues, in other ebook formats. (If you don’t have a Kindle, you can still read Kindle books with free programs downloadable from Amazon, like Kindle for PC. I read Kindle books on my iPhone and desktop computer.)

Here’s the story’s description:

What do you do when your town is suddenly inundated with pesky corpses from various historical eras?

The problem turns personal for young Johnny when he and his sister find Franklin Delano Roosevelt floating dead in the lake. Then the stakes become more dire when he discovers the plague of dead folks might just be the least of his troubles.

Tim Byrd’s clever short story spins the sort of yarn that Mark Twain and Stephen King might produce if spacetime allowed them to collaborate. Join the creepy fun, but watch where you step.

If you read it, please consider leaving a short review on Amazon. It’s new and fresh and needs all the lovin’ it can get…

Introducing My New Monthly Column on Pulp Adventure: The Pulp Pit

A Typical Pulp Hero...

As I mentioned in the Song of the Week post yesterday, I have a new monthly column over at Inveterate Media Junkies. The first installment is now live and you can read it here:

I Am Doc Savage

The column is called “The Pulp Pit,” and as you might deduce, its subject is pulp. I’ll be covering whatever pulpy topics tickle my muse (or maybe cuddle my muse, since she’s not that fond of tickling), pointing out cool pulp stuff for people to enjoy, and reviewing books, comics, movies, games, TV shows, and whatever else as appropriate.

For those with possible review materials they think might be on-topic for a pulp column, please drop me a line at thepulppit at gmail.com (just connect the two parts up with an @). I’m interested in any sort of pulpish media, old or new. I don’t want people just sending me things that stack up and I never get to, as that costs you money and both of us time. So tell me what it is, and if I think it’s something I might actually make time to read/watch/play/etc., I’ll tell you how to send it to me.

Regular readers of this blog  might have noticed a recent password-protected entry titled I Am Doc Savage (Pulp Pit # 1). Two weeks after a column appears on IMJ, I’ll remove the password and make the post public, so it’s available to readers here.

Cliffhanger Music (Song of the Week, 3/21/2011)

To commemorate my new monthly column on pulp, which debuts today at Inveterate Media Junkies, here’s John Williams’s perfect cliffhanger background music from Raiders of the Lost Ark…

And as a bonus, here’s Taylor Dayne’s “Original Sin,” the Jim “I Wrote All Meat Loaf’s Best Songs” Steinman creation used for the Alec Baldwin version of The Shadow

I Am Doc Savage (Pulp Pit # 1)

[This is a Pulp Pit column, originally published at Inveterate Media Junkies. These columns are exclusively available at their site for two weeks, then I make them available here on my blog.]

I am Doc Savage.

If you know me, you know that to the world at large, I am a strange, mysterious figure of glistening bronze skin and golden eyes. A man of superhuman strength and protean genius. My life is dedicated to the destruction of evil-doers. I am the greatest adventure hero of all time.

Now hear me out. Sure, I lack the bronze. My eyes are blue, and I tend toward what you might call an Irish tan, which is to say, freckles at best, charbroiled melanoma at worst. So, I’m not literally the original superman, standing tall with a tropic tan and eyes of swirled gold.

Nor do I live in the Empire State Building, have a team of action-packed scientist aides, or play a mean violin.

Plus, I don’t live in the early twentieth century.

So where do I get off saying that  I’m Doc Savage? Continue reading

Ken Hite on DOC WILDE: Tim Byrd has “the keen eye for the plausible impossibility shared by many of the pulp greats”

 

Buy Now!

Kenneth Hite is a smart man.

He’s a writer of various things, particularly in the roleplaying game field. He’s a true polymath, carrying vast stores of knowledge about a vast array of topics around in his brain. He’s one of the few human beings I have ever met who makes me feel kind of dumb.

He’s also a scholar of pulp fiction, particularly the works of H.P. Lovecraft. So it thrills me to share with you his review of my first book, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, which is of course an homage to both the pulp heroes of the 1930s and ’40s and to H.P. Lovecraft’s unspeakable horror tales. It’s my first review by someone I’m not only sure gets everything I tried to do in the book, but who I suspect gets stuff I don’t even realize is in there.

Here’s a taste; the rest is here.

Despite our young heroes’ impressive abilities, the threat of the Frog God Frogon builds to a genuinely scary level by the end, with a properly Lovecraftian threat to the universe (and to one of Doc’s sidekicks, a burly Irishman named Declan mac Coul) waiting in the depths of a South American cave inhabited by the titular Frogs of Doom. Byrd plays with amphibian biology, and with plenty of other sciences from nanotech to aerodynamics, with the keen eye for the plausible impossibility shared by Dent, Lovecraft, and many of the pulp greats.

I suspect that readers out of middle school will appreciate Byrd’s tribute first and foremost as a tribute — spotting the references and shout-outs is our own little adventure mystery — but it will surprise you by engaging you with its youthful characters as well…the words themselves reel out at pulp speed, and tickle two kinds of nostalgia at once: nostalgia for reading Doc Savage, and for reading Doc Savage for the first time, when you were eleven and hadn’t yet talked yourself into being tired of heroes.

You can get the book here.

Good Memories of 2010, Day 4: MR. SHIVERS

By the time the number nineteen crossed the Missouri state line the sun had crawled low in the sky and afternoon was fading into evening. The train had built up a wild head of steam over the last few miles. As Tennessee fell behind it began picking up speed, the wheels chanting and chuckling, the fields blurring into jaundice-yellow streaks by the track. A fresh gout of black smoke unfurled from the train’s crown and folded back to clutch the cars like a great black cloak.

I met Robert Jackson Bennett briefly at SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) in September 2009. When I did my signing for Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, he was signing at the next table, and we chatted briefly (I recall telling him his title was cool) and exchanged inscribed copies of our books.

Here’s his inscription:

Know what? When I finally picked the book up months later, I did enjoy it. A hell of a lot. Continue reading

Well Nigh Apocalypse

An undead ex-VP rejects another heart…

Thousands of black birds with blood-red marks fall from the sky…

Dead fish choke the shores…

A troll doll from a northern state gets a book deal…

Orcs seize control of the House…

A newt and a hagfish in grizzly furs set their crazed eyes to the White House…

The Rupture is nigh.