Too often in fiction, I’ve found myself asking: Where are
Dead moms are a long-established trope in stories,
especially in sci-fi/fantasy. Mothers are, culturally speaking, meant to be
nurturing figures who protect and coddle, and one of the easiest ways to force
a protagonist to strike out on their own adventure is to get rid of the safety
net that is Mom. I’ll confess that, as a writer, I’ve fallen into the same trap
more than once (in my defense, I’ve killed off an equal number of dads).
When you look at stories—and the way we talk about
stories—there’s this sense that when a woman becomes a mother, she ceases to be
the heroine of her own story. Instead, she’s relegated to a supporting role for
her children, who are now meant to be the center of her life and the only
reason for her existence. There are exceptions, as there are in everything, but
overall, we’re left with the impression that once a woman becomes Mom, her tale
ends. She fades away and, often, disappears altogether. Or, if she does remain,
her destiny is disproportionately influenced by her children when compared to
their impact on Dad.Continue reading
That’s what Sawney Hatton, Patrick Thomas, and yours truly discussed as we thought about ways to do dastardly things to our protagonists — teenagers all — who, as far as we knew, never did anything to us. But hey, that’s just how we roll.
For a bit of history, Sawney and I (Sawney is a pen name) went to high school together, and shared a love of movies, dark tales, and other mischievous musings, including a student film Sawney wrote and directed and I starred in (no, seriously), which, if you want a very good laugh, is available somewhere on YouTube under the title “Light Chasm.”
Meanwhile, Pat has been a pal for at least a decade out on book tour, he and I known to each other as PT! and RC! We’ve collaborated before, and decided it was time to do it again.
Which brings us to MURDER IN MONTAGUE FALLS. Our new project, published through Crazy 8 Press, is a collection of three noir-inspired novellas (no sci-fi or fantasy here, all straight crime fiction) set in the fictional American suburb of Montague Falls, wherein our teen protagonists went to the same high school — Martin Van Buren High, to be precise — albeit during different decades.Continue reading
I’ve often spoken of discovering comics when my mother gave
me an issue of Superman (or maybe Action) when I was six. In short order,
I began devouring larger-than-life heroes in earnest. Thankfully, DC and Marvel
were able to keep up with my growing appetite and it wasn’t long before my
father convinced me to add actual books to the diet.
By the time I got to summer camp, I was 10 or so, and had
been told of these earlier heroes – Doc Savage, The Shadow, and Conan among
them – who lived in dime magazines called the pulps. Somewhere along the way, I
began buying Lancer’s set of Robert E, Howard’s adventures, fronted with those
gorgeous Frank Frazetta covers. Soon after, Pyramid began releasing reprints of
Maxwell Grant’s The Shadow (with those great Jim Steranko covers).
A local radio station ran a different old time radio drama
at 7 p.m. on weeknights and X Minus One
Saturday nights. I got to thrill to the exploits of The Shadow, the Lone
Ranger, and other series.
Ever since, the pulps have been a part of my life. When we were brainstorming ideas for Crazy 8 Press anthologies, I hit on the idea of honoring those stories much as the Michael Chabon-edited book, McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, did some years back.Continue reading
When we wrote the first Crimson Keep story, “Demon Circle,” we really didn’t know what we were getting into. That’s because, up until Kevin Dilmore provided the opening line at our Crazy 8 panel on the first day of that ShoreLeave when we were going to be writing the story on-site in round-robin fashion, we didn’t have any idea how the story was even going to start, let alone where it was going to go. We didn’t know what kind of story it was, what genre it would be in, what the tone would be, any of that. It was only as we wrote that we figured all of that out—the story grew from author to author, developing itself under our fingers, until by the end we had a fully formed fantasy tale.
Then we had to come up with a cover.
Glenn took care of the first one, and the image was evocative if a little dark for such a goofy story. When we went back into that world and each wrote our own stories there, then collected all of those plus “Demon Circle” in the original Tales of the Crimson Keep, he built that cover as well. And you can tell at first glance that this is a collection of fantasy stories.
What you can’t tell is that they’re fun, and even funny, rather than dark and serious. This isn’t grim and bloody fantasy, it’s much lighter than that.
Which is why, when we decided to go back in and revise and expand and re-release the anthology—now with a new story by our newest C8 member, Mary Fan, plus an all-new round-robin story by all eight of us—I suggested that we would need an all-new and completely different cover.
Bob, Russ, and I discussed our requirements. “Think light-hearted,” I suggested. “Robert Asprin’s Myth Adventures series. John DeChancie’s Castle Perilous series. Heck, Piers Anthony’s Xanth series! The cover needs to say ‘fantasy’ but it also needs to say ‘fun.’”
Bob talked to our artist, Ty Templeton, and Ty did up some sketches. He sent us six of them, including one that he didn’t think would actually work because it was too busy.
I loved it. “That’s the one,” I said. “It looks like M.C. Escher meets Monty Python.”
Ty said okay, he’d give it a shot. And when he sent in the final, all three of us felt that it was perfect.
I think you can agree that now, when you pick up Tales of The Crimson Keep, you know that you’re definitely getting fantasy stories but you’re also in for a whole lot of fun. Almost as much fun as we had writing them.
Tales of the Crimson Keep – Newly Renovated Edition will be available in August.
Crazy 8 Press traces its origins to a chance encounter with Mike Friedman as he exited the Men’s Room at Shore Leave in 2010. A gaggle of fellow authors began lamenting how traditional publishing was increasingly closed off to ideas they couldn’t immediately fathom how to sell.
We decided to band together and support one another’s efforts in a communal effort. At Shore Leave a year later, we announced our existence and did so by writing a round-robin story in full view of the public. Working from a line suggested by Kevin Dilmore, we created a brand new fantasy world set within the stonewalls of the Crimson Keep. The finished effort was a novella, “Demon Circle”, which was our first item for sale (doubling as a fundraiser for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund).
In 2014, we decided to revisit the world of the Crimson Keep with a full-fledged anthology as each member of the team, which now included Paul Kupperberg, wrote their own story. Tales of the Crimson Keep debuted at Shore Leave, of course.
Just as the Keep grows and alters its interior configuration with surprising regularity, so too has C8 changed. We welcomed Mary Fan last year and we’ve been together for seven years now. That’s cause for celebration when most bands don’t last that long. As a result, we agreed to write a brand new round-robin story, with Mary and Paul included, and wanted to announce our newly renovated edition.
We needed a new cover, one that more accurately reflected the whimsical tone of the world. It was agreed few were better for the assignment than Ty Templeton. He flipped through the first edition and readily agreed, whipping up a variety of sketches.
Here’s the finished result, which we think is lovely. The book itself will be out in August and the various contributors will be chatting about their contributions in the weeks ahead.
Crazy 8 Press has always been about bringing to you guys—the fans, the lovers of books—original stories that we, the authors, feel passionate about, and are dedicated to ensuring the finished tales remain true to our visions.
One year ago we invited YA and SF/F author Mary Fan to join our band of crazies, and now she’s here with her very first full-length novel under the Crazy 8 banner.
Entitled Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil, Mary’s new book is a YA Dark Fantasy with monsters, magic, and secrets that can remain buried no longer. Sound awesome? To us, too. Here’s what Mary had to say:
Crazy 8 Press: This is your first full-length book with Crazy 8 Press. Why this one?
Mary: First of all, it still feels like I got invited to the cool kids’ table when Y’all let me join Crazy 8 Press last year :-). I originally wrote Edge of Evil way back in 2012, and it got picked up by a small press that same year. However, after five years of production delays and a few forays into self-publishing through other projects, I was ready to take the book indie. Still, there’s a big difference between being independent and being alone. Being independent is liberating. Being alone is scary. So I was thrilled at the chance to put Edge of Evil out with Crazy 8 because it meant I could still have the creative freedom of self-publishing while also being a part of a group.
C8P: We’re thrilled you picked Crazy 8 Press for its debut. The tagline is: Break the enchantments. Find the truth. Ignite the revolution. We’re intrigued. But what’s your book really about?
Mary: @RealisticYAplot actually tweeted a satirical but pretty accurate description of the worldbuilding: Wizards defeat the Dark Lord and use their power to oppress Muggles :-P. Edge of Evil takes place about a century after the Final Battle between the Enchanters – a small minority of humans with magic – and the Lord of the Underworld, who escaped his dark dimension and unleashed monsters upon the world. Theoretically, it ended in victory – the Lord was defeated. Problem was: the monsters were still around, and the Enchanters didn’t want to give up their power. So, using the excuse that they’re the only ones who can protect people from monsters, they set up a totalitarian regime with a rigid caste system that keeps those without magic in the lower classes.
One member of this oppressed majority is a 16-year-old schoolboy named Flynn Nightsider, who’s had it with the Enchanters’ crap. He tries to fight back in his own way – and gets himself in a heap of trouble. But in a twist of fate, a group of underground rebels, which includes a teen monster slayer named Aurelia “the Firedragon” Sun, hears of his plight and mounts a rescue. Flynn joins Aurelia in the fight for freedom, but he soon learns that not all is as it seems…
As the tagline implies, Flynn and Aurelia wind up facing supernatural dangers to uncover the regime’s darkest secrets and fight for freedom.
C8P: Wow. You must have some vivid dreams! What was your inspiration for Edge of Evil?
Mary: It started with the world and was inspired by a few things. One was that I wanted to combine two of my favorite genres: fantasy and dystopia. What would a dystopia look like in a fantasy setting? It also always bothered me that in many more contemporary fantasies, those with magic are the ones with power, and yet are the ones in hiding (Harry Potter, Charmed, Mortal Instruments, etc.). If you could wave a stick and turn people you don’t like into ferrets, wouldn’t you seize control? And lastly, it fascinated/horrified me how so many contemporary dictators got to their positions of power using the rhetoric of freedom and security.
So I set up a dystopian fantasy world where those with magic used their power to take control and used the rhetoric of freedom from fear and security from monsters to keep it. And then came my main character, Flynn, who’s a combination of fantasy and dystopian protagonists. On the fantasy side, I sent him on a Hero’s Journey-type arc (but threw a major wrench into it – no spoilers though!). On the dystopian side, I had him start out as a powerless cog in the system who’s itching to get out.
Once I had my character and my world, the plot kind of started unraveling on its own… Oh, and then there’s Aurelia. With her, I just wanted to write a kickass heroine (who has her own story arc and doesn’t just exist to support the male hero). With all these monsters and all these magic-wielding folks saying they’re the only ones who can fight them, I loved the idea of a teen girl who could take down the beasts with zero magic, which would be a seeming disadvantage in this world.
C8P: Your books tend to focus on characters who initially start out believing they’re without hope, or, at the very least, feel oppressed in a dystopian society, with no clear-cut path forward. But then they learn that there’s a fire in their belly — and sometimes power — they hadn’t known was even there. Is this wish fulfillment, is there a larger theme you’re after, or do you just like to see evil get kicked in the head?
Hah! Well, I do love seeing evil get kicked in the head :-P. I always loved stories about the ordinary becoming extraordinary, the unlikely heroes who are forced by circumstances to rise up and who heed the call. It’s classic storytelling (again with the Hero’s Journey), and I think it’s a fairly universally appealing theme. With most of my stories, I start with the world-building, and then look at this world and throw a spotlight on a seemingly random ordinary person who just happens to be there when things go wrong. It’s fun getting to develop them as characters and have them face their fears despite their apparent disadvantages. In the case of Flynn, I thought about who the lowest person in this world’s hierarchy would be—an orphan kid with zero family, zero money, zero magic, zero combat skills, and zero rights—and shoved him into the spotlight. Poor guy.
C8P: Without giving anything away, will we be seeing more of Flynn Nightsider?
Mary: Absolutely! Edge of Evil is the first in a planned trilogy. If all goes according to plan, Book 2 should come out late 2019 or early 2020.
C8P: Any chance you’ll be making appearances where lucky readers can get their copies signed?