While he was taking care of business, a gaggle of authors at Shore Leave, the premiere fan-run con in America, were lamenting the idiocy of publishers letting marketing people drive editorial purchases. As a result, ideas that got us excited were being met with, “we can’t pigeonhole that so can’t sell it”.
We were watching other authors begin to self-publish, with more than a few forming their own consortiums. By the time Mike came out of the men’s room, we buttonholed him, since he started this thread of thinking earlier. Before we knew it, a group was forming.
A year later, Crazy 8 Press made its triumphant debut at Shore Leave, with the authors publicly writing a round-robin novella that was our first release. Demon Circle was published at the beginning of fall 2011 and we have been going at it ever since.
We started with Mike, Aaron Rosenberg, Peter David, Howard Weinstein, Glenn Hauman, and Robert Greenberger. Others, who were part of the initial planning, bowed out, but we still called ourselves Crazy 8, because, why not? Soon after, Paul Kupperberg joined the band and a few years later, we welcomed in Russ Colchamiro. Two years back, we invited Mary Fan to the asylum. Kathleen O’Shea David and Jenifer Purcell Rosenberg both took turns trying to help our social marketing and wrangling the eight author cats. Silly them. But, both were welcomed to the party and each has contributed to several of our anthologies.Continue reading
The first sword and sorcery I ever read was Robert E. Howard’s Conan, in the books published in the mid-1960s in paperback by Lancer Books, with the soon to become iconic cover paintings by Frank Frazetta. My father had brought home a recently published paperback edition of Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs that someone had left behind at his office. I recognized the Ape Man from the movies I’d seen on TV, but I wasn’t prepared for what I read. It was like I had discovered the real-life version of what was, essentially, portrayed as a grunting cartoon character in the movies. It floored me. I still think it’s a great novel, as close to literature as pulp fiction got when it was published in 1912. I reread it every few years.
My next trip to the library after that included a hunt for more ERB. I was rewarded with John Carter of Mars (so…score!), which was my gateway to sword & sorcery. As I recall, it was on a later library visit that I spotted Conan on the paperback rack, where the librarian told me I might find some more ERB books. Conan was hard to miss: a dark scene of a ripped barbarian in a life and death struggle with a gorilla wearing a startling crimson cloak!
Like toppling dominos, that library paperback spinner rack Conan (the best things in my childhood were sold on spinner racks!) lead to Michael Moorcock’s Elric and Eternal Warrior and Lin Carter’s Thongor and to L. Sprague DeCamp and Andrew J. Offutt and the rest of the 1960s explosion of S&S authors, including Fritz’s Lieber’s Fafnir and the Gray Mouser.
Fafnir and the Gray Mouser stood out from the barbaric crowd. First, they weren’t exactly barbarians. I mean, technically sure, the giant swordsman and minstrel Fafnir and his partner, the diminutive former wizard’s apprentice and swordsman hailed from barbaric roots, but they were more sophisticated and cosmopolitan than their loin-cloth wearing brethren. Fafnir and the Mouser were rogues and more true-to-life, characters who acted in the world instead of just reacting. Not only were Lieber’s stories witty, his characters had senses of humor. No grim and gritty angst-filled monologues for these cheating, brawling, larcenous, wenching adventurers. Their swords were for hire and life was good.
Unfortunately, when I finally got to create my own sword and sorcery character for DC Comics in 1982, I seemed to have forgotten the wit. The very first installment of Arion, Lord of Atlantis (appearing as a back-up in Mike Grell’s Warlord #55 (March, 1982) opens with steely-eyed warriors ominously eyeing the coming storm and angsty young Arion spouting his ominous feelings in pseudo-Shakespearean tones. The series (which was co-created with artist Jan Duursema and ran for eight issues in the back of Warlord, and thirty-five issues plus a one-shot in its own title) wasn’t entirely without humor; I always had a knack for witty dialog, but the tone of the series was dry and serious.
I fixed that but good in 1992 when I revived the character in 1992’s Arion the Immortal miniseries (with art by Ron Wilson). It’s 45,000 years later, Atlantis has long sunk beneath the sea (taking all but the most minute bits of powerful magic with it), and there’s a colony of surviving Atlantean deities living in modern-day New York City. Arion is one of them, the quintessential “you kids get off my lawn or I’ll turn the hose on you!” old man, wrinkled and frail looking. He lives in a one-room apartment over Carnegie Hall and makes his living as a three-card monte dealer in Times Square. His ancient foe owns a deli on the Lower East Side that he eats in all the time. And when the magic returns, making Arion young again, well, chaotic hilarity ensued.
These days, it’s hard to keep humor out of my writing, the more cynical or darker the better. That’s why when I was presented with the world of the Crimson Keep in which to write a short story shortly after being inducted into the ranks (you don’t know how rank sometimes!) of Crazy 8 Press, I had no problem coming up with “The Wee Folk at the End of the Hall” for the 2015 Tales of the Crimson Keep anthology. The world and characters in which this was set had been created by Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, and Aaron Rosenberg in “Demon Circle,” a round-robin story written live at a convention in support of the Comic Book Legend Defense Fund.
The Crimson Keep is home to an old wizard and his apprentices, but it’s not exactly a steady home. The rooms and corridors and stairways in the Keep are constantly shifting and changing. Stray from well-used routes between familiar rooms and you can be lost for days or weeks or forever in the infinitely-possible layout. And, seeing as how my Crazy 8 comprades are no slouches at the funny themselves (except for Hauman, but we take care of him in They Keep Killing Glenn…now on sale!), there’s ample opportunities for wit built right into the concept.
Which brings us to Tales of the Crimson Keep: The Newly Renovated Edition, featuring not one but two (count ‘em, two!) new stories. The first is “Glisk of the Keep” by the newest addition to the C8 crew, Mary Fan. The second is “Poor Wandering Ones,” a poignant round-robin tale by all eight of the Crazy 8. All that…plus an eye-popping new cover by the amazing Ty Templeton.
I’ve feel like I’ve come a long way since Conan!
Tales of the Crimson Keep: The Newly Renovated Edition will go on sale later this month.
The Master trains a handful of students at a time while also performing work on commission for wealthy nobles in this typical fantasy realm. He operates out of The Crimson Keep, a place renowned for its thousand rooms and hundred staircases. It is reputed to never stop growing or shifting as the result of an old spell gone slightly awry. The wizard’s castle was where apprentices could get lost in forever, and where it was rumored that servants could reappear after months gone to explain that they’d only been heading down to the cellar for another cask of salt.
The kitchen was at the castle’s center, one of the sections that got daily use and thus rarely shifted, and they had all long since learned the quickest route there, so they were able to navigate the corridors, stairs, and courtyards with ease—at least, until they passed through the small secondary rear courtyard and reached the kitchen itself.
It was also the world created during a massive round-robin writing session as the Crazy 8 Press writers introduced themselves to an unsuspecting world. Coming in August is Tales of the Crimson Keep – Newly Renovated Edition. To learn more, we spoke with co-founder and project editor Robert Greenberger.
C8P: What exactly is the Crimson Keep? And what goes on there?
Bob: This place is a mystical Tesseract where time folds on itself in strange ways.
C8P: How did this anthology originally come together?
Bob: We wanted to call attention our new collective so we arranged to introduce ourselves at Shore Leave in 2011. The deal was fans could write a proposed opening line and make a $1 contribution to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. At our introductory panel, we’d sift through the opening lines, let the fans in attendance vote on the winner, and immediately after the panel, we would sit in public and begin writing a story.
Over the course of the next two days, we sat in a very cramped space, writing for upwards of an hour before handing the manuscript off to the next sucker. We had a yellow legal pad with notes so we knew names and other details while scrolling through what the preceding writers had done.
After the con, Mike Friedman gave it a final polish and we launched it as “Demon Circle”, an eBook. Later, we expanded on the world with new stories and released the anthology.
C8P: What makes this new version the Renovated Edition?
Well, we added Mary Fan to the roster in 2017 and wanted to showcase her brilliance. However, we agreed that a second round-robin was in order. After all, Russ Colchamiro hadn’t been part of the madness when we launched so this was a chance to have a story reflecting the current roster. It also meant Mary could write her own contribution. Our annual anthologies make for good samplers for our writing.
And we got a new cover from the wonderful Ty Templeton so that’s not so bad, either.
C8P: There are two round robin stories. What’s the challenge in writing in this format?
Bob: The challenge here is that you’ve got people who write with different tonal voices so we had to blend those. Aaron Rosenberg, Peter David and Russ Colchamiro are very good at the humorous stuff, me less so, I had to learn to loosen up and keep up. In addition, as we hand things off from writer to writer, we have to be careful that we honor what came before and remain consistent. The first go-round was fun because we were making it up as we went along while the second one was a different challenge as writers cherry-picked bits and pieces from the existing stories. And of course, there’s always the issue of timing because everyone is busy. We set a goal that each writer, upon receiving the story, had 48 hours to contribute his or her section and pass it on otherwise there would be merciless mocking and no one wants that.
C8P: Where can readers get their copies?
Bob: The book will launch in August as an eBook and trade paperback. All they have to do is check for announcements here and on our Facebook page.
Way back in 2010, Mike Friedman walked out of the Men’s Room at Shore Leave and wound up creating Crazy 8 Press, making its debut at the show a year later. And here we are again, back with more news, new books and lots of fun.
As you know, we killed our co-founder Glenn Hauman. We did this with malice aforethought and everyone is now arguing who had the most fun. The discussion will no doubt continue throughout the weekend.
Russ Colchamiro, Peter David, Mary Fan, Mike Friedman, Bob Greenberger, the late Glenn Hauman, and Aaron Rosenberg will be participating in a variety of panels and events but you can also find the collective at the following events:
Come pay your respects as we celebrate a life lived to its utmost, pissing people off, angering them into a murderous rage, suing him for all he’s worth (joke’s on them), and worse. The body will lie in state and members of the professional community will offer up eulogies.
Workshop 1: Worldbuilding, Noon-1:00 p.m., McCormick Suite
Bob, Glenn, and Mary will take teen writers through the process of creating a reality that suits the needs of your story.
Crazy 8 Press, 3:00-4:00 p.m., Salon F
They did it. They killed Glenn Hauman. He will be lying in state during their annual presentation so make sure you pay your respects. Learn what is coming, dead or alive, from your favorite writers. Peter David (M), Russ Colchamiro, Kathleen David, Mary Fan, Michael Jan Friedman, Bob Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, Aaron Rosenberg
Workshop 2: Group Story 4:00-5:00 p.m., McCormick Suite
Mike, Peter, and Bob have been working together and will bring their collaborative experience to the teen writers as they walk everyone through the steps of creating a story on the spot.
Workshop 3: Character Creation 11:00 a.m.-Noon, McCormick Suite
Aaron and Russ are joined by our fellow author (and teacher) Kelli Fitzpatrick as they teach teen writers what goes into making interesting, unique, and fascinating characters for your stories.
“Make it Didn’t Happen: by Glenn Hauman is a time travel tale, in which a teenage girl gets a visit from the future, to protect her from an act of violence that will forever alter her fate. Does her protector arrive in time? Does she even believe he’s there to help? Or does someone have revenge on their minds?
To find out, here’s an early look:
Make it Didn’t Happen
By Glenn Hauman
The creepy old perv had been following me around for three days before he finally came up to me outside of school.
And he was old. Older than any of the teachers, probably older than that pile of bricks, too.
I don’t know why I noticed him at all, really—he stayed a good distance away from the schoolyard, and he never came any closer than two houses away. He just seemed to be lurking. He spent a lot of time fiddling with branches and things like an old guy does instead of feeding pigeons, but he always seemed to be keeping an eye on me. No one else seemed to notice him, and the teachers didn’t do anything.
But when I was supposed to be walking home on Thursday, I felt like there was something itching at the back of my neck. I wished I hadn’t been wearing a dress, but it was picture day and BitchMom insisted that I wear something nice.
I was sure that I was being watched.
So I took another way home that I knew, one that would take me near the woods. No one had bothered me there since 6th grade, so I was pretty sure I could get away if I had to.
I guessed wrong. He was there waiting, leaning on the big tree at the front of the path.
“Hello, Kelly,” he said. Now that I could see him better he didn’t look like a pervert, but he was sizing me up as if he was trying to fit a piece of the puzzle into place, like he’d seen me before from a distance, and this was just him wondering what he was going to do with me now that he had seen me up close. Like a stalker meeting his favorite actress for the first time, he seemed unsure as to what to say next.
“Who the hell are you?”
“I’m a friend, I promise.” He raised his hands to his chest like I had a gun pointed at him. I wish I had.
“The hell you are. How long have you been following me around, old man?”
He paused and his eyes darted back and forth, like he was trying to figure out the answer and didn’t want to tell me the truth. “A while, kind of. Look, I’m just going to reach into my pocket, very slowly, and then I’m going to show you something. I know this will convince you.”
“How do you know?”
“I know.” His hand pulled out a little piece of shiny metal, about the size of an index card but about as thick as a pencil. He looked at it like he was looking into a mirror, and dragged his finger across it, and tapped it a few times. Then he smiled and turned it around. A picture flashed on the metal like a tiny television.
Then I saw her.
She looked like my mom, but with the same little mole over her eyebrow that I have.
“Wow, this is really weird—I’m saying the exact words I remember her telling me. It’s just happening. This is just the way I remember it happening. Kelly, this is going to sound crazy, but . . . I’m you. From the future. I’m here with Matt—show her,” she said, and the screen’s point of view swished around and showed a close-up of the same man in front of me, who waved at the camera, then panned back.
“This is going to sound strange—maybe impossible to believe—but there are two things you have to know right off the bat. One: I’m you, from years in the future. Let me show you—Matt, zoom in here—see, here on my foot? This is the scar that’s left from where you dropped Mom’s good scissors. Two: Matt has invented a way to travel through time, and he’s fit it all into a belt. He’s wearing it now.”
To read the rest of “Make it Didn’t Happen” click here.
“Make it didn’t happen.” This is the cry of a child when something bad occurs. Fix it! Do over! Make it all better!
And like the wish of any child, it’s primal. Undeniable. We want it so hard to be true.
Throughout history, human beings have often wanted for nothing more than a second chance. A hope that this spin of the wheel, they’ll get it right. This time, there won’t be any screw ups. Paying anything to roll the dice just one more time.
Don’t deny it. You’ve prayed for it, too.
And every once in a while, people get lucky. They get that shot at redemption. And some of them pull it off. They get to make right what once went wrong.
But oh so many fail. Given a chance to correct things, they make the same mistakes again. And if they had yet another chance, they make the same mistakes yet again.
You have to start to wonder if it’s fate.
Lots of stories make us wonder that all the time, and have been doing so ever since Oedipus started dating. Where all the efforts of good men and bad men, their hopes and their dreams, really don’t matter for much in an uncaring universe. And you start to wonder whether it’s fate, destiny, random chance, or if the fault truly is not in the stars, but in ourselves.
Time travel stories live and die on that same dilemma. Can you really go back and change things? Or is your very attempt to change things because of what you’re trying to prevent in the first place? And even if you know what supposed to happen to you in the future… can you change events? Can you change yourself? Or are you damned to do the same thing over and over again, because you can’t change yourself?
In my story, ‘Make It Didn’t Happen,” — appearing in the Crazy 8 Press anthology Love, Murder & Mayhem — we explore some of those ramifications. You may have your own beliefs about predestination versus free will. I have them myself. But you’re never really going to know which is right until you get the chance.
And the real hell of it is… you’re never really going to know whether it was a real chance to change over, or that you were going to do it all along.
Glenn Hauman is uniquely qualified to be in this book, as his love life is mayhem and he’s soon to be murdered.
A founding member of Crazy 8 Press, he also writes, edits, colors comics, designs websites, designs books, performs marriages, reaches things on high shelves, changes lightbulbs, bats right, sings baritenor, snores loud, draws to inside straights, drinks too much DMD, and stays up way too late at night. Having come to the grisly realization that the New York Observer called him a “young Turk of publishing” two decades ago, he now patiently awaits the sweet embrace of death. He is looking ahead to being killed by many contributors to this book with a candlestick, knife, lead pipe, revolver, rope, and wrench.
You can find out more at Glennhauman.com or by looking at his Wikipedia page. No, really, someone wrote up an entry for him. He can’t believe it either.