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.
Michael Jan Friedman’s “The Responders” posits a superhero mystery, based on the Beatles: If the Fab Four had stayed together, who knows what kind of music they could have made. But of course, they didn’t stay together—according to some sources because of John Lennon’s soulmate, Yoko Ono, who pulled him away from the other Beatles and ultimately broke up the group. Well … what if someone like Yoko had been brought into the inner circle of a superhero team? What would have become of them?
For Michael’s answer, here’s an early look:
By Michael Jan Friedman
They’re not like us.
I’d heard that said about them before I got assigned to Special Investigations, six years ago now. But back then, I didn’t know what it meant.
After all, I’d only seen them on the news to that point, flashing across the screen in their black jumpsuits with the red ‘R’ stitched over their hearts. I hadn’t observed them up close, hadn’t felt their presence.
But they weren’t just stronger than we were, endowed by a trick of fate with abilities the rest of us could only dream about.
They were different, as different as my Uncle Burt and a blind salamander.
Some, like Maser, reminded you of that difference from time to time. No brag, as some guy on TV used to say, just fact. As it turned out later, he was a scientist—to a fault, even considering all the breakthroughs he’d made as DeVonte Larson, professor of biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania—and he didn’t see any point in soft-peddling his superiority.
Smoke was more elusive, as you’d expect. She, it came out last year, was a Senator’s daughter, and she’d seen her old man Kenny Parmenter make a decades-long career for himself in Washington without saying a single coherent thing. So by the time Jessica saved her dad and his staff from those white terrorists, she was an expert at hiding in plain view.
Others, like Antaeus, didn’t avoid questions. But he didn’t give you much information either. Mainly he let you come to your own conclusions—about him, about the team, about why they did what they did.
The poor bastard had to be carrying a lot of hurt around.
Anybody who looked the way he did, hideously scarred from the day he got his powers, had to be carrying something.
He was a teenager when it happened, name of Eddie Fields.
It’s all public now. He woke up one morning and had the ability to tap into Earth’s magnetic fields, bend steel as if it were licorice, crack diamonds in his bare fists.
But at the same time, he’d developed these lesions. Long, livid scars, or at least that’s what they looked like. All over his body, including his face. Made it hard to look at him.
Together, those three were The Responders. In the beginning, people called them The First Responders, but that took too long to say. So it became just The Responders.
They were good, right off the bat. And they tackled everything, from earthquakes to hostage situations to that missile North Korea swore was an accident. Once they even cracked a stolen car ring in the Bronx, though they must have been bored that day.
People loved them. And from what I could tell, The Responders loved each other. At least, as far as anybody could love a guy like Larson.
Then came Koyomi Seiku.
She started out as a fan of Antaeus. Wrote him letters, sent him e-mails, worshipped the hell out of him. Somebody else may have taken it all in stride. But Antaeus? The way he looked, he wasn’t used to female attention.
She begged to meet him, just to get his autograph, she said.
For one of the most powerful human beings on the planet, he could be pretty shy. But eventually, he said yes.
They met at a mall on Long Island. Antaeus was dressed in a trenchcoat with a hat pulled down low. Koyomi was the only one he told he’d be there.
She was nineteen, a first-year civil engineering student at NYU. Cute, long black hair, Goth but not really. And smart, no one ever argued that.
She got Antaeus’s autograph, but that wasn’t all she got. They sat at the mall and talked for a while. Then they went to the beach, which was cold but pretty much deserted that time of year, and talked some more.
As part of our annual tradition, our Crazy 8 Press team of Aaron Rosenberg, Russ Colchamiro, Glenn Hauman, Peter, David, Robert Greenberger, and Michael Jan Friedman will descend on the Hunt Valley Inn for Shore Leave 39 from July 7-9, where we’ll be in full force (sans Paul Kupperberg, who is hiding out in the wilds of Connecticut concocting his next act of authorly mayhem).
Speaking of mayhem …
There wouldn’t be a Shore Leave without a Crazy 8 Press anthology, and we hope this year takes the cake! Debuting at the convention is this year’s anthology, Love, Murder & Mayhem, a collection of superhero, super villain, private eye, time travel travel, AI, dream surrogate, monster mash and DuckBob murder mysteries, with stories from not only the seven Crazy 8 Press members, but many of our friends, too, including attendees Hildy SIlverman, Kelly Meding, and Mary Fan,
The party starts with Meet the Pros at 10 p.m. on Friday with all the authors on hand to sign and sell books, shake hands, take selfies, and make madness. Hey. It’s what we do best.
On Saturday and Sunday, our six attending members (and possibly a surprise or two!) can be found on numerous panels scattered across the schedule, and we’ll be on hand to together Saturday at 3 p.m. in the Derby Room for annual Crazy 8 Press panel. Six years ago at Shore Leave, a group of writers decided to write what they wanted and publish it themselves. What have they learned since? What’s coming next? And why must Glenn Hauman die?
Immediately following at 4 p.m. is the first of two Crazy 8 Press Teen Workshops. Designed for younger writers, we take you through the process, with Aaron, Bob, and Mike discussing what goes into a good plot.
On Sunday at Noon, also in the Derby Room, Peter, Russ, and Glenn will talk about characterization.
And if that’s not enough Crazy 8 Press for you, we’ll be hanging out at the bar after the sessions close, instigating our next round of mayhem.