How to Make More Singaporean Writers

Reading Sumiko Tan’s interview with Tash Aw, I am reminded of the questions that haunt the Singapore writing scene. How can we produce more writers? How do we get international recognition? How do we create, in Tan’s words, ‘international literary successes’?

From my perspective, the answer is simple: Do not be limited by Singapore.

The Culture Crush

Tash Aw has the following observation about Singapore culture:

“The pressure crushes too many [exceptional people] who might have been exceptional but they are not able just to rise to their own level,” he says. “So they are constantly striving to reach a level imposed on them by the rest of society, by school teachers, by their family.”

“Because if you have the kind of mind that leads you to become a brilliant illustrator or a brilliant fashion designer or a brilliant anything, it’s unlikely you’re going to have that methodical approach to work that getting straight As requires you to have. And so if you’re forced to suppress those creative instincts in order to achieve those A grades, then you kill >off a certain part of your brain.”

Having experienced the Singaporean education system myself, I can attest to the pressure. From primary school to secondary school to junior college, every adult around me recited the same message: study hard, get good grades, get into a good school, rinse and repeat all the way to university, then graduate and get a good job.

In my day, Chinese language was taught by rote. English wasn’t much better. Math was an endless sea of drills and concepts and more drills. The hard sciences were about memorising and regurgitating key facts. The social sciences were about memorising, regurgitating and repackaging key facts to fit an analysis of questions we had seen over and over again in countless exercises.

This education system produces engineers, lawyers, doctors, administrators, and other technocrats with specialist skills to be applied in formal situations with clear-cut outcomes. This is not what creators do. Creators strive to build bigger and brighter and better things, systems, institutions and cultures, and that means stepping outside rigidly-defined boundaries to see what else can be done. A creator is a risk-taker, a visionary, an idealist, a tinkerer, a non-conformist — the exact opposite of the kind of person the Singapore system churns out.

This is not to say that the non-creators are a lesser class of beings. They are administrators, executives and maintenance experts. They specialise in keeping the advanced machinery of high civilization going. These are necessary jobs, but the mindset needed for such positions usually clash with the mindset needed to be a creator. And Singaporean society elevates the former and ignores the latter.

Singapore has it worse than the West. America mythologises the cowboy, pioneer, settler and inventor — the men and women who headed West to chase dreams of riches and land, who wrestled life from the unforgiving earth and built homes and communities, who invented madcap devices that made life ever more comfortable and wonderful and easier. Europe celebrates its long and rich history of poets, writers, artists, playwrights and creators of all kinds. Singapore has neither a national myth nor a cultural history that nourishes the souls of would-be creators, nor inspires people to back them.

What Singapore has is pragmatism.

Show Me the Money

Why the emphasis on grades and schools and jobs? Answer: to make a living, support your family, and buy a home. And woe betide you if you fail, because no one is coming to save you if you fall.

Understand that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If every fiction writer quits tomorrow, the world would keep chugging along. It might be culturally, spiritually and emotionally poorer, but life would still go on. Fiction is a luxury, and as a luxury it is a buyer’s market. Singaporean culture is built on the pursuit wealth, commercialism, and material abundance; highbrow entertainment is a distraction, an escape, and a luxury, utterly unnecessary to the serious business of making money.

In light of this, how can Singapore produce more writers?

Demonstrate that writers can make a living.

A working writer who makes a living off writing creates a virtuous cycle. He shows that he can support his family, so his friends and loved ones would be more willing to back him. With the time and energy to focus on his craft, he can write more stories of ever-increasing quality. This makes him even more money, increases his fame, and inspires more writers to follow in his footsteps.

Tash Aw seems to agree:

“If you’re a real writer, what you should aim to be doing is to have a career. It is a solid professional career like anything else. If you’re a journalist, if you’re a hairdresser, if you’re a coal miner, if you’re a banker, what you want to do is to be the >best you can and involved over the years.”

The best writers I have seen are those that treat writing as a career. They show up and do the work, day in and day out, with the discipline and regimen of every other small business owner. They tend to their finances, study the market and the industry, and adjust their writing and their output to match.

How do you make a career out of writing in Singapore?

Simple. Don’t do what the Singapore writing scene does.

The Word Machines

Singapore is obsessed with awards, and the writing scene is no different. Awards and certificates hold great weight in Singapore, serving as proof of quality. Everywhere you go, you’ll see certificates for food hygiene, product and service technical skills and so on. In a society where degrees and diplomas are a dime a dozen, certificates serve as easily-understandable social proof. It’s no wonder that the local writing scenes chase prestigious awards like the Man Booker Prize and the Walter Scott Prize.

But you can’t eat awards.

Many literature awards earn you accolades and at best a token sum. Even if you win the most prestigious literary prize, you’ll only be able to live off the proceeds for a year or two at best. Prize money is a windfall; it is not sustained income. Without sustained income, a writer will have to keep to his day job. And a writer who can only write one or two hours a day will have far less output, skill and writing-related income than a writer who can dedicated four, six, eight or more hours a day.

Not that the local writing scene recognises this. Every Singaporean writers’ group I’ve participated in cater, without exception, to hobbyists. Being a hobbyist is fine, but there is a vast gulf between a hobbyist and a pro. A hobbyist can spend hours, days, weeks, doing nothing but poring over the minute details of a short story and agonising over every single word choice. A pro has to keep pumping out stories, keep talking to fans, keep up with industry developments, and keep hustling.

To be a pro, you have to be a word machine.

You can’t count on producing a book once every three years like Tash Aw and expect overnight success. It’d be great if it happens, and sometimes it does, but such writers are outliers. If you want a surer way to professional writing success, you need high output, high energy, and a solid grasp of market forces and industry trends. This is the way of the pulp greats who supported their families on their stories, and the way of modern-day indie writers who pull in royalties in the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars a month.

This also means you must ignore the Singapore publishing industry.

Putting it bluntly, Singaporean publishers are behind the times. Industry talk tends to revolve around publishing Singaporeans who write about Singapore for Singaporeans, getting these books into bookshelves at home and abroad, and how to win literary awards. There’s next to nothing about effective use of Print on Demand, working with Amazon, marketing and publishing strategies, competing or collaborating with indie writers, the impact of self-publishing, or leveraging new technologies. And it shows.

Until recently, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Singaporean novel on Amazon. The ones you can find tend to have reviews only in the single digits. At 48 reviews with an average rating of 4.5 stars, my novel No Gods, Only Daimons easily outperforms most Singaporean novels. Sure, you can find Singaporean novels in local bookstores, but Amazon and online marketplaces have eclipsed brick-and-mortar bookshops long ago. Getting a book in a Singaporean bookstore may grant you a modicum of social proof, but if you aren’t selling to the largest marketplace in the world, your prospects are limited.

My publisher, Castalia House, took pains to create a publishing and marketing strategy that suits its customers and the current state of the market. I took pains to write a story that would appeal to a broad audience, not just the tiny fraction who might be interested in Singaporean culture. I treat fiction as a profession, and so does Castalia House. And as far I can tell, the local publishing scene caters only to hobbyists.

To Be A Pro

I aim to be a professional fiction writer. I will use every tool and platform at my disposal to achieve that goal. I recognise it’s a long haul, but with the results I’ve seen, it’s no longer a pipe dream. And my experience tells me that Tash Aw’s advice to be a writer is flawed.

To quote the article:

He sees his writing classes as enabling students to be creative, and is alarmed when young people regard being published as the only goal. Publishing too early and in an uncontrolled manner that lacks direction is very damaging to a writer’s long-term career, he says. “Because if you publish at 25, what does that mean? And then you go and work in the >bank and you continue writing little books on the side? Are you a writer? Are you really engaging?

Robert E Howard published his first story at 25. H. P. Lovecraft published his first story at 27. Earnest Hemingway published his first fiction collection at 24. C.L. Moore published her first story at 22.

All of them became legends.

Age doesn’t matter. Drive and direction does. These writers knew what they wanted to write, kept improving with every story, and produced the kind of stories people loved.

And if your early stories are lousy, what about it? Whatever self-inflicted damage you may incur is temporary. People only pay attention to the latest stories you write. The antidote to having poor first stories is to write more, publish more, and drown the garbage with quality stuff.

To continue the interview:

His new novel will be out only next year or 2020. “Young writers should be aware that it’s a long haul. It’s not just about >publishing the maximum number of books. People like that tend to burn out. It’s about being better with every book.”

Aw is right in that you have to get better with every book. But if you want to be a pro, you have to publish the maximum number of books you can sustain.

The pulp writers became famous for their staggering corpus of work. Hundreds of published stories were the norm, not the exception. It’s not unheard of for pulp writers to write short novels overnight.

This mindset applies to modern indie publishing. The Galaxy’s Edge series is on a 30 day release schedule: there is a new novel in the franchise every month. Dean Wesley Smith produces a monthly magazine, with a full novel and a collection of shorter stories. Likewise, prolific writers with high outputs tend to enjoy great success.

To be a successful author today, you need to publish as much as you can without burning out. Find the sweet spot that allows you to sustain both high productivity and high quality. In my case, it’s about 3000 words a day — while juggling a full-time job. The day I can ditch the full-time job, that number is bound to get higher.

To create more Singaporean writers, you can’t follow the Singaporean approach to writing. You can’t be a hobbyist. You have to be a pro. You have to study the market, formulate a winning strategy, write the best stories you can, and stick to it until you succeed.

And I will lead the way.

Cheah Git San Red.jpg

To be a pro, you need a series, and the latest novel in my Covenant Chronicles is now available. Pick up your copy of Hammer of the Witches here.

 

Reading Sumiko Tan’s interview with Tash Aw, I am reminded of the questions that haunt the Singapore writing scene. How can we produce more writers? How do we get international recognition? How do we create, in Tan’s words, ‘international literary successes’?

From my perspective, the answer is simple: Do not be limited by Singapore.

The Culture Crush

Tash Aw has the following observation about Singapore culture:

“The pressure crushes too many [exceptional people] who might have been exceptional but they are not able just to rise to their own level,” he says. “So they are constantly striving to reach a level imposed on them by the rest of society, by school teachers, by their family.”

“Because if you have the kind of mind that leads you to become a brilliant illustrator or a brilliant fashion designer or a brilliant anything, it’s unlikely you’re going to have that methodical approach to work that getting straight As requires you to have. And so if you’re forced to suppress those creative instincts in order to achieve those A grades, then you kill >off a certain part of your brain.”

Having experienced the Singaporean education system myself, I can attest to the pressure. From primary school to secondary school to junior college, every adult around me recited the same message: study hard, get good grades, get into a good school, rinse and repeat all the way to university, then graduate and get a good job.

In my day, Chinese language was taught by rote. English wasn’t much better. Math was an endless sea of drills and concepts and more drills. The hard sciences were about memorising and regurgitating key facts. The social sciences were about memorising, regurgitating and repackaging key facts to fit an analysis of questions we had seen over and over again in countless exercises.

This education system produces engineers, lawyers, doctors, administrators, and other technocrats with specialist skills to be applied in formal situations with clear-cut outcomes. This is not what creators do. Creators strive to build bigger and brighter and better things, systems, institutions and cultures, and that means stepping outside rigidly-defined boundaries to see what else can be done. A creator is a risk-taker, a visionary, an idealist, a tinkerer, a non-conformist — the exact opposite of the kind of person the Singapore system churns out.

This is not to say that the non-creators are a lesser class of beings. They are administrators, executives and maintenance experts. They specialise in keeping the advanced machinery of high civilization going. These are necessary jobs, but the mindset needed for such positions usually clash with the mindset needed to be a creator. And Singaporean society elevates the former and ignores the latter.

Singapore has it worse than the West. America mythologises the cowboy, pioneer, settler and inventor — the men and women who headed West to chase dreams of riches and land, who wrestled life from the unforgiving earth and built homes and communities, who invented madcap devices that made life ever more comfortable and wonderful and easier. Europe celebrates its long and rich history of poets, writers, artists, playwrights and creators of all kinds. Singapore has neither a national myth nor a cultural history that nourishes the souls of would-be creators, nor inspires people to back them.

What Singapore has is pragmatism.

Show Me the Money

Why the emphasis on grades and schools and jobs? Answer: to make a living, support your family, and buy a home. And woe betide you if you fail, because no one is coming to save you if you fall.

Understand that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If every fiction writer quits tomorrow, the world would keep chugging along. It might be culturally, spiritually and emotionally poorer, but life would still go on. Fiction is a luxury, and as a luxury it is a buyer’s market. Singaporean culture is built on the pursuit wealth, commercialism, and material abundance; highbrow entertainment is a distraction, an escape, and a luxury, utterly unnecessary to the serious business of making money.

In light of this, how can Singapore produce more writers?

Demonstrate that writers can make a living.

A working writer who makes a living off writing creates a virtuous cycle. He shows that he can support his family, so his friends and loved ones would be more willing to back him. With the time and energy to focus on his craft, he can write more stories of ever-increasing quality. This makes him even more money, increases his fame, and inspires more writers to follow in his footsteps.

Tash Aw seems to agree:

“If you’re a real writer, what you should aim to be doing is to have a career. It is a solid professional career like anything else. If you’re a journalist, if you’re a hairdresser, if you’re a coal miner, if you’re a banker, what you want to do is to be the >best you can and involved over the years.”

The best writers I have seen are those that treat writing as a career. They show up and do the work, day in and day out, with the discipline and regimen of every other small business owner. They tend to their finances, study the market and the industry, and adjust their writing and their output to match.

How do you make a career out of writing in Singapore?

Simple. Don’t do what the Singapore writing scene does.

The Word Machines

Singapore is obsessed with awards, and the writing scene is no different. Awards and certificates hold great weight in Singapore, serving as proof of quality. Everywhere you go, you’ll see certificates for food hygiene, product and service technical skills and so on. In a society where degrees and diplomas are a dime a dozen, certificates serve as easily-understandable social proof. It’s no wonder that the local writing scenes chase prestigious awards like the Man Booker Prize and the Walter Scott Prize.

But you can’t eat awards.

Many literature awards earn you accolades and at best a token sum. Even if you win the most prestigious literary prize, you’ll only be able to live off the proceeds for a year or two at best. Prize money is a windfall; it is not sustained income. Without sustained income, a writer will have to keep to his day job. And a writer who can only write one or two hours a day will have far less output, skill and writing-related income than a writer who can dedicated four, six, eight or more hours a day.

Not that the local writing scene recognises this. Every Singaporean writers’ group I’ve participated in cater, without exception, to hobbyists. Being a hobbyist is fine, but there is a vast gulf between a hobbyist and a pro. A hobbyist can spend hours, days, weeks, doing nothing but poring over the minute details of a short story and agonising over every single word choice. A pro has to keep pumping out stories, keep talking to fans, keep up with industry developments, and keep hustling.

To be a pro, you have to be a word machine.

You can’t count on producing a book once every three years like Tash Aw and expect overnight success. It’d be great if it happens, and sometimes it does, but such writers are outliers. If you want a surer way to professional writing success, you need high output, high energy, and a solid grasp of market forces and industry trends. This is the way of the pulp greats who supported their families on their stories, and the way of modern-day indie writers who pull in royalties in the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars a month.

This also means you must ignore the Singapore publishing industry.

Putting it bluntly, Singaporean publishers are behind the times. Industry talk tends to revolve around publishing Singaporeans who write about Singapore for Singaporeans, getting these books into bookshelves at home and abroad, and how to win literary awards. There’s next to nothing about effective use of Print on Demand, working with Amazon, marketing and publishing strategies, competing or collaborating with indie writers, the impact of self-publishing, or leveraging new technologies. And it shows.

Until recently, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Singaporean novel on Amazon. The ones you can find tend to have reviews only in the single digits. At 48 reviews with an average rating of 4.5 stars, my novel No Gods, Only Daimons easily outperforms most Singaporean novels. Sure, you can find Singaporean novels in local bookstores, but Amazon and online marketplaces have eclipsed brick-and-mortar bookshops long ago. Getting a book in a Singaporean bookstore may grant you a modicum of social proof, but if you aren’t selling to the largest marketplace in the world, your prospects are limited.

My publisher, Castalia House, took pains to create a publishing and marketing strategy that suits its customers and the current state of the market. I took pains to write a story that would appeal to a broad audience, not just the tiny fraction who might be interested in Singaporean culture. I treat fiction as a profession, and so does Castalia House. And as far I can tell, the local publishing scene caters only to hobbyists.

To Be A Pro

I aim to be a professional fiction writer. I will use every tool and platform at my disposal to achieve that goal. I recognise it’s a long haul, but with the results I’ve seen, it’s no longer a pipe dream. And my experience tells me that Tash Aw’s advice to be a writer is flawed.

To quote the article:

He sees his writing classes as enabling students to be creative, and is alarmed when young people regard being published as the only goal. Publishing too early and in an uncontrolled manner that lacks direction is very damaging to a writer’s long-term career, he says. “Because if you publish at 25, what does that mean? And then you go and work in the >bank and you continue writing little books on the side? Are you a writer? Are you really engaging?

Robert E Howard published his first story at 25. H. P. Lovecraft published his first story at 27. Earnest Hemingway published his first fiction collection at 24. C.L. Moore published her first story at 22.

All of them became legends.

Age doesn’t matter. Drive and direction does. These writers knew what they wanted to write, kept improving with every story, and produced the kind of stories people loved.

And if your early stories are lousy, what about it? Whatever self-inflicted damage you may incur is temporary. People only pay attention to the latest stories you write. The antidote to having poor first stories is to write more, publish more, and drown the garbage with quality stuff.

To continue the interview:

His new novel will be out only next year or 2020. “Young writers should be aware that it’s a long haul. It’s not just about >publishing the maximum number of books. People like that tend to burn out. It’s about being better with every book.”

Aw is right in that you have to get better with every book. But if you want to be a pro, you have to publish the maximum number of books you can sustain.

The pulp writers became famous for their staggering corpus of work. Hundreds of published stories were the norm, not the exception. It’s not unheard of for pulp writers to write short novels overnight.

This mindset applies to modern indie publishing. The Galaxy’s Edge series is on a 30 day release schedule: there is a new novel in the franchise every month. Dean Wesley Smith produces a monthly magazine, with a full novel and a collection of shorter stories. Likewise, prolific writers with high outputs tend to enjoy great success.

To be a successful author today, you need to publish as much as you can without burning out. Find the sweet spot that allows you to sustain both high productivity and high quality. In my case, it’s about 3000 words a day — while juggling a full-time job. The day I can ditch the full-time job, that number is bound to get higher.

To create more Singaporean writers, you can’t follow the Singaporean approach to writing. You can’t be a hobbyist. You have to be a pro. You have to study the market, formulate a winning strategy, write the best stories you can, and stick to it until you succeed.

And I will lead the way.

Cheah Git San Red.jpg

To be a pro, you need a series, and the latest novel in my Covenant Chronicles is now available. Pick up your copy of Hammer of the Witches here.

HAMMER OF THE WITCHES is live!

 

It is my great honour and pleasure to announce the publication of HAMMER OF THE WITCHES, the second novel of my Covenant Chronicles series.

The terror is daimonic. The sorcery is real.

But enough bullets will kill even the most dangerous supernatural operator.

The Hexenhammer underground has aided the operators of the Nemesis Program in their war against the global supernatural terror campaign, but now Hexenhammer is accused of being the terrorist group responsible for carrying out a spectacular massacre in Greece.

Now Luke Landon must decide if Eve and her fellow underground members should be put down or if they have been set up for destruction by a conspiracy so big and powerful that it may have penetrated Nemesis itself.

HAMMER OF THE WITCHES is the second volume of The Covenant Chronicles, the supernatural Mil-SF series by Kai Wai Cheah, Hugo-nominated author of Flashpoint: Titan.


HAMMER OF THE WITCHES was a blast to write. There’ll be particle beams, physics based magic, high risk operations in denied environments, hacking, divinely empowered covert opertors, swordplay, new daimons, and loads of full auto firepower. If you love military science fiction, espionage, urban fantasy and martial arts, this is the novel for you.

I’m also pleased to announce the working title of my next novel: KAGE NO OUJI. To pay homage to my influences, and to promote the genre’s glorious tradition of diversity and representation of women and minorities, it shall feature a josei kousei miko mahou shoujo.

That’s right: a schoolgirl shrine maiden who is also a magical girl.

Stay tuned!

Cheah Git San Red.jpg

The Year of PulpRev

David.png

In the dankest corners of the Internet, on message boards and Discord servers, on digital and legacy media platforms, in books and films and television and games, there is a war. A war not against flesh and blood, but against the gatekeepers, against the degenerates, against the secret kings of the cultural spheres, against corruption in the souls of every man, woman and child. It is a war for the future of our culture.

The entertainment industry is no longerin the business of entertainment. Marvel marvels in transforming marvelous superheros with decades-long careers of heroism into hollow husks spewing social justice diatribes at the expense of fiction. Hollywood reboots and remakes beloved franchises into thinly-veiled propaganda pieces: Star Wars, Iron Fist, Beauty and the Beast, Ghostbusters, and there is no sign of stopping. In the field of science fiction and fantasy, publishers and writers crow about #Resistance, #MeToo, feminism, social justice, gender equality and LGBTQ advocacy; and create ‘fiction’ for the sole purpose of ramming social justice messages down the readers’ throats. Cultural expression is reduced to a race to see how many -isms can be crammed into a single work.

And when faced with true monsters like Marion Zimmer Bradley, Walter Breen, Ed Kramer, Victor Salva and others, the gatekeepers remain silent.

Enough is enough.

For decades the Far Left has dominated the SFF field. In that time they built an empire of filth. Subversiveness, deconstruction, transgressiveness, antitheism, moral ambiguity, antiheroism, gratuitous violence and sex, social justice, diversity and progressivism aren’t simply themes to be explored, but ideas to be propagated to readers. After so many years of subversion, there is precious little left to subvert.

Thus, Samuel R Delaney, the man who wrote a book dripping with fictitious child rape, is celebrated as a science fiction grandmaster, while investigative reporting into actual child rape is derided and glossed over. Thus, the Hugo Awards, once a mark of the best SFF of the year, is now a marker of the most far-left SFF of the year among increasingly insular circles, and soon it will be replaced by the Dragon Awards and other awards. Thus, the hounding of YA authors for wrongthink, the censorship of SFF authors for offending sensibilities, the whisper campaign against minority authors who refuse to toe the party line, the naked discrimination against writers who do not adhere to the Narrative.

Consumers are voting with their wallets. Viewers roundly criticised the Ghostbusters reboot. Earnings for The Last Jedi saw an unprecedented decline of 69% from its opening weekend. Marvel and DC have seen massive drops in sales, and Marvel has been forced to cut its non-performing comics issues. Not coincidentally, those dropped comics are all about social justice, diversity and the usual buzzwords.

Customers do not want diversity, social justice and other -ists and -isms shoved down their throats. They want to be entertained. They don’t want stories about cat pictures, fat acceptance, the supremacy of the matriarchy, or the inevitable triumph of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They want good stories, stories with exciting action, masterful descriptions, and larger-than-life characters. They want stories that resonate with their souls.

The SJWs have built an empire of nothing, and it is crumbling to ashes. With each passing day they lie, they double down and they project. They refuse to accept that the market doesn’t want their drek, and instead insist on producing even more drek to edify the Unholy Trinity of diversity, feminism and social justice. In so doing, they are hastening their demise–and paving the way for we who would replace them.

It is time for a revolution. A Pulp Revolution.

The souls of readers cry out for goodness, and we deliver. Tales of action and adventure and awe and wonder. Fantastic worlds, amazing technology, stupendous magic, eldritch horrors, dastardly villains, heroes, knights, kings and queens. Masculine men in perfect synergy with feminine women. Transcendent gods and malicious devils. Virtue, courage, heroism, sacrifice, duty, nobility, honour. These are the stories we have spent our professional lives studying, advocating, and writing. We are ready to meet the call of the market.

As Herald of the PulpRev and Warboss of Steempulp, I declare 2018 to be the Year of PulpRev. The goal is absolute domination of Steemit’s fiction community. Steemit is virgin ground, filled with potential, and ripe for the taking. Through Steemit, we shall show the world the grandeur that is the Revolution and the Revival. We shall establish the golden standard for online fiction.

Our methods are simple. We shall study the craft of the pulp grandmasters and contemporary bestsellers to sharpen our own. We shall study the business models of indie writers, small publishers, Japanese light novels and Chinese web novels to lay the foundations for our success. Most of all, we shall employ our secret weapon: PULP SPEED.

We stand at a turning point in history. Markets demand what we offer. Technology gives us a means of censorship-proof publishing and an easy way to get paid. All that is left is for us to seize the opportunity and build the culture of tomorrow.

High energy. Regress harder. Pulp speed. These shall be our watchwords and our arsenal. Through 2018 and beyond, we shall sweep away the Empire of Nothing and build upon its ashes our Dominion of Pulp.

In 2018, we shall make fiction great again.

PSX_20170918_044151

Cover image: ‘David slaying Goliath. Line engraving by M. Vandercuicat after G. Freman’ by G. Freman. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0.

If you want a taste of the kind of stories we offer, check out my Dragon Award nominated novel NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS and my novella INVINCIBLE.

PulpRev Invades Steemit!

Legion.jpg

Comrades! As the Herald of PulpRev, the first among our number to plant our flag on Steemit, I do declare that Steemit is perfect for our needs. It is virgin ground, ripe for the taking, filled with eager audiences hungry for our work, ready to yield untold rewards for the bold, the creative and the prolific! Steemit shall be our new front in the Revolution! We shall revive the blazing glories of the Pulp Age! Together, we shall leave our mark on the blockchain forever!

ahem

Now, with the obligatory high energy propaganda out of the way, let’s talk how PulpRev can make the most of Steemit. And, by extension, all other fiction writers here.

Steemit and PulpRev

The PulpRev movement pays homage to the greatness of the pulp grandmasters of the 1920s, and carries that spirit ahead into the future. The heart of pulp fiction is short, punchy stories, stories of life and verve and action and adventure and white hats versus black hats and eldritch horrors and supertech and fantastic magics and all of the above and more.

Pulp fiction is also perfect for Steemit.

Steemit’s design favours short, punchy posts ranging between 500-1500 words. You can try to get away with longer posts (I know I have), but by and large 500-1500 words is a good rule of thumb. PulpRevvers will quickly realize that that chapters from old-school pulp tales run to roughly the same length.

As in pulp fiction, serials are king on Steemit. Once a post goes live, you have a window of seven days before you receive the payout. The more you link to a post, the greater the chances of discoverability — and with those, upvotes. If you’re not writing flash fiction, write multi-part stories and link back to earlier posts. When writing multi-part stories, post at least one chapter a day, more if your schedule allows for it, for maximum returns.

Write whatever fiction you want. Space opera, urban fantasy, crime thrillers. Novellas, short stories, novels. They’re all good, so long as you keep the reader entertained. But to make real money here, post regularly and post often. High energy, high output. That’s the pulp way.

Playing Tag

Use appropriate tags for your Steemit posts for maximum results. The first tag is the primary tag, and will be the one your post is categorised under. Research the most popular tags to see what kind of content fits under those tags, and tag your post accordingly.

Use a mix of popular and unique tags. Popular tags raise your chances of being discovered–and your chances of being drowned out by new content from more popular writers. Unique tags reduce the chances of being swept away, but only readers searching for niche content will find you. Using popular and unique tags will complement each other’s strengths and eliminate weaknesses.

Consider this post. The first tag is ‘blogging’, to make it discoverable. ‘publishing’ and ‘steemit’ are other popular tags. ‘pulprev’ and ‘steempulp’ tags this post for posterity, so other Steemit users searching for content in this vein will find it.

Build Yourself

Don’t think of your posts as just posts and comments. Think of them in terms of content marketing.

Everything you do on the blockchain builds your brand. Every post you create, every story you write, every comment you leave, contributes to your brand. Think of your strengths and focus your energies on posting about them. This creates a brand focused on the topics you specialise in: fantasy, space opera, horror, and so on.

With that said, don’t limit yourself to fiction. Paint, draw, sing, shoot videos, narrate stories. Talk about fitness, diet, programming, gaming, movies, books, cryptocurrency, whatever tickles your fancy. The more you create about anything, the wider the audience you reach. My own non-fiction earnings on Steemit outstrip those from my fiction by a wide margin. If you’ve got something to say, say it.

If you strive to become Steemit giants, check out this post on how to grow your following.

Build the Community

We are PulpRev. Our greatest strength is a united front, an unbreakable shieldwall backed by shining spears and burning torches venturing forth into the great unknown.

Okay, not really, but Steemit is social media. Think Medium crossed with Reddit, with a nifty payout model. The more social you are, the better the results for everyone. Commenting, resteeming, promoting and upvoting posts are the way to go, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Think of shared universes, collaborations, translations, audiobook narrations, artwork. Use the medium, and other social media, to create win-win situations for everybody.

Use Steemit tags and hashtags on social media to distinguish ourselves from everyone else. #PulpRev and #SteemPulp are our primary tags. Using these often will improve our visibility and create an online group brand that distinguishes us from others.

Likewise, interact with other Steemit users. PulpRev are not a ghetto. Mingle around, learn more about the site, engage commenters and posters. Social media rules apply here, and the more value you create in Steemit, the more it gives back.

Research, Research, Research

To make the most of Steemit, learn how Steemit works. And, by extension, cryptocurrency.

At the minimum, you need to know how to post on Steemit, how to use markdown, sources of photos, how to comment, how the upvote, feed, and the payout system works. Pay close attention to restrictions: no archive function, no way to easily reference and find older posts, editing will be locked after 7 days, and so on. Be sure to read these posts about etiquette, the unwritten rules and how voting power works.

You need a way of converting Steem and Steem Dollars into fiat, directly or otherwise. That means you need to learn how cryptocurrency exchanges work. Sign up for an account on a cryptocurrency exchange that offers Steem and SBD pairings. If you can’t sell your Steem and SBD for fiat directly, you must identify Steem and SBD/crypto pairings and crypto-USD pairings. You must also understand the technology underpinning your preferred crypto pairing, and identify when network congestions may prevent transactions, as in the case of Bitcoin and Ethereum. Alternatively, you can pick an instant exchange platform like Changelly or Shapeshift. The transaction is instant, but the mining fees will be higher than the transaction fee in a regular exchange.

Whichever method you choose, if you intend to convert the Steem trinity into other crypto for long-term gains, be sure to get a crypto wallet and research the kind of crypto you wish to invest in. Exodus is an excellent wallet for newbies and veterans alike, but do shop around to see what meets your needs. When you do receive payouts, be sure to record your earnings for the taxman too.

If you want to go deeper, dive into the technology behind Steemit and see how you can take full advantage of its mechanisms. Look for cryptocurrency trends and anticipate price actions if you can. Learn crypto investing and trading strategy. Crypto is incredibly volatile, and you do not want to get burned.

The Revival and The Revolution

We are PulpRev. We shall revive the glory of the Pulp age. We shall witness the revolution to all nations and carry it to greater heights. The fiction world trembles with every story we post.

I am the Herald of PulpRev on Steemit. @notjohndaker, @jimfear138, @noughtshayde, @danwolfgang and @jd-alden follow in my footsteps. More are coming.

If you are not of PulpRev but you wish to join us, we are waiting for you. Write a story, drop the pulprev or steempulp tag, get on social media and our website, join our Discord, and we’ll see you on the Net.

We are PulpRev, and we are the future.

The Future Form of Fiction

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Recently, Brian Niemeier argued that success in indie publishing demands a prolific release schedule. This, in turn, demands short novels. I think he’s right.

The maths is simple. A 50,000 word novel can be edited, formatted and published much faster than a novel of three times the length. An author who releases four books a year enjoys four times the product, four times the chances of being discovered, four times the odds of being recommended, and four times the potential profit (or more) than a writer who publishes merely one. While there are authors who can go for years between novels and become insta-bestsellers when their latest books hit the shelves, these authors are enormously lucky outliers, and professional writers can’t count on being lucky. They have to make their own luck.

This doesn’t mean long novels are obsolete. Larry Correia’s novels are as gigantic as he is. However, he keeps his stories tight and fast-paced, and when he’s in the zone he churns out ten thousand words a day. He publishes multiple books a year, making him as prolific as other indie writers who punch out shorter novels.

Book length isn’t as important as being prolific. But not everyone can dedicate so much time and energy to writing as Larry Correia, so for most authors, writing shorter stories would be a better writing strategy.

Self-publishing has opened the floodgates. At the end of this sentence a new book has been published. To generate and retain brand awareness in such an environment, an indie author must be prolific.

What does this mean for me?

I grew up in the age of mega-novels and densely-packed texts. As a boy I tore through massive tomes without regard for length. Harry Turtledove’s Worldwar and Southern Victory sagas, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Tom Clancy’s and Larry Bond’s technothrillers, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, Ron L Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth. In the early days of dial-up Internet, I consumed web pages filled with nothing but text and the occasional poorly-rendered image. Today, I still ignore nine in ten photographs I see in online articles.

It never occurred to me that I should be intimidated by the length of the current story I was reading, and that attitude overflowed into my writing. My first novel ran to over 300 pages, and my more recent novels start at 150,000 words. I’m predisposed towards reading and writing what would, by modern standards, be ultra-long works of fiction.

None of which matters in the current age of fiction.

In the 1990s, when I grew up, books merely had to compete with movies, television and video games. Books and library memberships were far, far cheaper than the competition, and they had the singular advantage of being seen as a prestige product. But we don’t live in the 1990s any more.

Today, books have to compete with movies, television, live streams, YouTube, Internet streaming services, mobile games, PC games, and console games. The price of traditionally-published print books haven’t changed significantly over the years, even with the advent of Print on Demand technology, but the entry price for everything else has dropped dramatically. Humble Bundle and Steam sales regularly offer steep discounts for games, streaming is cheap, and YouTube is free.

More importantly, people have changed. We live in an age of constant novelty and distraction. Social media feeds flood users with information every second of the day. Ebooks have no physical presence to remind users of their existence, but they do have page counts that suggest the reader must plow through mountains of words. When given a choice between regular, quick hits of dopamine in a fast-paced mobile game or a prolonged, subtle experience in a work of prose, your average consumer will gravitate towards the former. To even stand a chance of being read, digital articles must come with attractive graphics, attention-grabbing headlines, and be as short as the writer can get away with.

I didn’t create this world. But I have to live in it. And if I am to be successful I must flow with the times.

These industry and consumer trends point to the impending dominance of pulp-style writing. Short, punchy fiction, written quickly, released regularly and sold cheaply. Longer works like The Lord of the Rings would be released as serials or broken up into multiple shorter books. It is the same model employed by modern Japanese light novelists for decades. Its success in the Golden Age of pulp and in modern times indicates that prolific publishing of shorter works is a time-tested strategy for writing success.

There is, however, another method.

Web novels are the red headed stepchildren of the modern publishing scene. While virtually unknown in Western writing circles, they are hugely popular among fans of Japanese and Chinese fiction — especially WNs that have been translated into English.

On first glance, WNs seem to defy Niemeir’s argument: the most popular WNs run into hundreds or even thousands of chapters. But WNs create the illusion of brevity.

Each individual chapter takes no more than a few minutes to read, and is loaded on a single web page. Each chapter takes only a few minutes to read, reducing the perceived time and opportunity cost to the reader, and encouraging the reader to spend just a few minutes more on the next chapter (and the next, and the next…). With many short chapters released regularly, WNs are arguably the modern-day digital serials.

By contrast, books are experienced as a contiguous whole. Ebooks may tell you how many pages you have left to the next chapter, but print books don’t. Novels with long chapters can be a daunting experience to read versus novels with much shorter ones. By breaking up the reading experience into discrete web pages, each trickled down slowly over days and weeks and months, WNs shorten the perceived time it takes to clear each chapter and plot point. When printed, WNs tend to resemble light novels in the brevity of their chapters and story arcs, and indeed many popular LNs began as WNs: Sword Art Online, Re:Zero, Rise of the Shield Hero.

Which makes WNs perfectly suited for Steemit.

I know I can write huge amounts of words quickly. But to be a pro, only published stories count. Going forward, I must adapt my writing style to suit the times. As Kai Wai Cheah I’m obliged to complete the Covenant Chronicles the way I envisioned it: a series of at least six long-form prose novels. But as Kit Sun Cheah I’ve been experimenting with short fiction on Steemit, and the results have been encouraging. I won’t speak of what I will write yet, but come 2018, a new kind of fiction is coming.

Watch this space.

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If you like pulp-style action horror, check out my short story Redemption Road: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, part 4, Part 5

For long-form prose, you can find my Dragon Award nominated novel No Gods, Only Daimons here.

Publishing Announcement: INVINCIBLE

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In an Empire beset by internal rebellion and ferocious yaomo, the elite Shenwujun stand ready to defend human civilization. Among the Shenwujun there is none finer than Ensign Zhang Tianyou, who earned the nickname Zhang the Invincible. During a mission to quash a nascent rebellion, a Shenwujun detachment discovers evidence that the Grand Union is supporting the rebels. Zhang is tasked to investigate and destroy this new threat.

But will Zhang the Invincible meet his match at the hands of the rebel called Han the Demon Sword?

I’m pleased to announce the publication of INVINCIBLE, a historical xianxia novella which won an Honorable Mention at the Q1 2017 Writers of the Future Contest. First published on Steemit, it has now been formatted into an ebook for easy reading.

INVINCIBLE can be purchased on Amazon, Smashwords and Payhip for just USD $2.99.

To enjoy a 30% discount, be sure to share my Payhip page on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Thanks for your support, and please look forward to my next story.

Chasing Literary Awards Won’t Promote Singlit

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Epigram Books, a Singaporean publisher, is aiming for the Man Booker Prize. As part of its goal, it has opened an imprint in the United Kingdom, so that its offerings will be eligible for the Prize. Founder Edmund Wee believes that the publicity generated from such an achievement “would be a turning point for people to see that Singaporean books aren’t that bad at all”.

I wish him the best of luck, but my experience suggests that it’s a long shot. I am Singapore’s first, and so far only, writer nominated for the Hugo and Dragon Awards. I can tell you that chasing awards means nothing.

Epigram Books is the creator of the Epigram Fiction Prize, Singapore’s richest literature award. Each winner receive $25,000 and a publication offer. Per the article:

Out of the 72 entries received in the first year, four were shortlisted and published. All four sold out their initial run of 1,000 copies within two or three months, a milestone that normally takes bestsellers a year to reach in Singapore, according to Wee.

Colour me impressed, but I should note that my own novel, which was not selected for an Epigram Fiction prize, did far better in the same time frame. I’m not sure if I can publicly disclose the actual sales figures, but I can say that neither my publisher nor I had to sink in $25,000 to bring it to the market. We both enjoyed healthy profits from that one book in three months.

And I won’t comment on Epigram’s UK imprint selling only 100 copies per title in its catalogue.

The key to understanding the TradPub mindset is that they don’t sell stories. They sell paper. It’s the traditional way of delivering stories to customers. But technology has significantly altered the publishing industry in the past decade.

Print on Demand technology has rendered storing mountains of paper books in bookstores and warehouses obsolete; if you want a paper book, just go on Amazon, and it will print and deliver the book to you. Ebooks are far cheaper than paper books, and far more convenient and accessible in an age of smartphones and tablets. Ereaders and ebook stores have opened the floodgates to new markets and new writers, and search engine algorithms and social media have made discovering and following writers easier than before. Self-publishing platforms allow anybody to write and publish stories from anywhere in the world without having to go through publishers.

Books themselves are facing stiff competition from elsewhere. YouTube, Crunchyroll, Steam, GOG, NetFlix, and other media are all competing with books for the readers’ entertainment dollar and time. If a customer has to choose between dropping $18 on a paperback that can be read in 8 hours, or $15 on an indie game that lasts for 50 hours, you can bet that he will choose the latter. Likewise, $18 on a single paperback versus $11.95 on a monthly Crunchyroll premium membership with complete access to all anime and drama in its catalogue is a no-brainer too.

We live in the sunset of traditional publishing. Brick-and-mortar bookstores are closing down, and Big Publishing is declining. Writers and publishers must adapt to changing times or be forgotten.

Encouraging Singaporeans to read Singaporeans may be an admirable goal, but publishers need to remain profitable to continue publishing stories. If they can’t make a profit, publishers will be force to close down. Becoming profitable is simple:

Give readers what they want.

Technology may have changed, but readers’ tastes have not. Romance readers want love and drama. Thriller readers want excitement and derring-do. SFF readers want awe and wonder. Produce books that meet their expectations, using technology to minimise costs and penetrate markets, and you’ll make money.

Publishers need to take a long, hard look at the industry and themselves, and see how they can best serve their readers’ needs. Wee’s words are instructive of his attitude:

“For many years, it has been in Singaporeans’ minds that foreign books are better and local books not so good,” he says. “I blame everybody. I blame the schools because literature is not compulsory. I blame the bookshops. I blame the press because they still want to interview famous international authors instead of local authors.”

Blaming everybody is not the solution. Courting people with awards will not work. If you don’t publish writers whose works people love, people aren’t going to love them back. It’s as simple as that. Of all the Singaporean-authored books and stories I’ve read over the years, none of them have left a lingering impression on me. None of them met my tastes — or my standards of craft.

Chasing a Man Booker Award is a snipe hunt. Writers who can win such an award are incredibly rare. Gambling everything on the hope that that such a talented writer signs on with you is the literary equivalent of putting all your eggs in one basket. After all, what are the odds that a writer capable of winning the Man Booker Award sign on with a small publishing house from tiny country?

Even if Epigram manages such a feat, it’s not likely to have a knock-on effect on all other Singaporean books. As I have seen first-hand with the Hugos and Dragons, should an author win an award, readers will flock to the award-winning book, then the rest of his backlist, and only then other authors of similar standards in the same field. Sharing the same nationality as a Man Booker Award-winning writer isn’t compelling enough to capture a reader’s heart. These other writers must be in the same league as the award winner to stand a chance.

Mickey Spillane once said that people eat more salted peanuts than caviar. Other writers mocked him for his writing style, but through hard work and appealing to the masses, he left his mark on the American crime thriller genre. I have a similar philosophy.

I don’t write stories to chase awards. I write stories to entertain my readers. Awards are pleasant, but profits are king. If you want to encourage readers to read more books, you have to sustain the ability to publish more books, and to publish books you need to be profitable. If I were a Singaporean publisher, this is what I would do:

  1. Focus on genre fiction. There is a dearth of genre fiction in Singapore; other than Young Adult and the odd romance and horror story there is a stunning lack of Singaporean genre fiction. Grab the first mover advantage in this field. Don’t limit yourself to submissions from Singaporeans, but do try to sign on as many Singaporean genre fiction writers as possible.
  2. Publish stories that meet and exceed genre conventions. Stories must be entertaining. Build a brand focused on quality entertainment and powerful story-telling. In a world where anyone can publish anything, publishers can differentiate themselves by creating a reputation for quality.
  3. Break into ebooks and Print on Demand technology, and target a global audience. The wider your potential market, the more money you make. Minimise cost, maximise distribution.
  4. If your goal is to promote ‘literary’ works, create another imprint dedicated to literary fiction. Channel profits from genre fiction into this imprint to keep it running. Follow steps 2 and 3, building a reputation for publishing quality work and delivering it to the world. You might not make much money out of the literary imprint, it might even be a loss leader, but hey, you’re promoting Singlit and your own brand.

I am leery of ‘literary’ stories. As far as I’m concerned, there are only two kinds of books: books worth reading, and books not worth reading. To stay competitive, publishers must do the former and avoid the latter. Qualities like ‘literariness’ or subversiveness or other avant-garde properties take a back seat to market demand. To remain in the publishing game, publishers have to turn a profit. Ignore the market at your peril.

At the end of the day, trad publishers would do well to study the history of publishing. The literati may elevate the heavy, ponderous tomes of great literature — but it was the cheap pulp magazines, filled with energy and excitement, that instilled the joy of reading in the common people.

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To get a taste of my writing, check out my Steemit serial NIGHT DEMONS and my Dragon Award nominated novel NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS.

5 Lessons from the Slush Pile

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Over the past couple of months, I volunteered as a slush reader for the PulpRev Sampler Anthology. With a submissions window of just seven days, writers had to produce punchy pulpy pieces of 750 to 1500 words. For a project with little fanfare and such a short reading period, the response was phenomenal. With submissions from established writers and newcomers to the field, I believe this anthology provides a well-rounded overview of the PulpRev aesthetic. In this post, I’d like to share some of the writing lessons I learned as a slush reader.

1. Read the Submissions Guidelines

I cannot stress this enough. No matter how good your story may be, if it doesn’t meet the submissions guidelines, it will not be published. PulpRev’s submissions criteria were simple: We want stories with heart. We want stories with muscle. We want stories with heart and muscle in unexpected ways. We want stories that leave you demanding more.

In addition to the submission guidelines, we also included links to articles that further elaborated what we believed was the pulp aesthetic. Despite that, by far the most common reason I cited for rejecting a story was that it was not pulp. Some of them were excellent stories–one of them actually had the potential to win literary awards–but I couldn’t give them the nod because none of them were pulp.

If a story doesn’t meet a market’s requirements, there’s no use submitting it. It wastes your time waiting for a response, and the editor’s time evaluating it. You’re better off submitting the story to a market that’s a better fit for the work, or outright self-publishing it altogether.

2. Write Fast, Work Well

Speed is the name of the pulp game. Write fast, edit fast, publish fast. From start to finish, the sampler took twelve and a half weeks. Not too shabby for a bunch of enthusiasts new to the publishing game. But the other side of the coin is quality. PulpRev doesn’t respect the pulp masters simply because they published fast; they respect the masters because they mastered the craft of writing.

The second-most cited reason for rejection was poor quality. Being able to rush a story to meet a deadline doesn’t guarantee publication; it only guarantees a foot in the door. If the story isn’t good enough, that foot will be kicked out.

To write fast and write well, you need to work hard to reach that summit of skill — and recognise there are always greater heights to strive for. You need to be obsessed with honing your craft, improving speed and quality in equal measure. You want to be the guy everyone loves to read, edit and publish — not the one whose stories everyone dreads.

3. Bring Your A Game

Give the world your best work. Not necessarily your best work ever, but certainly the best work you can produce at that time. Once your story is in the pile, you are competing with who knows how many others for a limited number of spots. If you want to be published, you must stand out. If you’re sending in a badly written trunk story from years ago without updating it, if you just carelessly dash off a couple of thousand words just so you can submit something, if you don’t take the time to proofread and edit your first draft, your chances of publication are extremely slim.

Editors, especially volunteers, are only willing to put in so much work to edit and polish a story. If they feel they will spend too much time working on a story to bring it up to an acceptable quality, they will drop the story in favour of superior ones. This mindset trickles down to the slush readers.

Barring specific editorial instructions, slush readers don’t read to accept. They read to reject. You have one sentence to grab the reader’s attention, one paragraph to sink the hook, and the rest of the story to sustain and grow interest. It’s not easy. Quite the opposite. But the ability to do this is the difference between the best and the rest — and the published and unpublished.

At the bare minimum, the story must be readable. It has to be coherent; it has to have proper spelling, punctuation and grammar; it has to have memorable characters, forward momentum and a logical plot. If you can achieve this, you’re already halfway to success.

4. Optimise Your Work Processes

Writing isn’t simply about dumping words on paper. In the same vein, editing and publishing isn’t just about picking a story apart, then throwing a bunch of stories into a Word document and hitting the publish key.

For me, writing is a systemic process, with discrete steps to be carried out every step along the way, in recognition that every step influences every other step. So is publishing, more so if multiple people are involved. To work fast, you need to be efficient. To be efficient, you need to ensure you aren’t duplicating work, working at cross-purposes with each other, undermining yourself by doing unnecessary work at inappropriate times, and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

We had a number of dedicated volunteers who carried the project from start to finish. Nevertheless, the anthology could have been pushed out sooner, and there were points where we could have tightened our workflow. With that said, this was the first time any of us had done anything like an anthology before, and we ha the inevitable teething pains to overcome. Now we are armed with greater experience, and I hope the next anthology will be an even better experience all around.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

PulpRev is a small but lively corner of the Internet. Outside of a few niche circles I don’t think anybody has heard of us. Nevertheless, in a bid to showcase works of the more experienced authors in the aesthetic, we reached out to veteran writers and requested for stories.

The response was amazing. Jon Del Arroz provided an excerpt from his steampunk novel For Steam and Country, while John C. Wright offered the first chapter of his free online novel Superluminary, and David J West and Jon Mollison sent us stories of their own. These stories form the nucleus of the PulpRev Sampler.

The thing that strikes me the most about the PulpRev community is the unbridled spirit of generosity, compassion and amiability. We may disagree (and loudly!) on various issues, but we’re all in this together to help each other out. If you need help from such people, just ask — the results will astound you.

The PulpRev Sampler Anthology can be found on Smashwords and Amazon.

 

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If you’re a fan of old-school pulp fiction, check out my novel No Gods, Only Daimons. It mashes together science fiction, fantasy, espionage and military tropes in true pulp fashion, and was so well-received it was nominated for the Dragon Award in 2017.

SIGNAL BOOST: Lyonesse Volume 1 by Silver Empire

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I am pleased to announce that Silver Empire has published Lyonesse Volume 1, a collection of 16 short stories published through its Lyonesse service. For the low, low price of just USD $6.99 a year, Lyonesse delivers a short story every week to its subscribers’ inboxes, plus a bonus story over the holidays.

Volume 1 collects the stories published in the spring of 2017. Among these stories in this volume are Four Weddings and a Funeral by 2017 Dragon Award nominee L. Jagi Lamplighter, two stories by Dragon Award nominee Declan Finn, and We Bury Our Own by yours truly.

In my not so humble opinion, We Bury Our Own is one of the finest short stories I have ever written. Starring a trio of humans elevated into sci fi battle angels, they must make their way across a world drowned in mysterious corrosive mist to do battle with a fellow warrior who has succumbed to the sin of pride. It’s a story where blasters and behemoths, revenants and swords, and mysticism and magic collide.

The other stories in Lyonesse are amazing in their own right. Four Weddings and a Funeral features a woman who can raise the dead, and grapples with the philosophical implications of doing so. In Zombie Jamboree, one man takes on a zombie invasion of New York, while The Dragon’s Teeth is the story of a soldier who faces impossible odds as he fights for a lost cause. Readers who enjoy old-school science fiction and fantasy, stories of wonder and joy and excitement, will find much entertainment in these stories.

Lyonesse Volume 1 is available on the Amazon Kindle store here. To find out more about Lyonesse, you can check it out here.

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Book Release: NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS

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I am proud to announce the publication of my latest novel, NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS by Castalia House. It is the first entry of the Covenanter Chronicles series. Here is the blurb:

The post-World War III world is a radically different place where magic and technology have become one in the violent struggle for global influence between nations. The rising powers of Persia and Musafiria are challenging the longtime dominance of the weakened Western powers, as the increasing use of magic provides them with a more level playing field.

Supernatural creatures from other planes are summoned and wielded as readily as machine guns and explosives by the special forces of the rival militaries, the most deadly of which are the elite contractors for the Nemesis Program. Both conventionally and unconventionally trained, the Nemesis Program is the hidden blade of the Hesperian National Intelligence and Security Agency, a weapon as lethal as it is deniable. But although they are given considerable leeway, not even Nemesis operatives are allowed to covenant with archdaimons… which poses a serious problem for Luke Landon when a simple assassination of a scientist goes badly awry.

NO GODs, ONLY DAIMONS combines the best elements of military science fiction, fantasy, espionage thriller, and supernatural horror. It features powered armor, physics-breaking magic, close quarters battle, supernatural substances, swordplay, Filipino martial arts, black operations, daimons and an archangel.

Also, a very confused cat.

The following is an excerpt taken from Vox Day’s blog.

We dropped to the ground.

“AK fire,” Pete reported.

Several more bursts rang out, echoing through the city. The sound bounced off and around concrete and glass, coming from everywhere.

“Multiple shooters,” I added. “Can’t tell direction.”

“Can’t be more than a couple blocks away.” He picked himself up. “We gotta stop them.”

“Roger,” I said. “I’ll try to find them with open source intel.”

“I’m gonna get my long gun.”

“Go.”

He sprinted to a car parked down the road. I got to a knee and scanned around me. Civilians were still walking down the street, oblivious to the autofire raking the air, or froze in place. A couple actually stopped to stare at us. What the hell was wrong with people?

I powered up the Clipcom. An array of icons washed over my field of view. I touched the control button, freezing the screen in place, looked at the Memet icon and released.

The app booted. A deluge of raw information, updating every moment, flooded my cascade. Every major news agency reported a shooting in progress at Lacey’s in New Haven. An eyewitness had uploaded a blurry photo of a gunman racing into the department store, wearing a chest rig and cradling some kind of AK, maybe an AK-122.

Another photo showed a jinni. It looked like an old man with swarthy skin, flowing white hair and a thick beard, though his muscles were hard as rocks. But past his waist, the rest of him was a lion with exaggerated limbs, scaled up to support his mass. His tail whipped at air and spat venom—it was no tail, it was a snake.

This was a si’la in its default form. And si’lat were expert shapeshifters.

Pete slung a messenger bag around his neck, stuffed with everything the self-respecting gunfighter needed for an active shooter scenario. From the trunk he produced a Varangian Tactical carbine. It was one of the many, many variants of the AR-855 rifle; this one was designed by Special Operations veterans for their exacting needs.

As he checked the chamber, he asked, “Luke! Need a gun?”

“Got another rifle?”

“Just a pistol.”

“I’ve got mine,” I replied, drawing my SIG. “We’ll make do.”

He jumped into the driver’s seat. “What are we facing?”

I got in beside him. “Multiple shooters and jinn are hitting Lacey’s. Numbers unknown. AKs, grenades and at least one si’la.”

A fresh image appeared in the cascade. An ifrit, inside the mall.

“And an ifrit,” I added.

The car’s engine hummed to life. “Good thing I loaded aethertips.”

“Me too.”

We hit the road. I tuned the radio to the news and listened to a news station rattle off reiterations of the original active shooter report. The gunfire grew softer; the shooters must have moved indoors. Pete zipped through traffic, slipping past civilian cars too close for comfort.

“They’re inside the mall,” I said.

“Must be hitting the lunchtime crowd.”

Closing Memet, I opened Eipos, the preferred Internet telephony service of the Program, and dialed 911. The dispatcher picked up immediately.

“Emergency 911, this call is being recorded. How can I help?”

“We are two off-duty Federal agents responding to the shooting at Lacey’s,” I said. “Tell the first responders not to shoot us.”

“Okay, may I know what you look like?”

“Two white males. I’m wearing a black jacket, red shirt, blue jeans. I have a pistol. Partner has green polo shirt, khaki pants. He’s got an AR-855.”

“All right. What’s your name and which agency do you come from?”

I hung up and turned to Pete.

“Brick, comms on Eipos.”

I called his number. Pete grunted. Moments later the call window filled the screen. He was taking the call on his implants. I handed the app off to the holophone, piping sound into my buds, and cleared my field of view.

Pete slammed the brakes and worked the wheel. We fish-hooked right, stopping in front of the department store, just barely missing a parked van. As we jumped out, a civilian almost collided into me. People were fleeing the area, but the roads and sidewalk were streaked with blood. A dozen civilians were lying on the ground, bleeding.

“Any idea where they’re at?” he asked, shouldering his rifle.

A string of shots split the air.

“Inside!” I replied unnecessarily.

We charged through the front door. I broke off to cover the right while he moved left. More gunfire erupted deeper inside the mall, punctuated by single shots. The shooters had left a trail of broken, bleeding bodies in their wake. Brass shells glittered in pools of blood. Most of the casualties had been shot repeatedly in the torso and then once more in the head.

We tracked the shooters by their gunfire, brass and empty mags. By the destruction they left in their wake. We ran past a shot-up McDonald’s, the customers bleeding and moaning, the golden arches destroyed by a burst of gunfire. Past an electronics shop, everything and everyone inside slagged. Past a schoolgirl, clutching at her bleeding leg, crying for help.

Pete faltered at the last. Halted for a moment. Shook his head and kept running.

This wasn’t our first ride at the rodeo. First neutralize the threat and then tend to the wounded. Reversing the priorities would leave the bad guys free to kill even more, and that would not do.

NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS can be found DRM-free on Amazon and the Castalia House ebook store.