Vengeance: Cutter's Law

G’day folks. Here’s the press release for my latest story – Cutter’s Law, which was released about a week ago. It is part of the Single Shot series, which are short, sharp stories that can be read in one sitting, such as on a plane, train, during your lunch break, or sitting in a waiting room.

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Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 7.54.59 amPro Se Productions, a leader in Genre Fiction, announces the debut of yet another action packed series as a part of its Pro Se Single Shot Signature imprint. The Single Shot Signatures are recurring series or writers’ imprints that focus on digitl single short stories released on a set schedule. Author James Hopwood takes readers back to the adrenaline fueled, pulpy tales of adventure and danger with his series, Vengeance and the debut tale- Cutter’s Law!

Scribed by James Hopwood (pen name of rising pulp adventure writer David J. Foster), the series features Nathan Cutter, an Australian soldier whose life is turned upside down when his family become innocent victims in a gangland war. Written in the style of the men’s action-adventure stories of the 1970s and ’80s, such as The Executioner, these fast-paced stories ratchet mayhem and excitement to new levels.

“The Men’s Adventure novels of the 1970s and ’80s have a special place in my heart,” Hopwood said from Melbourne, Australia. “I know some of the imprints were verging on ultra right-ring fanaticism, but in their favor, they were always fast-paced with over-the-top situations and characters. Where else could you find stories about gun-toting heroes battling dirty Commies who plan to bring the west to its knees by firing atomic missiles from the turrets of 16th century European castles?”

“Of course, times have changed – enemies have changed (or have they?) – and story-telling has changed. Consequently the Men’s Adventure novels have waned in popularity. But I don’t think the genre has to go the way of the dodo bird. As a reader, the appeal for me was always traveling along with a hero who would never say die – no matter how heavily the odds were stacked against him. I think that trait is something that today’s readers can relate to. That’s where Nathan Cutter come in – he’s from that old-school tradition of never giving in.”

Cutter was first launched on the unsuspecting public in Matt Hilton’s Action: Pulse Pounding Tales in 2012 and 2013. Now he is back, in new expanded editions of the original tales, plus an explosive new story – never before published.

“I am excited to be able to re-invent these stories for a new audience, packed with new twists and turns and overflowing with gun-smoking action.”

“The Pro Se Single Shot series is a fantastic vehicle for stories such as this, and I am proud to be a part of the initiative. Before it came along, short stories such as these only existed in anthologies. And hey, that’s great too – I mean, that’s where I got my start, but now there’s an opportunity to expand on the universe created in those shorts. Readers can now follow a series, or a character like Cutter, and can be updated with regular instalments. It’s great from writers, and great for readers.”

Vengeance: Cutter’s Law features an exhilarating cover and logo design by Jeff Hayes and ebook formatting by Russ Anderson. The story is available for only 99 cents for the Kindle at http://tinyurl.com/qd8ndns and for most other formats via Smashwords at http://tinyurl.com/omcbscp.

Vengeance: Cutter's Law

The Shot

ShotAuthor: Jason Norton
Publisher: Pro Se Productions
Published: July 2014

The Shot is another short sharp tale from the Pro Se Single Shot series – being eBook tales that can be easily read on a Kindle (or eReader) while commuting, or loitering in a waiting room. And best of all they only cost .99c (or around AU $1.07).

As the story is short, I won’t detail the plot, however as a lazy comparison, The Shot is sort of like Rocky IV crossed with an episode of the Twilight Zone. I must admit I didn’t see the twist coming. Good fun. I wish it had gone a bit longer.

The Shot

Codename Orchid

Orchid
Author: Lance Stahlberg
Publisher: Pro Se Productions
Published: August 2014

The Single Shot series from Pro Se Productions are rapid fire tales that can be read in one or two sittings (and cost only .99c). The key words here are ‘rapid fire’ – as Codename Orchid is a tightly written, fast-paced, high-tech thriller that doesn’t let up till the end.

The story, about a young woman named Regina Cross is split into two narrative strands that meet at the end. The first strand concerns Regina, a young college student, who discovers she is a KGB sleeper agent. The second strand follows Regina – codenamed ‘Orchid’ – as she undertakes a mission to stop weapons grade uranium from falling into enemy hands.

Fans of the television series, Alias – or the film Salt will love this. Sign me up for more Regina Cross spy adventures. Highly recommended.

Danakil Blog Footer

Codename Orchid

A Fine Balance: Pulse Fiction Volume 1

pulse_fictionRemember audio cassettes and back when you used to make mix-tapes for all your friends? It was more than slapping your favourite songs on to a BASF C-90. It was walking a tight-rope; an intricate balancing act that took planning and patience. Did you start with a kick-ass rocker, or was it a soulful ballad that set the tone? If the song was too slow you’d kill the mood, or if you went too hard and fast early, the rest of the mix would seem flat. And what did you follow it with? Placement was equally as important as song selection. It was always about balance.

I have found that anthologies are a lot like mix-tapes. There are many anthologies out there in the marketplace, covering all genres – and I am guessing for the editors, balancing the stories within is a tough act. Even though the individual tales themselves maybe fantastic, placing them in the wrong order, or even in the wrong book, can make the reading experience a bit of a stop / start affair.

And that brings me to one of the reasons I am so proud to be a part of Bishop & Hancock’s Pulse Fiction. Having read it from cover to cover, I can say the balance is perfect. Not one of these six stories is out of place – and even though they are different genres they hang together cohesively, united by one common theme; that being – they are rattling good pulp adventure tales told with pace and flare.

The first story in Bishop & Hancock’s Pulse Fiction is The Insanitors by Barry Reese. Reese, the creator of the Rook and Lazarus Gray, is one of the shining lights of the New Pulp movement, and his action packed tale, The Insanitors provides more proof of his story-telling prowess. From first word to last the tale is a roller-coaster ride – taking the reader from Machu Picchu in Peru to the corridors of power in the White House. The hero of the piece is a man who calls himself Dr. Darkness, and aided by his daughter Lilly, he has to thwart the Insanitors, a group of half-breed demons intent on unleashing hell on earth.

The next story is The Honor of the Legion, by yours truly. I have talked about it quite a bit, both here and on social media, so I won’t rehash all that again, but as the title would imply it is a Foreign Legion adventure. The hero of the piece is Legionnaire, Mace Bullard – and since we’re all friends here, I’ll let you in on a little secret … Mace Bullard will return in a new blood-curdling action adventure called Sahara Six. I don’t know when it will be released, but I’ll let you know when details come to hand.

The third story in Bishop & Hancock’s Pulse Fiction Volume 1 is Never Enough Corpses by my Fight Card colleague, Brian Drake. This story is another cracking tale – harking back to The Saint, and other champagne heroes of the past. The hero of the piece is Daniel Redd, known as the Last Ace. Redd is a successful gambler with a taste for the finer things in life. But Redd is not a foppish dilettante. On the side, he also lends his assistance to those less fortunate than himself. In this instance, the damsel in distress who needs his help is Tori Heneghan – a woman caught in the middle of a blackmail scheme – and who has two goons on her tail trying to kill her.

Diamonds Are a Girl’s Worst Friend by Eric Beetner is the fourth tale. Set in Paris, in the early 1960s, and featuring Holly Lake – a slinky cat burglar – as the title may suggest, this tale is a classic diamond heist caper. I have read a few of Beetner’s other works, and generally they have been gritty and tough – often with a pitch black sense of humour. Diamonds shows another side of Beetner’s writing – delivering a sophisticated fast-paced romp that is equally entertaining as his darker work.

From the pen of one of Pulse Fiction’s creators, Tommy Hancock comes the western mystery The Man From Shadow Limb. The township of Shadow Limb is a hive of villainy and vice, that is, until a masked avenger arrives on the scene to clean up the town his way. This tense western tale is part whodunnit, so I won’t give too much away, but to say the story drips with atmosphere and I look forward to more adventures of the Man From Shadow Limb.

Last but not least, the final tale, Cry Blood, by D. Alan Lewis, features battered and bruised hard drinking P.I. Thomas Gunn – a Mike Hammer type character – who comes to the aid of a young woman whose family have been killed, and now mobsters are after her. Gunn sobers up and does his best to protect her as the body count around them rises. I reckon a lot of people are gonna love this one – it’s a great note to go out on.

As I have a story in this anthology, naturally I cannot be totally subjective, but in a collection like this, a story is only as good as the stories around it, and I’ve got to say the tales in Pulse Fiction are top rate. As you’ve probably gathered from the mini reviews above, the mandate for Pulse Fiction was to put together old fashioned tales in a new fashioned way. And to that end, I believe the individual authors, and editors Paul Bishop and Tommy Hancock, have succeeded admirably. Check this one out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

A Fine Balance: Pulse Fiction Volume 1

Rat-A-Tat: Short Bursts of Pulp

Ratatat2I remember when I was a wee little nipper – still in primary school – I read an article which said in the future we would all have so much more leisure time. Computerization and advances in communication would enable us to do a week’s work in only three days (or even less) resulting in shorter working weeks – and more time to do the things we like.

So here we are, thirty-plus years later and I am wondering where is the leisure time I was promised? Like so many people these days, I seem to be time poor struggling to get everything done that I want to include in my working week. When it comes to leisurely pass times, like reading, I have to squeeze it in, in between railway stations as I travel to and from work. However, Pro Se Productions has just released a book that is perfectly suited to my lifestyle. Rat-A-Tat: Short Bursts of Pulp, as the name would suggests, is an easy to digest collection of micro-pulp tales.

Each story is under three-thousand words, and despite their length, each of them has a beginning, middle and an end – and in true old-school pulp style, featuring square-jawed resourceful heroes, and despicable villains, from first story to last, they take the reader on a wild hair-raising journey.

One of the many spirited tales in this collection is Golden Wolf and the Pod Men, written by yours truly. The story is a wild swinging sixties, caped-crusader adventure, featuring Golden Wolf, the most intrepid and resourceful super-hero ever! Join Golden Wolf – agent for Crossbow – as he battles the diabolical Dr. Sardon and his clone army.

With twenty-eight stories, and popular new pulp authors such as, Teel James Glenn, Ralph L. Angelo and David White, Rat-A-Tat: Short Bursts of Pulp is a fantastic collection for fans of action, adventure, and intrigue  – or if you are like me, struggling to find the time to read a book from cover to cover.

Rat-A-Tat: Short Bursts of Pulp

Bishop & Hancock's Pulse Fiction

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G’day folks! It’s been a long time coming but I am proud to announce that Bishop & Hancock’s Pulse Fiction is now available in both paperback and eBook. This collection of wild pulp tales features my story Honor of the Legion, featuring French Foreign Legionnaire Mace Bullard, a man with no past and little chance of surviving the future. Join Bullard as he battles scimitar wielding Berbers, machine-gun toting Nazis, and tangles with the mysterious Sin Queen of Marrakech.

Here’s a brief snippet to whet your appetite.

BullardFrançois Mesmer was considered the Legion strongman. He was a mountain of muscle at six-foot-four tall, and impossibly broad shouldered. As he galloped back to camp at dusk, he looked a sight. Although his horse was a full sized muscular Arabian stallion, it looked like a Shetland pony carrying his great bulk.

He quickly dismounted and approached Sergent Mace Bullard who was leading the patrol, and currently seated around a campfire with four other Legionnaires. Bullard stood as Mesmer approached. The big man removed his kepi brimmed hat and flicked back his blond hair from his sweat soaked brow.

“Sir, eight riders are approaching,” Mesmer blurted, struggling for breath.

“Do you think they are trouble?” Bullard asked.

Mesmer didn’t answer the question directly. “They have a man with them, tied over his horse. I do not know if he is dead or alive … He’s wearing a Legion uniform.”

The hairs on Bullard’s neck stood up. “A Legionnaire, you say?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, let’s give them a welcome.”

Bullard called his men to attention and outlined his plan.

***

The sun had set as the Berbers rode in. They rode in slowly, warily. Each of them was dressed identically, wearing a black djellaba with a yellow sash. The leader of the small band of cutthroats peered through the dim light at the camp site before him.

He felt uneasy.

The camp looked deserted, but there was something strange about it. The fire was still smoking, having only been recently extinguished. Then there were the horses. Six of them were tied together and standing nearby. If the occupants of the camp had moved on, surely they would have taken their horses.
The leader called his men to a halt with a hand gesture. He dropped down from his mount, and moved cautiously toward the fire. The boot prints around the site were fresh. The desert winds had not had time to obliterate them.

He was about to order his men to be on guard, when the sand before him erupted. Bullard had been hiding in the sand covered by a tarpaulin. It was an old Bedouin trick he had learned.
Caught by surprise, the cutthroats were slow to reach their weapons. Bullard shot the leader with his sidearm, and then sprang forward yelling, “En avant, la Legion!”
His men answered his call and swept down from the dunes, firing as they went. One of the Berbers produced a large curved scimitar and slashed at Bullard. The Legionnaire leaped backward as the blade zinged past at head height. As the marauder swung again, in mid stroke, he cried out in pain, dropping the sword and clutching at his bloody wrist. Mesmer, high on one of the dunes, had a smoking rifle in his hand.

“Merci,” Bullard yelled, acknowledging his compatriot.

The marauder scuttled forward, and retrieved the sword with his other hand. Clearly, he would rather die than surrender. Bullard was happy to oblige. Almost with a tinge of regret, he raised his pistol and pulled the trigger, putting the brigand down for good.

The battle was over in less than a minute. Bullard moved past the bodies of the cutthroats to the packhorse with the Legionnaire draped over it. The man hadn’t moved at all during the entire skirmish, and Bullard surmised the Legionnaire was dead. That in itself was strange. Why were the riders transporting a dead body?

Bullard raised the man’s head and stared at the face.

“I know this man,” he said, as he peered into the lifeless eyes.

Bishop & Hancock’s Pulse Fiction Volume 1 is available from Amazon.

Bishop & Hancock's Pulse Fiction

Covert Ops: Tear Down the Wall

Gemini

Last week I talked briefly about a new project from Pro Se Productions called Covert Ops: Gemini, which is fashioned on the sixties and seventies TV series, Mission Impossible. The anthology contains three stories, The Havana Protocol, by J. Walt Layne – Romanoff and Juliet, by Tim Lasiuta – and “Tear Down This Wall!” by Wesley Smith.

Recently, I asked Smith about how he approached his contribution to the project.

CovertOpsGeminiIt’s difficult to explain why I approached this project in the way that I did. Coming up with ideas from scratch is difficult for me. There are infinite directions in which to go, and I can never choose just one. Throwing in random elements requires more creativity. Tell me to write any kind of story that I want and I’ll lock up. But if you tell me to write a western that includes the USS Constellation, Jefferson City, Missouri and the Monkees… Now that’s a challenge.

That’s how I started “Tear Down This Wall!” I pulled out 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and landed on the entry for The Brandenburg Gate. If my finger had fallen on The Blarney Stone or the Drakensberg Mountains, the story would be unrecognizably different.

Once I saw the picture of the Brandenburg Gate, I knew that the story I would write would be named “Tear Down This Wall!” (taken from Ronald Reagan’s speech in the shadow of the Berlin Wall itself) and that the climax would be on top of the gate itself. The basic plot came together from there.

Outside of the basic plot, what was eventually published beared almost no resemblance to the story I had intended to write. Since I had never attempted a 10,000 word story before, I grossly over-plotted it. My original vision could easily have been 50,000-60,000 words longer. It included a team twice the size of the one that saw publication, had subplots about human trafficking and blackmail. Like William Goldman’s / S. Morgenstern’s classic The Princess Bride, what you read in “Tear Down This Wall!” is truly the good parts version.

One of the things I enjoy most when writing is when the characters take the story in an unexpected direction. Furman Valero was like that. Before I started writing the scene where he was introduced, he was simply “Thug #1.” Again, I chose his name from a couple names list websites and was immediately had vision of who Valero would be: a brooding, somber, former Mexican wrestler who had fallen on hard times and was trapped in Germany with no easy way out. And instead of being a minor character, he suddenly became the emotional center of the story.

Things came quickly after that. I already had the climax of the story, but I wanted scenes worthy of an action movie. Since “Tear Down This Wall!” is set in Germany, a car chase on the Autobahn was required, and the fight in the meat packing plant was built around a couple specific images that came to me.

I am extremely proud of “Tear Down This Wall!” I always try to create something I’d enjoy reading. “Tear Down This Wall!” certainly succeeds on that level. This may sound corny, but if the readers enjoy “Tear Down This Wall” half as much as I enjoyed writing it, I’ll be happy.

Wesley Smith started creating stories when he was five,and hasn’t stopped since. He has lived in St. Louis, Omaha, California wine country and Memphis before settling in the central Ohio area, with each city bringing a new set of experiences to draw from. He and his beautiful wife/editor live in a 120-year-old farmhouse with three wonderful girls and a boy. When he’s not losing sleep over his next story, he’s losing sleep while taking care of his new baby girl.

Covert Ops: Gemini is available from Amazon.

Covert Ops: Tear Down the Wall

Covert Ops: Gemini

Last week, Pro Se Productions released their latest spy anthology, Covert Ops: Gemini, which is in the style of the Mission: Impossible television series – wherein a team of specialist agents take on a dangerous mission that nobody else could accomplish. I have started reading it, and so far it is pretty good. I couldn’t help but smile when I read that the team leader is named Steven Graves!

Expect a full review in a week or two, but until then, here’s the promo spiel.

CovertOpsGeminiIn a world where no one can be trusted and no one is safe, spies are everywhere. In the kitchen of the small house on the corner. High above a city at the top of a skyscraper under construction. In the checkout line at the local grocery. People with skills unheard of by most normal citizens living normal every day lives as accountants, teachers, plumbers, and more. Every day existence is their only battle…until a lone voice on the other end of the phone or in the static of a radio or even whispering in their ear from over their shoulder welcomes back to the war. Their own personal codename followed by one word – GEMINI. And then the housewife, the normal joe, Mr. and Mrs. America become the deadliest espionage agents this country has ever created, members of the top secret initiative known by very few as COVERT OPS: GEMINI!

Pro Se Productions, concept creator Tommy Hancock, and authors J. Walt Layne, Wesley Smith, and Tim Lasiuta proudly presents COVERT OPS: GEMINI.

In the tradition of Mission: Impossible, COVERT OPS: GEMINI delves into the world of international espionage and looks at the men and women who make up the deadliest team of spies ever. Led by Steven Graves, roguish and calculating agent, and overseen by the mysterious Officer James, members of Covert Ops; Gemini live regular lives, hold down normal jobs, build families and careers, until they are needed. Then they step away from their desks, their aprons, their very existences and put skills outside of their normal persona into use as they were trained to. What follows for them may be failure or even death. But, if they succeed, not only does the world go on, but they get the one thing back they value most- their covers.

Classic Spy Fiction at its best. COVERT OPS: GEMINI from Pro Se Productions!

Covert Ops: Gemini is available from Amazon and the usual affiliated outlets.

Covert Ops: Gemini

Black Fedora

Black FedoraAuthors: B.C. Bell / Phillip Drayer Duncan / Kevin Paul Shaw Broden
Publisher: Pro Se Productions
Published: September 2013

Any story, is only as good as its villain. But what happens when the story is twisted a bit, so the villain becomes the star of the show, rather than the hero? I am not talking about the Joker, Darth Vader or Blofeld. They exist as foils for their heroic counterparts, Batman, Luke Skywalker and James Bond. I am talking about the really bad guys who overshadow the goodness and light heroes – such as Fu Manchu, Dr. Mabuse or Fantomas.

Adopting the same approach – where the villain is the hero – comes Black Fedora – a compendium of three tales where the villain is the star attraction. The first tale, Sometimes They Pay in Bullets, written by B.B. Bell, is a noirish crime tale that would appeal to people who like Richard Stark’s (Donald Westlake) Parker series, Terrence McCauley’s Prohibition – or films like High Sierra (with Humphrey Bogart) or Point Blank (with Lee Marvin).

The villain in question is a man named Keller. As the story begins, Keller returns to an un-named gambling town and immediately is caught up in a turf war between two mobsters, Fabian and O’Hannoran. But Keller is not the type to align with anybody for long. He is out for himself. The story features gunfights, corrupt cops, bent politicians and a dame with a hidden agenda.

The second entry is The Warden, written by Phillip Drayer Duncan, and it is extremely different in tone and style to the first. It is a wise-cracking super-hero story. Sorry, let me rephrase that – super villain story.

The Warden, of the title, is a villain whose specialty is capturing super heroes and locking them away in a purpose built prison. This story sees him taking on Mr. Elusive in a smackdown battle in the heart of the city. The Warden is a blast from first word to last.

Rounding out the collection is The Man Who Stole Manhattan by Kevin Paul Shaw Broden, which is a steampunk adventure (with a dash of the Rocketeer thrown in for good measure). The villain is the Maestro Mechanic – who, as the title would imply, steals Manhattan.

If I have a criticism of the book (and other readers may think this is of little consequence – and may in fact be a strength) is that each of the stories are so very different. Aside from the central villainous thread, the book doesn’t feel cohesive to me. Please Note: That is not a criticism of the stories, but the package. I can imagine readers who enjoy the tough noirish thrills in Sometime They Pay in Bullets being slightly perturbed as they roll onto the lighter, wise-cracking story, The Warden. But maybe that is just me? But moving away from my curious peccadilloes, put simply, in Black Fedora, there is crime noir story, a super hero story, and a steampunk story. If you enjoy these genres, then there’s no reason you wouldn’t enjoy the book.

As advertised, the bad guys are front and center and determined to do things their way – and heaven help any lawman who gets in their way.

Here’s the press-release from Pro Se.

Welcome to the dark side. BLACK FEDORA holds stories where the hero is the villain and one person’s crime is another person’s glory. Get ready to step out of the light and take a tour of various underworlds with three tales that give a steely-eyed look at what secrets lurk beneath the BLACK FEDORA.

This exciting anthology consists of tales by B. C. Bell, Phillip Drayer Duncan, and Kevin Paul Shaw Broden and a stunning cover by the best Pulp Artist today, Douglas Klauba! Edited by Brad Mendel and Mark Beaulieu with cover design and print formatting by Sean Ali and Ebook formatting by Russ Anderson, BLACK FEDORA is so good it’s criminal.

“Villains,” Tommy Hancock, Pro Se Productions’ Editor in Chief and Partner in the company, states, “fascinate us. Since the beginning of storytelling, no tale is complete without the bad guy or gal. They capture our imagination so much that we have this almost insatiable need to turn them into the hero, even going as far as justifying the villain’s actions. From penny dreadfuls that made Billy the Kid an upstanding defender of widows and orphans to the almost fanatical fandom for types such as J. R. Ewing, villains speak to all of us.”

“In Pulp, though, the Villain didn’t necessarily ascend to Hero status. From Fu Manchu to Doctor Death (both of them), the villain, though he may have stated reasons his cause was just, was a bad guy. That’s what BLACK FEDORA is all about. Yes, it brings the evildoer to the forefront, but it doesn’t strip the character of its purpose, of its design. The bad guys in these pages are as bad as they come. Fortunately we have their stories told by three of the best writers in Genre Fiction today. This collection at least allows us all to vicariously cheer for the villain and for a little while wear the BLACK FEDORA.”

Black Fedora