And another thing

Well, as the world slowly crumbles around us (I’m having a tough time watching TV news), I am slowly but surely releasing all my old books in e-format.

I always thought a good part of my initial success with my humorous fantasy novels were the wonderful covers provided by Walter Velez. I arranged to reuse his art on the Ebenezum and Cineverse books, with good results. My publisher at the time decided to go with a different artist on my next trilogy, but, now that I’m putting these books out myself, I decided I would hire Walter to do a brand new set of covers. And he’s done a wonderful job.

And what are these books? Well, showing you any one of Walter’s covers will give it away. And they will come with my personal guarantee that the books themselves will be much funnier than whatever’s happening in the real world.theothersinbad72

The vast Gardner publishing empire

You didn’t know I have an empire?  Well, maybe I don’t.  But I at least have a small but growing publishing neighborhood.  Twelve of my books have come out as e-books from Crossroad Press, where you’ll find the Ebenezum trilogy, the Wanderings of Wuntvor, the Cineverse Cycle, and the Dragon Circle.  An anthology of my horror fiction, A Cold Wind in July, is available from Necon  Press.  And soon, I’m dropping six more books (both in electronic form and some as actual paperbacks) on an unsuspecting world!

Sometime in the next few months, Crossroad will publish the last of my early funny fantasy trilogies, The Further Arabian Nights, with all new cover art by Walter Velez!  Walter’s the wonderful artist who did all the original covers for my first nine novels. For those of you following along at home,  the actual titles of these newly published books are THE OTHER SINBAD, A BAD DAY FOR ALI BABA and SCHEREZADE’S NIGHT OUT.

But wait, kids!  There’s more!

A couple years ago, Penguin/Putnam started to publish a new bunch of funny books by me, the Temporary Magic series, about the temporary employment agency that secretly controls the world. Two of these books were published as e-book originals, but, for whatever reason (I have my theories) they didn’t sell well. So I bought back the rights, and I’m bringing them out again with all new covers by Cortney Skinner! Cortney’s painting the first of these covers even as I type, so we’re not quite ready to show them publicly.  But soon!

In the meantime, I thought I’d show folks a picture Cortney took as a photo reference for a fantasy project he was painting a couple of decades ago. So here’s a younger (and skinnier) Craig Shaw Gardner, pretending to be a wizard.  Whoohoo!12966029_10150619528099995_1669487553_n

Back to the bookcase

A couple of weeks back, I decided to dig deep into my to-be-read pile and finally read some books that had been hiding there for years. As I mentioned in my last bookcase post, this blast from the past made me think about all those bookstores I have known, including a great many that no longer exist.

Back when I was a teenager, two things happened. First, I got a morning paper route, which netted me over $11 a week, which meant I had money to burn (in those days, comics cost 12 cents, paperbacks were 50 cents.) I also learned that if I walked twenty minutes into the center of town, I could take a bus all the way from the suburbs to the city. Rochester NY may not have been the biggest metropolis around, but it had a bustling downtown way back then, with huge old movie theaters that had cheap matinees, a central library with 10 times the books they had at the local place, and a bunch of places to buy books and magazines. My pals and I developed a circuit of the town center which included Scrantom’s (the classier bookstore in town, which always carried the new Pogo books), Neisner’s (sort of a cut-rate Woolworth’s, which always had the new monster magazines), World Wide News, which had rows and rows of magazines, including the XXX rated stuff behind the counter (which I could only sort of see and never actually bought), some mom and pop smoked shop whose name I no longer remember that somehow got all the new sf paperbacks in a few days before anybody else (where I first saw the Ace editions of LORD OF THE RINGS)> But all these places paled in comparison to the most wonderful p[arty of my bookish teen years — The Clinton Book Shop.

How can I describe the Clinton Book Shop? It was a huge warehouse of a store, with new paperbacks piled two deep in rows of bookcases that lined the front half of the store. Each row would have a separate theme — SF, mystery, romance — and would hold hundreds of different books. Farther back in the store were used books and magazines, with old pulps costing a dollar and old comics a nickle (the price eventually rose to a dime). Here, in front of me, was all the paperback science fiction there was at the time. In those days there were only half a dozen publishers each putting out a couple of books a month. You could actually read all of them if you really tried. Separate sections featured old pulp reprints (Doc Savage, Fu Manchu) and James Bond and all his fellow spies. In the very front of the store, they sold small press magazines. I bought four or five issues of Witzend there over the years. It was a wonderful place.

It was also doomed. In an attempt to carry just about everything, the book store also featured Grove Press books; books full of forbidden thoughts and new ideas written by beatnik poets and other free thinkers. Well the Rochester Town Fathers couldn’t have that. So they tore down the bookstore to build a much needed parking lot. The store tried to make a go of it in a much smaller space, but it could no longer carry Everything, and the magic was gone.

But the joy of bookstores and books remained. And so I continued to shop, buying more books than I could ever read, and thus created to to-be-read bookcase. Which brings me to the second “something I’ve been meaning to read for far too long,” the seasonally appropriate SANTA STEPS OUT by Robert Devereaux.

I had heard about this book when it first got published in a small press edition. When Leisure Books reprinted it as part of their monthly horror line, I snapped it up (as I did with about half the Leisure line.) The book was supposed to be “a little different.” I’ve always liked different. But sometimes those books don’t make it to the top of the pile.

SANTA is more a fable than a horror novel. It has some horrific elements, and lots and lots of sex, not in itself a bad thing. It concerns Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, and just who these beings might have been before Christian tradition reshaped the world. Some people might find it offensive, but it’s written in such a lighthearted style that all the “dirty” parts just made me smile. Astonishingly, it is still in print. And it even has a Kindle edition.

And now, since I’ve been sticking these things at the end of all my reviews, here’s the new cover for the final Ebenezum novel, now available as an e-book from Crossroad Press!

Yes, this is the book in which Wuntvor must bowl as if his life depended on it!

Yes, this is the book in which Wuntvor must bowl as if his life depended on it!

Look at the size of that thing!

I blogged a couple of days back about the New Worlds Story Bundle that I’m a part of, where you can get dozens of e-books for a mere $18. The folks running this promotion sent out a jpeg with all the covers squished together, which I’m reposting here. Holy E-Reader, Batman! That’s a lot of books.

All Covers Large

The promotion is running for a couple more weeks. I’ve also gotten some codes so that I can give away a couple of bundles for free! I sense a contest in my future.

https://storybundle.com/newworlds

Has it only been a week since World Fantasy?

The world spins by much too fast. I attended World Fantasy in Saratoga Springs this past weekend, did a reading of Something New which drew a decent crowd, and moderated a 10 am Sunday panel about overused fantasy tropes that was a lot of fun and attracted a pretty big audience. The convention seemed oddly “underattended”. Just about all the people I met at last years con in Washington didn’t show up. The dealer room was never busy (I think most of the dealers lost money this year.) And the worst sin — the hotel bar was much too small. But I did get to catch up with a lot of folks I haven’t talked to in a while, which was nice, and reminded me about how many people I’ve met in my 50 years (yikes!) of con attendance.

Now I’m home, back to work on Something Else New, and trying not to watch too much of the news on either TV or Facebook. Boston (where I live) actually became a better place after we weathered our own terrorist attack, and I hope something positive will come from the tragedy in Paris. When we rally together, the gunmen and bombers and all their crazy kin are the losers.

And to end all this on a lighter note, I present you with a new cover to a new e-book edition! Yep, the Ballad of Wuntvor is now available in the e-universe. I think Crossroad Press did a great job on the covers.A Difficulty with Dwarves

Cue the bunnies!

So here we were, talking about the Cineverse, that secret alternate universe of B-movie worlds that can only be accessed with the aid of a special decoder ring and the words “See you in the funny papers!” Looking back at my original proposal, I remember I had the sample chapters, and I had the outline, which was how you sold books to a publisher back in ancient times. But what was I going to call the individual novels?

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I had watched a lot of movies in my youth and younger adult years. All sorts of movies, from foreign classics to bottom of the barrel B-movie programmers, basically everything from Bergman to the Bowery Boys. And I had a fondness for movies that had the kind of title their meager budgets could never live up to. THE GHOST OF DRAGSTRIP HOLLOW, say, or VIKING WOMEN VS. THE SEAS SERPENT (both actual films, btw). I tried to design the titles of the Cineverse books to have that same, slightly over-the-top flair. For the first two titles, I just tweaked movie titles I had heard before. The first book I called SLAVES OF THE VOLCANO GOD, which was me taking the name of an existing Eurothriller (SLAVES OF THE CANNIBAL GOD< which I believe starred Ursula Andress) and replacing one word to make it sound more like a Dorothy Lamour South Sea adventure. BRIDE OF THE SLIME MONSTER simply takes the title of one of the great terrible movies of all time, BRIDE OF THE MONSTER (perhaps Ed Woods' finest hour), and adding Slime to it, because what title is not improved by adding Slime? Think of it, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE SLIMY; ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE SLIME; RAIDERS OF THE LOST SLIME; VIVA SLIME VEGAS – the possibilities are endless.

But what about the third title? I knew the third book would contain a certain number of cartoon rabbits (including a really big guy named Thumper.) But how to bring those rabbits to life?

This was just around the time George Lucas was finishing off the original Star Wars trilogy. The third film was originally announced as REVENGE OF THE JEDI. The actual title when the film was released was the far more benign RETURN OF THE JEDI, which lacked the exploitation angle that I was so fond of. Hey, I thought, if Lucas was going to be too much of a Wimp to use "revenge" in his title, I'd use it instead.
Thus was born perhaps my best book title ever, REVENGE OF THE FLUFFY BUNNIES.

Walter Velez came up with another wonderful cover, completely representing actual scenes in the book (unlike some covers I might talk about.)
Revenge of the Fluffy Bunnies I’m once again reusing Walter’s original cover painting for my e-book. It still looks keen.

The Slime Monster Returns

So, as I’ve said here before, Crossroad Press is slowly but surely releasing my back catalogue. I’ve always loved the Walter Velez art on the Ace originals, and was lucky enough to be able to license it for the e-books.

The Cineverse came about when I had finished my first three Ebenezum books, which make fun of all matter of traditional fantasy, from sword and sorcery through the epic quest stuff. I had loved THE LORD OF THE RINGS and CONAN and many other books in between. And my brain considered all these books I’d read, with certain standard characters and situations, and thought, what if we twisted some of that stuff just a little bit, and see just what comes out? Thus was born the vaudeville team of Damsel and Dragon, and the mighty warrior Hendrek and his doomed club Headbasher, which no man could own but could only rent, etc.

But here I was (I thought), done with Ebenezum. What could I do for a second act? What subject did I know as well as fantasy, what other leisure activity had I managed to enjoy/waste as much time with as I had with Sf and fantasy paperbacks?

The answer was obvious: Movies.

I grew up in the fifties and sixties, a time when TV stations filled their non-prime hours with movies of every possible type. I also lived in a region (Upstate New York) where there were a number of months that you really didn’t engage in outdoor activities. (It started snowing at Halloween and stopped sometime around Easter.) So I watched even more movies. Frankenstein. Godzilla. Robin Hood. The Sons of Hercules. I knew and loved them all — probably just as much as fantasy.

So the idea of a universe in which B-movies were real, and could be reached with the aid of a Captain Crusader Decoder Ring (found in specially marked boxes of Nut Cruchies) was born. And as for the titles, well, I figured, the more outlandish the better. Films like THE VIKING WOMEN VS. THE SEA SERPENT and THE GHOST OF DRAGSTRIP HOLLOW promised wonders beyond what their meager budgets could ever provide. But hey! I was writing books! My budget (at least on the page) was unlimited!

And so SLAVES OF THE VOLCANO GOD and BRIDE OF THE SLIME MONSTER came to pass. I’ve attached the cover for the second book to this blog post, now in its new e-incarnation, something like the print version, but still distinctively different.

Next on the new cover parade will be the revised cover to Cineverse #3, and a discussion of Fluffy Bunnies.Bride of the Slime Monster