What: When he is not searching for lost remnants of the old west or working his fingers to the bone, he can be found working on multiple writing projects. Thompson is known to have worked as a truck driver, heavy line diesel mechanic, armored truck guard, and corrections, along with a host of other professions. His true passion is collecting vintage books, writing and is the editor/publisher for Dead Guns Press.
Where: New Mexico
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
Dead Guns Press publishes “stories written in the new era of pulp…” Can you explain what that means? How did you become a publisher?
Answer to Question One: It’s pretty simple. Have you ever read the old stuff? I mean like stories from the old pulp dime mags from around the thirties and forties? There were some amazing stories and publications written during that time frame and some very prolific writers emerged from that era that had, and in some cases, they still have a hold of a large group of current readership. You got writers such as Phillip Jose Farmer, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Mickey Spillane (to name a few) who broke the market and pushed the edges of the literature world with their cutting edge stuff. Farmer wrote about sex with aliens, which was a taboo at that time within the realms of sci-fi literature. Asimov, one of the largest prolific writers with some 500 titles to his credit, wrote across many genres including mystery, science fiction and fantasy. He explored many aspects of science including robots. Robert Heinlein is another writer who influenced a large group of readers with his books STARSHIP TROOPERS and A STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. A note to add about STRANGER is that Heinlein would get the occasional hippy knocking on his door to thank him for that book since it helped influence the hippy culture back in the sixties. Remember Heinlein was best known for knocking out Military Sci-Fi. What I mean by ‘new age of pulp’ is just that. Even though you don’t see pulp mags anymore, we still got ‘pulp internet’. We’re currently in the midst of change in the writing world as these literary giants of old pass on and I believe that you got tomorrow’s prolific writers just starting out within the last few years.
Answer to Question 2: A funny thing happened on the way to Tinkerbell Land armed with a chainsaw. Originally, I wanted to be nothing more than a writer, still do and when I get the time, I’ll finish up the two dozen or so writing projects I got going on. Anyway, I was an editor at this particular publishing house (the unholy name shall not be mentioned here) and was working several titles. The titles were BADLANDS, UNDEAD WAR and HARDBOILED. I had come up with the working concepts and guidelines and the head owner gave me the green light to put out the call for submissions back about 2012. Subs came across the wire pretty quick, but in late 2013 they practically dropped to none. I had about finished gathering up stories and filling up these anthologies when word came around that the publishing house was not going to be putting out any more titles. I contacted the main owner and we discussed things for a bit and I offered to help in the publishing part, but was rejected. I kept an eye out on what titles were being published and noted there wasn’t any titles being put out for some time. Keep in mind, this publishing house usually put out a substantial amount of titles per year, but this time (2013), I think they managed to put out zero titles. I decided ‘Fuck it, I worked too hard on these titles to just let them go.’ Besides, I really liked the submissions I got and I hated to have put in all that time and effort just to see these go into the lost world of ether and also disappoint the contributors. So, I pulled the titles, shot off emails to the contributors and published the three titles on my own. This is where the concept of Dead Guns Press came into being, but with one difference: all writers are the foundation of the publishing world. The first hardboiled anthology was that founding seed. Its stories ranged from old-time detective stories from the twenties and thirties to modern crime fiction to old mob tales. The stories were so far in range and types and styles that I keep that principle going today. I don’t limit the date ranges for crime and detective tales.
I never figured to be a publisher, but it was a road that I saw as a way of getting to know and understand the current small publishing houses that populate the ‘net. It also introduced me to some great writers who are the back bone of the publishing industry. I also can’t say enough that M. Smith is one of the best editors out there and is the rock of Dead Guns Press. As an editor, he has done a substantial amount of work and has helped me along as a publisher. Mark Sims is also the main wheel man for DGP and even though he’s new, he’s a valuable asset on our team.
The debut issue of Dead Guns Magazine just dropped. Tell me how this issue came together? What was the inspiration to publish this collection?
I always wanted to put out a magazine both for print as well as e-book, but I wanted it to be unique in varying ways. I came up with several layouts and was not happy with it and it took time in figuring out which way to go. Eventually, I came up with a layout and ran with it. I had plans to release it last year in August, but the layout sucked balls. I also had very few artwork pieces to work with and the artwork subs coming in were not anything like I was looking for. So I decided to stick with a simple layout for the first issue, but eventually we’re going to mix things up a bit. I plan on additional layout options in time but the concept remains the same. The mag is grittier, has a higher bar in terms of the stories and artwork accepted. Eventually, we plan on making this a paying mag. The basic premise is to showcase the best writers out there in the genre of crime fiction and detective. We shoot for high-grade crime fiction and detective stories, which is the foundation of Dead Guns Press. The main inspiration is to showcase our writers best efforts in their pursuit for literary fame and fortune.
How was the response when you put out the call for submissions? How much did the quality vary?
Response was pretty positive and the subs rolled in at a steady rate. I think I wound up with something like 47 or so subs after the initial sifting process. From that point we had to narrow down to the final selections, which was difficult in that there was some stories I liked, but another story had a better narration and storyline going. Some stories you get a good feel for and others not so much. I mean I’ve had subs where you got a dog detective searching for some damned cat feline thief or stories that made no sense what so ever even after rereading them several times over. We try to give every story a chance and we read and sometimes reread submissions to see if maybe we missed something before rejecting them. Most were good and some were not what we were looking for, but I have to give credit to the writers–most, if not all, followed our submissions guidelines. The best part is that we had subs from writers from Europe or Ukraine. We would like to see more of these writers from that area of the world. I mean there has to be a bunch of crime fiction writers there in say France, Germany, Russia or India, and it would be interesting to see those points of view in crime fiction.
This might sound rude, but people in general have short attention spans. The current world is just plain busy and people have so little time for anything. I mean, you got people busting their ass at a shit job for shit wages for shit outfits that just don’t care to give the respect that’s due. Then they get home, gotta cook dinner, wash the kids and dishes down, help the kids with homework, get online, pay a few bills–utilities, rent or mortgage, the god damned car and health insurance premiums and hope you can make it to next pay-day without having to hawk your shit at the local pawn shop for food or gas money. By the time it’s done, or has slowed down enough to browse the ‘net, that person might have time left for some flash fiction. Short fiction is a nice little getaway from all that and it’s about all the time a person might have left in the day is for reading a short/flash fiction piece. I don’t think people read like they used to although I believe most would like to have the spare time to read a good book or story. This is where flash/short fiction is nice and also why I see a growing market for flash/short pieces across crime, mystery, sci-fi and other genres.
As a writer, what draws you to short fiction? Do you prefer to write short fiction over longer works?
I never really thought about it. Usually, I tend to write novellas, but found that there was hardly a market for those things. I got a shit ton of novellas in the filing cabinet. Most publishing houses want either flash, short of novel length subs but nothing in between. Sometimes I move on in a story, ramblings mostly. For example, I was unemployed a bit over a year ago and wound up writing a novel titled TRUCK STOP, basically a crime fiction novel mixed in with my own humorous experiences having worked at a truck stop. I wrote it in just under a month with a word count of over 130,000 words. Most of the script, I add, was pure shit as are most first drafts. So far to date, I’ve cut about half that and rewrote it several times over now. That’s the longest story I’ve ever written. Now flash I like for the simple reason in that it’s a great writing exercise to pack a whole story in under a thousand words. It’s tough, but I got some bits up on Shotgun Honey that says it can be done. I also like to write regular stories up to six grand in words, but it takes time to work out the details and I’ve had better luck subbing these stories out and getting acceptances. As far as preferences, I still prefer novellas, but will write and read about any length.
The main notable difference between the magazine and the anthologies is the size of the books and the content. The mag is 8×11 and the anthologies are 6×9. The other main difference is with the mag we add in interviews, stories of varying lengths, some non-fiction articles (future issues), images (print only) and stories that are not your run of the mill types. We look for well-crafted stories overall, but the mag is held up to higher standards. We look for the strong opening, hard middle and a satisfying ending…kinda like our women and Crown Royal now that I reread that. The anthologies we tend to shoot for stories between 1500 words to 6 grand in length and the anthologies are loosely themed. Our latest HARDBOILED anthology is subtitled ‘Dames and Sin’. As the title says, we’re looking for bad dames doing bad things for bad reasons. Our next HARDBOILED anthology will be for the guys and gals in the UK and we want to see what dirty ditties happen across the pond. The subtitle will be something like ‘Union Jack’ or ‘British Steel’ or ‘Fortune Favors the Brave,’ haven’t decided yet on that. The mag on the other hand is not exactly themed or politically correct, we like to take stories of all themes and sandwich them together and only twelve authors get a coveted spot in the mag—no more, no less. The anthologies, we tend to shoot for twelve to fifteen authors, maybe more if the stories are good. We want to give our readers the best material out there.
When can we expect the next issue of Dead Guns Magazine to be published? Will it be different from the current issue?
We’re looking at March to put out a subs call for the summer issue of Dead Guns and, soon to follow, issue three will focus around the holidays and shooting for December release. (Hint, hint! Get to writing guys and gals). As far as the difference, we’ll be looking to add in a single non-fiction piece dealing with crime, serial killers, unsolved crimes and such. I think Dead Guns is a good platform to play around with and ideas are constantly bouncing around. I think that with each issue, there will be more refinements, additional materials and of course, the gritty stories of crime and detectives.
What other publishing plans does DGP have for 2016 and beyond?
Right now we’ve got HARDBOILED: DAMES AND SIN, BADMEN AND BULLETS slated for release this year. The mag we’re shooting for three issues this year. We’re also contemplating doing another follow-up to the anthology UNDEAD WAR: BETTER OFF DEAD. We’re also working on hardcover editions for HARDBOILED and also working on doing up a Best of Dead Guns Press at the end of the year. In 2017, we’ll be releasing the HARDBOILED UK themed anthology. The mag we’ll be doing another two or three issues. We’re also looking at doing a horror mag, but we haven’t come up with a title as yet…maybe ‘Deadlands’… and still hammering out details on what we would be looking for. Other than that, we might get a wild hair on other subject matter, we’re rather an impulsive lot here at Dead Guns Press so it’s hard telling what’s next.
S.W. Lauden’s debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, is available now from Rare Bird Books. The second Greg Salem novel, GRIZZLY SEASON, will be published in September 2016. His standalone novella, CROSSWISE, is available now for pre-order from Down & Out Books.