Heroic Tales: Outline

Well, last night I completed the draft copy of ‘Aces High’, and sent off for the print proof for me to have a look at. All being well, you can expect to see it available for sale in around three weeks from today. With that done, I can now focus on the next project, the ‘Heroic Tales’ series, and I thought I’d go into a little more detail in what I have planned, and what I conceive it to be. I’ll start by saying that the pricing and size of each book will be the same as Alamo - 70,000 words, give or take, probably a little more, going for $3.99/£2.99. I’m happy with the length, and it is a project I can comfortably complete in a month.

Traditionally, the old magazines that I am working to imitate would be collections of stories, usually novellas. A typical issue of such a magazine would have a ‘book-length story’, and it says an awful lot that in those days, that meant around 35,000 words - and some accompanying novellas, each up to 20,000 words. That seems like a reasonable model to follow, albeit with some adjustment, and my plan as it stands if for each issue to have one longer piece - at 30,000 words - and two shorter ones, at 20,000 words each. This is subject to change, of course; I might go up to four stories, depending on how it works out in practice.

I’ve picked ‘Heroic Tales’ as the tag name for the series, but I am at present far from certain that it will be what appears on the cover; I might simply use it as a series title, and give each novella collection a separate name. In any case, each will have such a name, simply to serve as a better identifier than ‘Issue One’. Whilst I’ve picked a tag that has a good general aspect to it, largely to preserve options for future issues, I already know that at least the first two will be focused on the era of the Crusades; my working titles for the issues are ‘Knights of Outremer’ and ‘Assassins of Outremer’. Future titles may continue the theme, or may head off into areas unknown. One of the benefits of this is that I can go wherever my interests take me, or continue my focus.

I will freely admit, I was sorely tempted to go with a title like ‘Oriental Adventures’. I have a sneaky fondness for the basic idea of Oriental Stories and its successor, Magic Carpet Magazine, and am strongly tempted just to focus on that basic concept. Its sole editor, Farnsworth Wright, said, “I especially want historical tales, tales of the Crusades, of Genghis Khan, of Tamurlane, of the wars between Islam and Hindooism (sic).” Throw in the Arabian Nights, the Normans in Sicily and the Byzantine Empire, and you have precisely the sort of publication that I would love to write for. Certainly there is no want of story possibilities in that line-up! (Hell, I’d almost be tempted to see who owned the ‘Oriental Stories’ copyright…)

The first step is to dive into the research. I’ve read on this topic before, of course, but I’ve also picked up quite a few new bits and pieces. The Penguin ‘Tales of the Marvellous’ is out in a few days, and that’s high on my list, but I’ve got around thirty, forty books to get through before the work can begin. Not counting going back to Robert E. Howard, Harold Lamb, and a few others as well, but I’d hardly call that work by any stretch of the imagination. Hell, none of this is going to be work!

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