Author Archives: Allied Authors

Book-themed bike rack memorializes Ramirez’s memoir

Photo provided by the Fond du Lac Public Library

A longtime member of the Allied Authors was recently honored with an engraving on an unconventional monument.

Thomas P. Ramirez is one of six Wisconsin writers whose name appears on a new bicycle rack outside of the Fond du Lac Public Library. He is featured for his memoir, That Wonderful Mexican Band, published in 2017.

The book-themed rack was introduced as part of recent improvements to the library. When two standard bike racks had to be removed to accommodate a driveway redesign, library staff elected to replace them with a unique option that celebrates Fond du Lac writers from across the years and from a variety of genres.

The following works are represented on the rack (with abbreviated titles to fit the space):

  • Foot of the Lake: An Early History of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin by Cindy Barden
  • Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly
  • Fond du Lac: A Gift of the Glacier by Michael Mentzer
  • Book cover of "That Wonderful Mexican Band"That Wonderful Mexican Band: A Memoir of The Great Depression by Thomas P. Ramirez
  • Extraordinary People: Understanding Savant Syndrome by Darold Treffert
  • Secrets of the Ledge: Pictorial Report of Archaeological Findings on the Niagara Escarpment in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin by Dwight Weiser

The inclusion of That Wonderful Band is appropriate not only because the memoir so vividly captures Fond du Lac during The Great Depression, but because Ramirez specifically cites the Fond du Lac Public Library as one of his favorite childhood destinations.

Ramirez, 92, is also the author of 150 paperbacks and dozens of published short stories—including three popular Phoenix Force novels in the 1980s—making him among the state’s most prolific authors. He joined the Allied Authors in 1955.

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The Branding of Sac Prairie

1939 Cinderella Stamps

Mr. Derleth did it differently. This month he had 20,000 stamps, the same size as a postage stamp, printed each with his own picture on it. Above the picture it says: SAC PRAIRIE SAGA … and below it, it says, with simple eloquence: AUGUST DERLETH. These stamps Mr. Derleth is affixing to letters which he sends out and he has given sheets of them to Sauk City merchants with the request that they affix them to whatever mail they happen to be sending out during the holidays. Just like the Tuberculosis seals, you know. (Betty Case, Capital Times, November 28, 1939)

More than a decade ago, I wrote the short article “The Branding of Arkham House” to explain the reason behind the never-duplicated cachet surrounding Wisconsin author August Derleth’s publishing venture Arkham House: Publisher, which has lasted longer than three quarters of a century and is present yet today.

Primarily a marketing concept, branding is the continuous process of imbuing a specific company’s products or services with unique meaning in the minds of customers and reviewers. Derleth did exactly that remarkably well with Arkham House, as any aficionado of the imprint knows already, for which even the least among the company’s published ephemerae are sought and collected, commanding high prices.

Without this understanding about the dynamics of branding, Derleth’s unexplained subtleties—he was a personality known more for his lack of this quality, especially as a younger man—have come across as self-aggrandizing or self-promoting, rather than his sincere effort to make indelible and desirable the things he believed and was willing to stand up for.

In Derleth’s view, his entire world was connected—his writing (fictional, historical, political, pastiche, verse, nonfictional, reviews), his publishing (Arkham House, Mycroft & Moran, Stanton & Lee), his literary venues (Scribner’s, Prairie Press, Candlelight Press), even his milieu (Sauk City-Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin River, Place of Hawks)—which he represented and which represented him.

Perhaps instinctually, Derleth made even the most common elements in his life a part of this effort. I’ve already described, for example, the mystique of the Christmas cards he sent to neighbors and correspondents early in his career:

A Derleth Christmas card

Derleth conducted his business on papers featuring the imprints of his publishing ventures, but he adorned letters written to friends and other associates with carefully selected illustrations, usually made from woodcuts fashioned by J. J. Lankes, Frank Utpatel, and other artists: “I wonder whether you could do for me a spring woodcut … an evening scene, new moon, with perhaps a plowman coming from his field or in the field—something   that is the essence of the country of past time, rather than the mechanized country of today” (Derleth to Lankes: 8 Oct. 1958). Here’s a different example:

Header

Utpatel

Derleth unfailingly represented the Wisconsin prairie landscape and lifestyle during the season in which he was writing, much to the amusement of his close epistolary friend H. P. Lovecraft—the now-famous writer of cosmic weird tales—whose personal thrift required that he use every inch of available space for written content only, despite having developed a microscopic script. Since then other Lovecraftian fans have guffawed at Derleth’s odd consistency in this regard.

The curious thing is how many of these letters are extant, perhaps a majority. They were treasured and saved, and today they are sought and collected. Indeed, there is an active market for all Derleth’s correspondence, with the letters having artistic headers trading for $50, $100, even more apiece—well above those without, despite having equivalent content.

Indeed, there was synergy that developed between all that was Derleth and everything that comprised Sauk City-Prairie du Sac. Together, August Derleth and his towns became greater and were something of a Wisconsin brand. Derleth strove hard to put both on the map.

Which brings me to Derleth’s infamous Cinderella stamp pictured above, about which Case concluded, “Anyway, other men have blasted their way to fame when other means failed, so why not August?”

Cinderellas are privately produced labels that are the standard size and shape of United States postage stamps. They range from Christmas and Easter Seals to exhibition labels, even the once ubiquitous S&H green stamps.

Cinderellas were common during the halcyon days of the U. S. Post Office. Book club stamps were not unusual. While many are common, those which were privately produced in limited numbers can be little-known and very rare.

Did Derleth purchase his Cinderella stamps? Perhaps they arrived as adjunct to his Guggenheim Fellowship of 1938, finalized sometime in 1939, awarded with the intent and purpose he should continue writing his Sac Prairie Saga.

Guggenheim envelope

Derleth’s Cinderella commemorates, unmistakably, his long-range “plan to tell the story of Sauk City and its twin village, Prairie du Sac, in a sequence of approximately fifty books, combining novels, novellas, short stories, poetry, journal extracts, and miscellaneous prose under the collective title of the Sac Prairie Saga” (Derleth).

Or perhaps he just felt the need to celebrate and so put to use a small amount of his Guggenheim funds, which he also used to stock his library and to bind newspaper comic strips. One description of the stamp reads:

The “stamp” is brown in color, printed on yellowish paper. The design is 24mm high by 18½mm wide. It is gummed, and to satisfy the curiosity of the philatelists among us, it is perforated 12½ . (“August Derleth Stamp”)

It is likely that other of the town residents who had grown up with Derleth, after they saw the stamp, responded much like Betty Case.

So much for mutually beneficial synergy…

I first became acquainted with the stamp many years later, as I searched for any Arkham ephemera. A fellow collector I knew well boasted he found a postcard with an unusual stamp and sent me a scan. The card read:

                        Dear Mr. ——–,

                        This note will acknowledge your payment for one
                        copy of H. P. Lovecraft’s THE OUTSIDER AND OTHERS,
                        which we will ship to you within a week or ten
                        days.

                        Sincerely,

                                                                                     August Derleth

And here’s what it physically looks like:

1939 (enhanced)

Card with top (recipient) cropped off

Featured on the left, without the slightest explanation, was the first Derleth Cinderella stamp I had ever seen—but not the last.

The second Cinderella appeared to me only in an online image (but does prove that at least one Wisconsin business had circulated the stamps Derleth provided, if only wryly on communication addressed to Derleth himself).

1939 Cinderella Stamp (Dec. 16)

Not until this year, 2018, did I finally discover a great example I could procure—the best I could hope for—for which I paid dearly, though eagerly and without buyer’s remorse. My “Outsider postcard” is not only in crisp, perfect condition, but it is addressed to the famous artist Hannes Bok (both to be subjects of a later post).

These “Outsider postcards” should raise questions among Arkham House collectors. Should this item be on the official list of Arkham’s publishing ephemera, which is heartily collected? It commemorates the first issue of the publisher’s most famous book. There were no more than 300 of these created, probably fewer (but not much fewer) based on pre-publication sales, all worded similarly but addressed individually and essentially meeting the same criteria as the pre-publication announcements in the Mays or Herron lists.

Don Herron will know…

On a more basic level, are they desirable? That is the litmus test, and here is how I know they are:

After years of never sighting, or seeing for sale, a Derleth Cinderella stamp, an individual stamp finally popped up for bidding on eBay in 2004. I put in a healthy bid but lost.

Another turned up in 2007. I placed a large bid this time but lost again.

August Derleth died in 1971. His daughter April, who had been living in Place of Hawks and managing the publishing business, passed in 2011. Not surprisingly, some interesting items became available, including what appeared to be a full sheet of the stamps that turned up for auction on eBay in 2010. Guns blazing, I was outbid nonetheless.

1939 Cinderella Stamps ()full sheet)

In 2012, a block of four still in one piece went up. (I wondered if the previous winner was now selling his loot in lots.)

Yup, I lost yet again!

No doubt at all that Derleth’s stamp is a desired collectible. If you think I’m crazy, put in your own bid the next time, should you have the opportunity.

John D. Haefele contributed this article.

Works Cited

“The August Derleth Stamp.” Unattributed. August Derleth Society Newsletter Vol. 10, no. 4 (1981)

Case, Betty. “Day by Day.” [Madison] Capital Times (November 28, 1939)

Derleth, August. “August Derleth.” Book of Catholic Authors. Walter Romig, 1960.

 


Haefele to contribute essays to recently revived publication

CoC 56From 1981 to 2001, Robert M. Price, a theologian, pulp-scholar and writer, edited many dozens of semi-pro, staple-bound periodicals—including Crypt of Cthulhu. Aficionados of the iconic Weird Tales magazine, especially its more famous authors, which includes H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, appreciated Crypt’s occasional fiction-themed issues but especially the nonfiction.

In late 2017, Price resurrected Crypt to appear irregularly, though probably not less than three or four times each year.

Allied Authors is pleased to report that Price has accepted two essays by John D. Haefele for publication. Both will shed new light regarding a Wisconsin author’s impact on the fantasy field in two important areas.

• “Serendipitous Canonization”—appearing in the next issue of Crypt of Cthulhu, No.110 (2018)—uncovers August Derleth’s role in the important transition of H. P. Lovecraft’s status from “genre” to “mainstream.”

• “First and Final Estimates: August Derleth Looks at Weird Tales Magazine”—to be included in Crypt of Cthulhu No. 112 (late 2018 or early 2019)—builds upon Haefele’s earlier discussion in August Derleth Redux: The Weird Tale 1930-1971 (H. Harksen Productions, 2009), emphasizing Derleth’s positive impact on the reputation of Weird Tales magazine.

ET 7Along with the aforementioned essays, Haefele’s short story “One Starry Night” will be published in Eldritch Tales—a periodical that originally ran during the 1970s and ’80s and which also was revived by Price.

“One Starry Night,” appearing next year in Eldritch Tales Vol. 2, No. 7, is a weird tale inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth. The short story is one in a series that also includes “Little Bastards” and “The Sculptures in the House,” both of which have been previously published.

Both Crypt of Cthulhu and Eldritch Tales are currently published by Necronomicon Press.


Allied Authors bound for WisCon

For the first time in the organization’s 80-plus years, the Allied Authors of Wisconsin will attend WisCon.

Among the world’s largest science fiction conventions with a feminist/social justice focus, WisCon features panels, academic programming, readings and parties. It will be held May 25 to 28 at the Concourse Hotel in Madison, Wis.

Learn more about WisCon.

In addition to enjoying all that the convention has to offer, members of Allied Authors will participate in a group reading as well as host a table in the Dealers Room.

Allied Authors Reading

AAW members will read excerpts from their published novels and works in progress from 4 to 5:15 p.m. Friday, May 25, at Michelangelo’s Coffee House, 114 State St.

Feature readers include:

  • Mark J. Engels, Always Gray in Winter (anthropomorphic/paranormal sci-fi thriller)
  • A.J. Lamont, Wedding Hell (horror/urban fantasy)
  • Maureen Mertens, The Kayak Connection (general fiction)
  • Christopher Whitmore, Saviour (post-apocalyptic fantasy)
  • David Michael Williams, If Souls Can Sleep (slipstream/hybrid fantasy)

Allied Authors Table

Stack of books written by members of the Allied Authors of Wisconsin

Photo by Mark J. Engels

WisCon attendees are encouraged to visit the Allied Authors table in the Dealers Room to learn more about the organization, meet members and peruse the published works of the Allied Authors. Some unique items from Arkham House — a Sauk City, Wis. publishing house specializing in weird fiction and founded in 1939 — will also be for sale on Saturday and Sunday.

 


4 announcements for Spring 2018

The first three months of 2018 has already given the Allied Authors of Wisconsin plenty to celebrate:

Whitmore welcomed into AAW ranks

AAW is thrilled to introduce its newest member, Christopher Whitmore.

A longtime fan of science fiction and fantasy in their many forms, the Fond du Lac native has been writing for most of his life. He recently released his debut novel, Saviour, available in paperback and for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Engels’ novel nominated for Ursa Major

bear logo for the Ursa Major AwardsMark J. Engels’ paranormal sci-fi thriller Always Gray in Winter has been included in the “Best Novel” category of the Ursa Major Awards, also called the Annual Anthropomorphic Literature and Arts Award.

In addition to the story itself—which features a modern-day remnant of an ancient clan of werecats torn apart by militaries trying to exploit their deadly talents—the cover art also has been nominated for an Ursa Major Award.

Voting is open to the public and continues through the end of March. Winners will be announced in early May.

Haefele’s weird tale will appear in upcoming magazine

John D. Haefele’s “One Starry Night” is scheduled to appear next year in Eldritch Tales Vol. 2, No. 7, published by Necronomicon Press. Noted scholar, editor and publisher Robert M. Price revived the periodical, which originally ran during the 1970s and ’80s.

“Starry Night” is a weird tale inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth. The short story is one in a series that also includes Haefele’s “Little Bastards” and “The Sculptures in the House,” both of which have been previously published.

Williams’ short story published in anthology

"Ghost Mode" cover featuring a brunette woman in a black tank top holding up a glowing white coin“Ghost Mode,” written by David Michael Williams, was among 40 short stories comprising the One Million Project Fantasy Anthology. Available in paperback and for Kindle, the collection raises funds to fight cancer, homelessness and social injustice.

Williams donated “Ghost Mode,” a sci-fi story that takes augmented reality to a chilling extreme, not only because of the synergy between the publication’s name and the name of his own publishing company (One Million Words), but also as a tribute to his father, who is battling multiple myeloma.


Williams kicks off strange new series

Genre-bender explores life, death, dreams

Cover of If Souls Can SleepAfter years of being haunted by the day his daughter drowned, Vincent Cruz faces a new nightmare—one that reaches into the real world and beyond the grave.

If Souls Can Sleep, a new novel by Fond du Lac fiction writer David Michael Williams, introduces a hidden world where gifted individuals possess the power to invade the dreams of others. Two rival factions have transformed the dreamscape into a war zone where all reality is relative and even the dead can’t rest in peace.

The 368-page paperback captures elements of science fiction, fantasy, suspense, and metafiction, covering such disparate topics as Norse mythology and neuroscience.

“After years of focusing exclusively on sword-and-sorcery fantasy, as both a writer and a reader, I made it my goal to write something very different. I wanted to create a book I had never read before, something very unusual and unique,” Williams said.

“It was time to take a risk,” he added.

While categorizing If Souls Can Sleep can be tricky, Williams sees the mashup of genres as a strength because the story has something for readers of many backgrounds. He describes the narrative as complex yet accessible, peculiar yet relatable.

“This book has no shortage of paradoxes. I tried to break the rules without ending up with a broken story,” Williams said. “Fortunately, early feedback suggests the experiment was successful.”

If Souls Can Sleep will be published through Williams’ indie publishing company, One Million Words, on Jan. 30. The book is currently available for preorder as a paperback at Amazon.com and as an e-book through the Kindle Store. Other e-book formats will follow at various online retailers starting in May 2018.

If Souls Can Sleep serves as the first book of The Soul Sleep Cycle. The sequel, If Sin Dwells Deep, is scheduled for a fall 2018 release, with a third installment, If Dreams Can Die, slated for spring 2019.

Williams is also the author of The Renegade Chronicles, a fantasy trilogy comprised of Rebels and Fools, Heroes and Liars, and Martyrs and Monsters. He joined the Allied Authors of Wisconsin in 2005.

His website, david-michael-williams.com, features a blog about his fiction and the craft of writing.


Engels will sell, sign books Nov. 11

On the heels of the release of Always Gray in Winter, Allied Author Mark Engels will make a Fond du Lac appearance to promote his debut novel.


According to the Chapter 52 Bookstore press release:

Local author Mark J. Engels will sell and sign copies of his paranormal sci-fi thriller, Always Gray in Winter, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, November 11, at Chapter 52 Bookstore, next door to the Fond du Lac Public Library at 52 Sheboygan St.

His book, the first in a series, tells the tale of family of werecats, who, in modern-day Midwestern United States, are standing up to violent persecution by genetically enhanced soldiers and battling their way through an ancient clan feud. It’s an example of the subgenre anthropomorphic fiction, where characters have uniquely human characteristics and qualities despite being nonhuman.

Engels grew up in Michigan and followed boyhood interests in trains and electronics into a career as an electrical engineer for railroads and rail transit agencies. His longtime interests in anime, manga and anthropomorphic fandoms grew into writing genre fiction. He lives in Fond du Lac with his wife and son.

Chapter 52 Bookstore sells used books, movies, music and magazines for all ages at deep discounts. For more information, call (920) 322-3957 or visit www.fdlpl.org/chapter52.

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