By Janet Carden
Illustration “Lamp Post Mortem” by John Waltip
Bring on the cake and ice-cream! Crimson Streets is one year old! How the heck did that happen? Well let’s see (cue the flashback music) …It all started in a coffee shop in November of 2015. Yours Truly and her husband were sitting around with a friend talking about wanting to do something creative.
My husband (our Publisher) brought up the idea of publishing pulp/noir short stories. I was always a big Ellery Queen fan myself so I listened. Slowly an idea started taking shape. We would start this as an online magazine and publish one story a week. As we talked, we began discussing potential titles. While we came up with a few that were pretty good, we came up with more that just didn’t work. I can’t remember who actually suggested the title “Crimson Streets”, but it was an immediate hit.
Title being decided, we had to get the ball rolling. We needed writers! How do you find good writers these days? As it turns out, it seemingly takes two things. The first is that it really helps if you can pay something. The second, you get listed with a website that actively gets the word out about your web-zine’s presence. Almost immediately the stories started coming in! I have to admit here that I was a little overwhelmed at first. I don’t think either my husband or I expected the results that we got. By the first of February, we were ready to go “live”.
In between getting stories, we had to come up with a website to which we would publish the stories. My husband, Roger Carden (our Publisher), has contacts from a previous magazine publishing venture. He was able to reach out to one to design our first logo. After getting a logo design we were satisfied with we had to choose a web template. We knew it would have to be simple because as I tell potential contributors “this is a side gig”. The translation being that we don’t have a lot of time to devote to it.
Now call it serendipity, call it fate, call it “divine intervention” if you’d like. The very first story I read was titled “A Story a Week” (https://www.crimsonstreets.com/2016/01/31/a-story-a-week/). It was written by Trevor Boelter and it was the perfect “launch” story for us. The title alone was evocative of what we envisioned doing with Crimson Streets. The story itself was terrific and we owe Trevor a debt of gratitude for starting us off on such a strong footing. If you haven’t read it, go back to day one and check it out. See where it all began.
The stories began rolling in and they were good! I gotta say that I had a hard time choosing what to publish, and I still do. I’ve never been comfortable rejecting a story. I consider it a “necessary evil” at times. There are times when it is definitely necessary. When I get a story that depicts nonconsensual sex or graphic gore, I will reject it. As you may have gathered from that last statement, not all stories we get are right for us.
I read several stories each week. It’s my job to decide what works for Crimson Streets and what doesn’t. There are days that bring me a story that I am truly grateful to read, and there are days when I think to myself “I can’t unread what I’ve just read”. I guess that’s a downfall of being an editor. I have to say that we have been very fortunate to have tapped into some great literary talent over the year. I think it says good things about us that many of our authors have contributed more than one story. Not only that, but they tweet about us and post about us on their own websites or Facebook pages.
Somewhere early on, we decided that adding art/illustrations to go with the stories would take it to the next level. That posed the next big question which was…how to you go about getting artists? As Fortune would have it, we already knew a couple of talented illustrators. They were willing to work with us and turned out great stuff. Roger also asked them to network on our behalf. It turns out that the same site Crimson Streets got a listing on was a good place to catch artists’ eyes as well. And once again, it helps that we are able to pay something.
I guess now would be a good time to mention some of the personal issues that Roger and I had to contend with as we began this journey. The first major personal hurdle was that Roger’s mother had to have major cardiac surgery toward the latter part of February. Afterwards, she was in rehab for about two months. Roger had to spend a good deal of time helping facilitate her care and subsequent homecoming. Thankfully she’s doing well now.
While she was in rehab, we found out that my father’s girlfriend had lymphoma and would have to undergo chemo treatment. I was to be her support person through this difficult treatment process. My father would not have been physically able to take on the role as he was 84 years old. My father suffered a heart attack at the end of March. He passed away the day after his 85th birthday on April 12.
We still had to get his girlfriend through chemo even as we all grieved at his passing. If you’ve never had to go through chemo or have not been with someone going through it, consider yourself lucky. Fortunately, I am pleased to say that she is now in remission and doing well.
With all of these things going on, we were in “survival mode”. Crimson Streets was more or less put on the back burner. I kept reading stories and we could keep publishing to the website, but there were things we had wanted to do with Crimson Streets that we just didn’t have the time to delve into.
Over the course of the first year we have had some amazing stories. They’ve ranged from hardboiled PI and leggy dame stories, to pulp horror to pulp fantasy and supernatural and in-between. One of the most interesting stories that we’ve published wouldn’t really fit neatly in to any one pulp genre. It’s titled “The Black Boy Who Reached for the Stars” by Jerry Cunningham. It is undoubtedly one of the most endearing stories you will ever read. I highly recommend you check it out for yourself. This is a case where I had to think outside the box to accept it. Not because it’s not a great story, but because it’s not what anyone could really call “pulp”.
Over the year, we’ve had to define and redefine our work flow. We’ve had to reexamine what data is necessary to keep compiled on writers and artists and how that data is organized. I did mention that Roger is an I.T. guy, right? He was able to design a database platform that even I can use! I’ve also had to reexamine what I think constitutes a story as being worthy of publication. When we first got started, I almost couldn’t tolerate the thought of having to reject a story and in some instances really rationalize accepting a story, even if it didn’t suit our needs. I am proud to say that I’ve gotten better about that.
This first year has seen Crimson Streets get better and better. We’ve managed to snag art and illustrations from some very talented artists. The quality of stories we’re getting is only getting better. We managed to keep things moving even amid the personal issues we had to contend with over the year. I like to think that means we’ve got some staying power. We regularly get positive feedback from people. Many of our contributors have thanked us for providing Crimson Streets as a venue through which to get their pulp stories published. It’s rewarding to know that we’re helping writers by providing that opportunity.
So there you have it in a nutshell…the first year of Crimson Streets. It started with three people sitting around a coffee shop tossing around an idea and it’s turned into a publication that offers top-notch pulp stories weekly paired with amazing art and illustrations. We are read globally and contributed to globally. Speaking of that…I remember the first potential contributor I received a story from that wasn’t from the United States. He was from England. I was so excited! Little did I know that this was a sign of things to come. We’ve gotten story submissions from all over the world…places I literally have never even heard of! Ok, don’t laugh at my lack of geography knowledge.
What’s in store for Crimson Streets this next year? Well for starters, we’ll be attending our first convention as guests in late February. Our first convention, Mysticon will be held in Roanoke, VA. February 24-26, 2017. Check out their website http://mysticon-va.com/. If you can, make plans to attend. We’d love to meet any and all of our contributors and readers. We hope to attend other conventions later in the year. We’ll keep you posted when details become available.
We will of course continue publishing a story each week at www.crimsonstreets.com. We plan to offer our first printed anthology. We’re working on the details as I am composing this editorial. We also plan to launch a Kickstarter to raise funds to publish in print quarterly. Another thing we will also be doing is publishing some stories that will be serials. All of this is barring any unforeseen circumstances. We never know what the future truly holds. The only thing for certain is that it’s been one heck of a journey and we’re grateful to have made it thus far. Us being here today is in no small part to our amazing writers and artists. That’s even more true of our readers. If it weren’t for the readers who want to read good pulp stories, we wouldn’t have a reason to do what we do! So thanks to our readers, writers and artists! We look forward to another great year…and we’ll see you all on the Streets!
And now a word from our Publisher…
— ♦♦♦ —
When we posted the first story on Crimson Streets a year ago, we had a road map defined in our heads as to where we’d be right now. Unfortunately, things never seem to go exactly as planned, but through it all we’ve kept going. Now as we prepare to turn the next page, I would like to give my personal thanks to a few people.
To game designer and publisher, Brandon Blackmore of Kalos Comics (https://www.kaloscomics.com/) for brainstorming with us via Facebook that night in November 2015 when the idea for Crimson Streets was hatched. While Janet, myself, and our friend Shane Meeks sat in the coffee shop brainstorming, Brandon and I chatted online.
To illustrator Bradley K. McDevitt (http://www.bradleykmcdevitt.net/ ), who designed our first logo and has done a few pieces of art for us over the year.
To author and game designer, Steven S. Long (http://www.stevenslong.com/ ), for the series of articles on “Pulp Archetypes” and for introducing me to folks at illogicon last year.
To illustrator John Waltrip ( http://waltripcomics.yolasite.com/ ), who I’ve known for years through Anime fandom. John did the illustrations for Steven Long’s series of Pulp Archetypes.
To our many contributing artists, Cesar Valtierra (http://www.cesarvaltierra.com/ ) and L. A. Spooner ( http://www.carrionhouse.com/ ) who both joined us early and have been routine contributors. Jihane Mossalim, Joseph Valesquez, Toe Kee, Sheik, and Roger Betka (https://rogerbetka.com/ ), who joined us along the way.
To our many, many contributors who have written excellent stories which we have been honored to publish.
To H. Phillip Lovecraft (of “To Cast a Deadly Spell”) and Harry Dresden (of “The Dresden Files”) for showing us that hard-boiled and weird tales can be one and the same.
Looking forward, we have started work on our Crimson Streets anthology series. Volumes 1 and 4 are being worked on concurrently. Cesar Valtierra is doing some design work for issue 4, and I’ve started work on the layout of volume 1. It is my hope that Volume 1 will be available by June with subsequent volumes coming along quarterly after that.
This year we also plan to launch our Kickstarter campaign to finance year three. It is our hope that we can continue with the “no ads” business model, and continue to make all our stories free to read online.
Sunset for the Tattooed Lady is by Robert Lupton. When the tattooed lady of a traveling circus is found murdered, the cast of suspects is freakishly long and the motives are plenty. The circus ringmaster tries to steer the investigation through the murky waters of different types of circus folks. The murderer must be caught before the circus is shut down leaving all of the performers without jobs.
This is a great story based on the cozy mystery style of who-dunnits. We’ve paired it with a great illustration by L.A. Spooner. Be sure to catch it next week.