Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tyree Campbell - Con Man

A retired U.S. Army translator, Tyree taught at a business college for three years, did post-graduate work in Chinese studies, and all the while wrote and wrote and wrote and finally turned rejection slips into acceptances. Since 1 January 2000, when his first story was published, he's had some eighty short stories and two novels published, and about two dozen poems, including a third-place Rhysling. He writes primarily soft science fiction, some dark fantasy, and the occasional spooky horror. He's also the Managing Editor of Sam's Dot Publishing and invites you to take a look at what SDP has to offer.

Also, checkout Tyree's MySpace site.

If you're in the neighborhood, you can meet Tyree in the Dealers areas at these upcoming Cons:

May 18-20 DemiCon, Des Moines, Iowa
May 25-27 ConQuest Kansas City, Missouri
August 3-5 DiversiCon,Minneapolis, MN

Marva: Hello, Tyree. Welcome to Dasef Central. There are so many places to start with you, but I've decided to start with your role as Managing Editor of Sam's Dot Publishing. At the top are Conventions, since that makes my heading work. I know you go to many cons as a dealer. An unnamed source said "it was a bit like watching a used car salesman at work." Would you care comment on that?

Tyree: LOL. Yeh, it is a bit like selling used cars (and I know which unnamed source named J to thank for that comment). But…well, see, most conventions have several tables that sell books. New books, used books, small publishers, and so forth. Those who sell new books, by frex Robert Sawyer or Mercedes Lackey, don’t have to do anything. Those sellers can sit there in total confidence that customers will flock to them. Same with sellers of used books. Everyone is always looking for that one Vance or Wilhelm or Farmer that they missed. But small indie publishers cannot just sit there like rutabagas and expect people to come to them (yet I see so many small indies doing just that at conventions).

My approach is proactive. First, I’m almost always standing. People notice someone who is standing. That leads to eye contact. As soon as I have eye contact, I say something. Hello, or Reading material, or something to engage the potential customer. Don’t forget, my job is to relieve this person of some hard-earned money for publications they’ve hardly heard of. So…I also hand them a flier that tells about us…hand them, as opposed to expecting them to take a flier. This way, the physical act of handing it to them usually compels them to take the flier. I’ve established contact. Then I try to find out what they like to read. Sometimes they are specific: science fiction, or fantasy, or whatever. No matter what they respond, I almost always have something that fits their desires. And I go on from there.

If they say they like just about anything, I clasp my hands together, raise my eyes to the sky, and say, “They’re gonna buy one of each! Thank you, God!” This usually gets a laugh, eases the connection, and I can talk with them.

If they say they don’t know what they like, I have some off-beat publications I can introduce them to, like the Drabblers, or David Kopaska-Merkel’s tales of nursery rhyme crimes solved by an adult detective (Why did the dish abduct the spoon, and was there ransom involved? Who mutilated the three blind mice, and why?).

Like I said, proactive. And it seems to work.

Marva: The splash screen of SDP says: "Dedicated to the late James B. Baker…our editor, our mentor, but most of all our friend. We’ll love you forever, Jim." Tell us about ProMart and your relationship with Mr. Baker.

Tyree: Jim was the first to accept and publish one of my stories ("Thanksgiving Dinner," 1 January 2000, The Martian Wave. What a great way to start the millennium). Time went on and I had several other stories and poems published [and won most of the voting contests]. Jim wanted to go into print publications, and needed someone to develop a print magazine. I offered to develop one called "Aoife’s Kiss." So it got developed. Problem was, Jim had an ego, and I was stubborn. No, wait. I had an ego, and Jim was stubborn. No . .. well, you get the idea. So we butted heads on occasion. But toward the end, I called him, we talked…he really really was a wonderful person…and he was concerned about the fate of his publishing after he had moved on to the next phase. I told him I would take care of it. And WE all have done this…

Marva: Sam's Dot Publishing has a lot going on: several 'zines and lots of individual books and chapbooks. Where do you hope to go with Sam's Dot Publishing in the future?

Tyree: Oh, more of the same, really, but always improving. Our mission statement says we publish new and beginning writers. We will always do that. It’s what Jim wanted. That’s our roots. At the same time, I do hope to attract some "names." And we’re doing this. Five-time Hugo nominee Robert Reed [wrote the novel "Marrow," among others] will be in the June 2007 Aoife’s Kiss. Robert Sawyer has indicated he will send an original story when I ask for it. Mike McCarty, a Stoker nominee, has been published twice in HUNGUR Magazine (including the current issue). Jason Sizemore, who runs Apex Digest, was in the March 2007 Aoife’s Kiss. Mary Turzillo, who has graced many a page of Asimov’s, has a novella and a short story with us. Bud Webster, maybe Barry Malzberg…we’re getting some names in.

That helps our street cred.

But most of all, it’s important to keep in mind that in between the Charles Sheffields and the writers who haven’t quite reached their skill level there are hundreds…thousands…of writers and stories out there that may not be worthy of a professional rate but are nevertheless fine fine stories and poems, and are worthwhile to read. We live in a culture that emphasizes winning…and yes, the really top writers deserve all they can get. All I’m saying is that the next few tiers of writers have much to say that is worthy. And that’s where we publish.

Future publications? Well, this August we’re coming out with a biannual magazine called Sounds Of The Night…it’s a crossover magazine, sf/f/h, but primarily sensual science fiction. No, not erotica, certainly not porn…but we do want stories and poems that excite the senses.

And Cover Of Darkness, which we just released, has done so well already that we probably will do it again next year.

Marva: SDP has poetry magazines (Illumen, Scifaikuest) and poetry included in the other magazines, too. Why all this poetry in the midst of fantasy, horror, and science fiction?

Tyree: I like poetry.

Okay, that’s a facile response. Speculative poetry is…the exquisite expression of an idea. Science fiction (yes, and fantasy and horror) is a realm in which people deal with ideas. It’s interconnected. I think a writer has to have something of a poet, even if that something is just a vague understanding, in order to write lucidly and succinctly. Look at Terrie Relf’s poetry, just for an example. Her poems are waaaay out there. But she takes an unusual approach in her prose, her stories, and I think her poetry—more specifically her poetic vision—helps her to do that. Let’s face it, most storylines have been written and rewritten time and time again. I think it was Heinlein who said there was really only one story. Well, poetry—the poetic vision—helps you to see that "one" story from several different vantage points and battlefields.

Besides…I like poetry.

Marva: Your writing reminds me of Robert Heinlein and John Varley. Good guess? Or, just who would you like to be compared to?

Tyree: Oh, my, yes, I loved Varley’s character Cirocco Jones. She is the subconscious template for most of my female protagonists. Philosophically I’m pretty much a libertarian, which relates well to Heinlein, and I like Heinlein’s simplicity of style to express complex issues. But my favorite writer is Jack Vance. He creates worlds, and fills these worlds with all sorts of characters—heroes and villains and everything in between. I don’t know that I consciously emulate any of them…but certainly I have learned from them.

Compared to? Oh, hahaha. Instead of the second John Varley, I’d rather be the first Tyree Campbell. But I’ve quite a long ways to go, yet….

Marva: Your latest book, The Dog at the Foot of the Bed, was just re-released and Nyx, your first book is still available.. Give us a rundown on what's these books are about.
(Read the Ed Cox Review of The Dog at the Foot of the Bed)

Tyree: Hmm…the lineage of the two books intertwines, actually. "Dog" under another title was really the first novel I started. It underwent three complete rewrites. In I think the second revision, there was a character who underwent great hardships and rough terrain just to get a message to the protagonist. Then she disappears from the novel—she was just a very minor character, and what she did was not really needed in the story, so I excised her [that is so difficult to do, too, to terminate an unnecessary character]. Well…she was so interesting that I decided to write a novel about her. Thus Nyx. The style I used comes from…okay, back in the 60s and 70s there was a series of maybe 25 paperback books—assassin espionage things—by Donald Hamilton (who also wrote some kickin’ SF). These were the Matt Helm books. Yeh, Dean Martin played Matt Helm in some very insipid movies (The Wrecking Crew, The Silencers, etc.) that had—trust me on this—absolutely nothing to do with the books or even with Hamilton’s protagonist. Hamilton has a direct, cold-blooded style that I found useful to convey my character. Nyx is an assassin, some 500 years from now. She is utterly cold-blooded—think La Femme Nikita. And she is logical in her approach to self-defense.

Frex, at one point, Nyx is holding a weapon on a baddie. The baddie suggests that someone is sneaking up behind Nyx. Nyx reasons that she has only one possible response. See…if she turns around, the first baddie will get her. If she does not turn around, the second baddie will get her. So…she shoots the first baddie, then turns around to deal with the second one, knowing that she is now safe from the first baddie. This, of course, is hard on the baddies…which is just tough bananas.

Well…in this story, Nyx finds that in order to accomplish her mission, she must reacquire her long-lost femininity.

Oh, btw…at several conventions I’ve been approached and asked when the sequel to Nyx was coming out. I hadn’t planned on writing sequels to it…but yes, I’ve already started one, and might well have several before I’m done. Look for "Mystere" late this year or early next.

As for "Dog," it’s a science fiction who-dunnit. Some sixteen years before the main story takes place, the Shannen family was attacked and their farmhold destroyed. The children, including twins Ovin and Siobhan, escaped to a remote planet. Seeking revenge, Ovin became an assassin, and Siobhan became in effect a police officer. One of Siobhan’s assignments is to bring Ovin to justice. The other siblings: Kevan, Una, Deyrdra, want the family to be reunited, of course. So there is additional pressure and conflict for the twins to deal with.

Well…some catastrophic events (including the fact that now, sixteen years later, someone is trying to kill the Shannen children again!) occur that require Ovin and Siobhan to work together to resolve them. But I plotted it so that if they succeed in resolving those events, Ovin and Siobhan might forever be separated.

In essence, The Dog At The Foot Of The Bed is about a family torn apart by outside forces and by their responses to these forces. It’s difficult to write at length about Dog because I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises—and there are quite a few unexpected developments and twists and turns. But Dog is also a romance—a love story, and sometimes the sexuality will take some unconventional twists. Nobody ever actually says "I love you" in Dog…and when you read it from beginning to end, you will find that fact totally astonishing.

Marva: Tyree, what would you like my blogreaders to know about SDP that we haven't mentioned already?

Tyree: I think Robert Sawyer said it best, in his novel "Mindscan"—that quite often the difference between an award-winning novel and a little known but competently written novel is "the breaks." In other words, only a few pieces of writing receive awards. But there is a great body of sf/f/h literature out there that is just as readable and merits attention. I’d like to think that Sam’s Dot Publishing presents this "readable" literature in our various publications. So sure, go ahead and read Sawyer and Farmer and Heinlein. But keep in mind that we have some fine stories and poems and illustrations that will thrill you, too. We’re worth it.

Marva: Thanks, Tyree.

In the interests of full disclosure, Sam's Dot Publishing is my publisher for the Cadida series and I've also had a couple of stories published in The Fifth Di..., another SDP magazine.


  1. The used car salesman comment was meant in the best possible way. :-)

  2. Hey! I'm testing the Anonymous posting option.

    J, I'm pretty sure Tyree took the comment in the spirit in which it was given.


  3. Marva, you can't post anonymously and still give your name, so I guess you flunked the test.

    I've seen Tyree in action and he's doing one heck of a lot for small press writers.

  4. Well, I was at ConEstoga in Tulsa this summer and witnessed firsthand Tyree's "used car salesman" approach and it worked. I was there with one of the Celtic bands performing but I'm an avid reader so after a show, I can't wait to get to the dealer's room.

    Frankly, I came up to his table in the first place *because* he was standing up and engaging people eye-to-eye. The ones who are sitting down and obviously bored, I really don't want to deal with. I LIKE talking with people about books; hell, I might learn something!

    I'll admit that I truly hadn't intended to buy a book from him but I ended up bying two (read; Tyree talked me into buying) and was somewhat surprised that I had done so. One of them was, "Dog at the Foot of the Bed" and I have just now finished it.

    Wow. Very wow. It was hard to comprehend at the start, getting the characters sorted out but I'm stubborn. I actually stopped and re-read the first four chapters as I'm guilty of skimming; this one, I couldn't. I had to pay attention to every detail.

    I've finished it now and intend to take it on my trip this week to read again; I want to engage those characters again and then I have to go and find "Nyx."

    Tyree, you've got a new and genuine fan here.

    Thanks for "making" me buy your book. I have a couple dear friends who could use a good publisher like you.

    Susi Matthews Cannon