D.G. Valdron Books Carousel

Local Heroes: Casia and the Rose Princesses

I hate people like Casia Shreyer.  I started noticing her at conventions, this petite whirlwind of activity, organizing group tables for multiple authors, helping out people, keeping journals, going camping, raising children with her husband, running a household, yarn crafts, studying tae kwan do, and writing up a storm, blasting out twenty books so far (twenty!), all with inexhaustible energy, irrepressible good cheer. She’s one of these good people who can’t help trying to make the world better, and inadvertently making the rest of us look like lazy cynical gits in the process.

I’ll tell ya, lazy old monster that I am, my response to such cheerful brilliant souls is usually just to do something horrible, usually with a wood chipper, and bury the remains where it won’t annoy people.  But Casia, she’s probably reorganize the underworld, chug out another book series and bring pilates classes to hell.  We don’t really want pilates classes in hell, do we?.  So there’s no point, really. What can you do?

Casia’s Rose Garden is a five book series, a young adult adventure series for teen girls.  With allusions and similarities to everything from the Fisher King and Tibetan Buddhism, to Sailor Moon, they’re about young women growing as they struggle with a difficult and complex world and challenges of life that are not always cut and dried.  It’s an impressive body of work and I think it deserves to find a wider audience. 

Take it away, Casia….

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Covers are a Pain in the Ass

Covers are a giant pain in the ass. Seriously.

I love writing. It’s my sane place, it’s my compulsion. I’ll just happily write away, stories, novels, briefs, what have you. There’s nothing like a good piece of writing to soothe the soul.

But then I do this self publishing gig, and it’s not enough to write. You have to edit, revise, arrange, assemble, format. Most of this I can do myself, with varying degrees of skill, or lack thereof?

But covers? Oh geez. What do you do for that?

I’ve been told, and I have reason to believe that the best selling covers are images of shirtless young men with six packs.

Yeah, okay, sure. That’s pretty much every romance novel cover ever! So I guess it appeals to women, and gay men. And come to think of it, that’s every Tarzan, every Doc Savage, every superhero, and a hell of a lot of adventure stories. So women, gay men, teenage boys, etc. It’s got universal appeal.

Maybe that’s what I should be doing for covers?

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Local Heroes: R. J. Hore

I first noticed Ron (R.J.) Hore at a small local comic convention held at the Lord Gort Hotel.  This wasn’t one of those conventions which goes on forever, with thousands of people, hundreds of dealers, galleries of artists and cosplayers and celebrity guests.  This was just one of those piddly comic conventions, where it’s nostly actually comics – local stores, local toys, collectors looking to thin out their collections.

There in the middle of it all was Ron, a friendly, grandfatherly man holding court, at a table with a crystal ball, a saber tooth tiger skull, and a load of books, the Mousetrap Chronicles as I recall.  A local writer. I chatted politely, bought a book, made him sign it and went along with my day.  Hey, local guy, trying to sell his book.  You want to support that.  If we don’t support our local writers, who will?

Damn though, if I didn’t run across Ron at craft shows, and at Keycon, and the big ComicCon, at gaming cons, anime cons, local shows.  If there was an event selling tables, and sci fi and fantasy had half a chance, there’d be Ron, charming and gentlemanly, taking his ease and selling his books.  And he always seemed to have a new book out.  Ron was practically a fixture at these cons and shows, a welcome presence.  I’ve pretty much got all his books by now, but he just keeps writing them.

Whether he sold one book or dozens, he’s always retained his sunny disposition.  He’s a man who enjoys every part of the craft of writing. “I’m retired, so I have to do something,” he told me once.  “I told my wife that writing is cheaper than golf.”

So here’s R.J. Hore, in his own words…

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Standing at the Foot of a Mountain

I’m losing track of how many ebooks I have out.  I think ten.  Might be twelve.  Whatever the number, will probably be more before the year is out.

Anyway, recently, a facebook friend asked me if a paperback version of one of my ebooks was available.

I said no.

That lead into a discussion of why I hadn’t bothered.  Basically, at this point for me, it’s cost benefit analysis.  Something like half or two thirds the market is ebooks, up to 95% for some writers.  So how much time and effort do I want to put into doing a paperback version, when I could put that time and effort into something more useful to me… like doing another ebook, writing a novel or more short stories, looking for an agent, yadda yadda.

And to be really honest, doing a paperback seems like a lot of work for little practical return.  Suppose I do a paperback.  Online sales of the paperback are likely to be marginal.  Like I said, maybe 95% of online sales are ebooks, and 5% paperbacks.  Once the paperback is done, what do I do with it?  I’m not going to get distribution through Barnes & Noble or Chapters, sorry.  That just doesn’t happen.

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Rethinking: King Kong Meets Dracula

Image by SteveIrwinfan96, borrowed

First up, let me shout out to BigJack Films, a youthful youtuber who seems utterly fascinated by all things King Kong. He seems barely out of his teens, if at all, with a bad haircut and a reedy voice, which suggests that puberty was cruel. But he’s prolific as hell, and his videos ring with a level or research and genuine enthusiasm that can’t be faked.

And he’s got a lot of fascinating King Kong-iana. The skinny on abortive Kong projects, including the 1960’s Hammer films attempt which failed, but somehow resulted in Jim Danforth’s ‘King Kong’s Volkswagon commercial’, commentary on Universal Studios exhibitions, and surveys of giant apes generally.

He’s so comprehensive in his approach, that he even catalogues and reviews King Kong fan films.

Who even knew there was such a thing?

I’m interested in fan films, and I see them as relevant works in their own right. Fan films are seldom, if ever perfect, and quite often, many of them are flat out terrible. But every single one of them is made with love, and that counts for a lot. So I was very intrigued by his reviews.

Generally, King Kong fan films fall neatly into two categories.

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Death on a Lonely Road, the First

Between Winnipeg and The Pas, there is a long and lonely seven hundred kilometers.  There’s one stretch, over four hundred kilometers where there’s almost nothing. No off roads, no houses, no communities. There’s a gas station, a small community, Chemawin right in the middle, an intersection that leads to another community, Grand Rapids.  But apart from that, it’s just emptiness, a lonely rambling desolation.  Just the road winding on endlessly through the north, bordered by trees.  I’ve driven that road well over a hundred times, in all seasons, all sorts of weather, including through blizzards and storms.  A lot of people have wiped out on that road. Some have died.  Me?  Twice.  This was the first one. I wrote this shortly after it happened.

I am pleased to say that there was no lapse of concentration that lead to the vehicle going out of control. I wasn’t trying to kill a pesky bumblebee, or changing radio stations, or fiddling with the CD changer. I wasn’t singing a song or answering a cell phone or anything like that.

I had in fact, turned off the radio twenty minutes before in order to focus on the road, my seatbelt was on, my hands were on the wheel and I was staring over the hood. None of it helped.

The car fishtailed and slid forward, and in a split second, I had gone from driving a vehicle to riding a five thousand pound toboggan careening at ninety kilometers an hour to a steep sloping bank and the stands of trees beyond it. There was a very good chance I was going to die in the next five seconds.

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The Squad…

This was going to be about my third horror collection, What Devours Also Hungers. The others are Giant Monsters Sing Sad Songs, and There Are No Doors in Dark Places. They’re collections of old and new stories, and with each collection, I try to explore a different subtle flavour of horror.

Giant Monsters is melancholy horror, the sadness of monsters and victims, the absence of happy endings.

Doors in Dark Places dwells in fatalism, the relentlessness and inescapability of terror.

What Devours Also Hungers is about restlessness. It’s about evil that doesn’t stand still but reaches out. It’s hungry and aggressive, even relentless. It’s the evil of predators, expansive and robust.

Or maybe I’m pulling your leg.

What Devours is fifteen short stories.  When I write these blog posts to promote these things, I try talk about some of the more interesting or significant ones.  Where they came from, how they came about, why I wrote them. Sometimes it’s personal, sometime’s it’s a writing exercise, it’s about structural challenges and the writing journey. Sometimes it’s fun stuff, or some interesting bit about the story’s history.

If you’ve read the Doors in Dark Places blog post, I’m very personal there, and I talk about the personal energy, the personal darkness and fears, that can animate and drive stories.

But sometimes, hey, a story is just a story. You get an idea, spin it, and it runs off on it’s own. There’s no deep psychological root, no personal trauma. It’s just telling a good story.

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Review: Fear the Walking Dead, an Apocalyptic Rant

I’ll be honest, I haven’t watched Fear the Walking Dead for a couple of seasons now. I understand that just about all the original cast of characters are dead, and while I celebrate this fact, it’s not enough to make me watch the show.

I really hated it. The only thing that kept me watching the first few seasons was utter hatred. Every episode, it just kept getting more loathsome. Towards the end, I’d be sitting there as it played, my lips drawn into a rictus of grin, teeth grinding, muscles seized up, ever fibre of my being screaming at the television.

The problem with the show, is that it’s the worst celebration of White Privilege, I’ve ever seen.

Literally, this was a show that had Karen before Karens were a thing.

And here’s the thing, as far as I know, they were all completely unconscious of the suffocating racism and classism that permeated just about every single episode. Literally, how could you be that offensive, and that consistently offensive, by accident? Who the hell was writing this thing? Didn’t any of the actors ever come up and say “Hey, we’re practically the Swiss Family Klansmen, what’s up with that?”

Let me back up a little bit.

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The Last Time I Almost Got Shot

[What you are about to read is true. It happened.  One day, out of the blue, Cops broke into my home arrested me for trafficking and held me at gunpoint. Then it was over and they went away.  If any of you wonder, I will quite readily admit that given the statistics, there’s a chance that if I was native or black, or if I’d acted differently, I could have been dead.

Ignore the picture by the way. That’s an illustrative image I’ve taken off the internet. The persons depicted in it had nothing to do with what happened to me.]

There I was, sitting back, in my bathrobe, checking my email, breezing through web sites, watching some saturday morning cartoons and unwinding a little before going downstairs to work on the bathroom.

And I notice, looking out my picture window, a couple of men in dark uniforms jumping out and running up my drive way. I had a big picture window, but the curtains were gauze. It looked like they were police officers running up my driveway with weapons drawn. But I hadn’t called 911, there was no emergency. Maybe they were ambulance attendants rushing up, and heading to the wrong house.

My first thought is that my neighbors are having some sort of domestic crisis. Maybe a heart attack. Or some domestic dispute. Their driveway is right next to mine, so sometimes on a quick glance, it can be a little confusing as to which driveway. But no, it definitely looks like mine. They’re heading to me.

So I go over to the front door to open it and see what they want.

As I get there, they burst in, screaming “Freeze, get down on the floor! You’re under arrest for trafficking in cocaine!”

They’ve got a shotgun pointed at me. The other one has a pistol in a two handed grip. They’re both screaming. And their orders are contradictory. That’s my first thought. Do I freeze? Or do I get on the floor? If I freeze, will I be shot for getting on the floor? Or if I get to the floor, will they shoot me for not freezing.

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Review: James Batman, I’m not Kidding

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this: I’ve never seen E.T. I’ve picked it up of course. It’s a cultural touchstone, and the defining movie of the Spielberg era. I just figured Steven Spielberg didn’t need my eight bucks.

I think I might be a contrarian. Sometimes where everyone else Zigs, I Zag. It’s not a point of pride. I’m not out there in a black trenchcoat, pontificating about how much better I am than all the heathen masses. Sometimes I just don’t feel the need to follow the crowd.

And I find I’m interested in the hidden gems, the diamonds in the rough, the obscure beauties, flowers growing in the concrete. There’s a gentle sweetness to these discoveries, I want to share them, not crow over them.

Which brings me to one of the stranger things I’ve run across lately: James Batman, a full length black and white Batman movie, also starring James Bond, made in 1966, currently available on Youtube, in subtitles and everything.

Let me tell you, I was shocked at the existence of this movie, and I’ve watched the Mexican Batwoman, Turkish Star Wars and Turkish Star Trek, among many other cinematic oddities. But I’d, honest to god, never even heard of this. So I was thrilled to discover it, and to be able to watch it.

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