The Agent’s Merry Go Round – Part One

So….  here I am looking for an Agent again. I’ve got Princess of Asylum.  Bloodsucker has been submitted to a Tor Imprint. The Mermaid’s Tale’s rights have reverted back to me, and The Luck was contracted but never published. That’s four novels in play.

Might as well bite the bullet. What am I going to do? Write another novel? I’m actually working on two right now. Release another ebook? Four or five are done and in the pipeline.

So…. Agents?

It was, and still is, a catch 22. To get an Agent you needed a book deal with a publisher. To get a book deal you needed an Agent. Round and round we go on the merry go round, no way on.

How do you find one? Well, back in the day, when I was first trying to break through, there were publications. SF Chronicle and Locus for the speculative fiction genre, there was Writers Digest Magazine, there was an Annual Directory of Publishers and Agents. I had subscriptions, I bought the Directories. It was all like reading tea leaves, it was all inscrutable and frustrating. Names of Agents who had sold novels to publishers, but they were names in a vacuum, phrases connecting here to there in emptiness  Even the Directories were frustrating, the Agents write ups, or interviews in magazines being maddeningly frustrating.

“I want well written novels, with compelling characters and interesting plots.”

That seemed to be every one’s default. That really set them apart from all those other agents out there who wanted badly written novels with dull characters and boring plots. Gosh!

Oh and then there were the ones who really narrowed it down.

We look at fiction and nonfiction.

Gee whiz, that’s helpful. Seriously, that’s so goddammed helpful. Really, zeroes in, narrows it down.

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The Politics of Rage

I want to talk about the politics of rage.

Let me start with an Interesting factoid – they’ve done catscans of the brain in various states. To see what happens when people think, what parts of the brain light up. And what the sequence of the brains activities are in things like happiness, arousal, anger, sadness, etc.

Want to know something they found? The parts of the brain that light up for anger, are exactly the same ones as for happiness.

Anger is basically happiness-lite. It’s substitute happiness.

Anger is Faux-Happiness.

It’s the same kind of neurological high, except that it’s much easier to trigger, and less lasting.

It’s what they call a response rather than a state.

That explains why some people are so angry all the time, so easily angered. Because neurologically, their anger is fake happiness. They’re addicted.

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Bloodsucker – A Sneak Peek

“Melissa is a street kid who believes she’s a vampire.  As she cruises and feeds among the low lifes of a decaying city, she encounters hookers, drug dealers, homeless people, perverts, predators, musicians, artists and social workers, all of them just trying to get by.  Meanwhile, trio of young serial killers are cruising for fun. And elsewhere, a black lab has been exposed and secret investigators are on the trail.  Melissa tries to cope with her new nature by setting limits and moral standards, but as she progresses, she crosses line after line.  Eventually, her journey leads her back to the secret laboratory, and the revelation that she’s not a vampire, but something worse….”

BACKGROUND

Bloodsucker is my first novel, way way back.  Not much to say… I’d been writing short stories for years.  I had dozens of stories. The market for short stories was  crap, and I figured that I’d developed enough as a writer to try something more ambitious.  Simple as that.

Actually, there is more.  When I moved out to Winnipeg to go to law school, it was my first time in an even semi-large city. I was far from home, and on a very limited income, I didn’t know anyone out here. Eventually, I ended up living downtown in the Exchange district in the middle of what turned out to be the red light district, in an old low end building, owned by a divorced entrepreneur and his sons.

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Rethinking It: The Space Force Misfire

So, I just suffered through the Netflix series, Space Force. It’s an extremely awkward non-comedy starring Steve Carrell and John Malkovitch. John Malkovitch plays himself, in the role of a civilian scientist named Mallory. His job is to be really smart, principled and slightly sarcastic. Steve Carrell plays a socially awkward, repressed guy in over his head… basically, it’s every other role he’s ever played, this one is called General Naird (Nerd! Get it! Ha ha).

General Naird (Nerd! Get it! Ha Ha) is in charge of getting the President’s ‘Space Force’ up and running as a sixth branch of the US Armed forces. As General Naird (Nerd! Get it! Ha Ha), fifty years America went to the moon for human progress, now they want to go back to ‘put boots on the moon.’

If that doesn’t creep you the hell out, I don’t know what will. But yes, the notion that America has a manifest destiny to militarise a lifeless, airless rock far out in space and be ready to fight a war is presented with utter lack of affect or irony. I suspect that maybe there was some intent at irony, but they didn’t want to offend the ‘America F*** yeah!’ and ‘Hey, youse guys hate America!’ crowd, so they just leached all the subversiveness out and played it straight.

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The Fall of Atlantis and Other Stories

That’s obviously not Atlantis on the book cover.  If anything that’s Anti-Atlantis, with it’s central sea in there, surrounded by land and ringed by mountains.  That’s an almost complete inversion of Plato’s idea of an Island nation out in the Atlantic.

The picture is Greenland of course.  But not the Greenland we know, it’s Greenland without the ice.  This is a topographic radar map of Greenland’s elevations. It plays a little trick on us – blue is the colour designated for sea level elevation, so everything on the radar map that’s coloured in blue is at sea level elevation or lower.  The green parts are just above sea level.  The reddish brown represents mountain country.

It actually gives you a decent idea of what Greenland was like, or would have been like without all that ice.  Not a perfect idea, there’s a thing called ‘Isostatic Rebound.’ Basically, most of Greenland is under two miles of ice.  That two miles of ice is compressing the bedrock. Take it away, and Greenland will probably lift.  But I suspect that mostly, that lift won’t dramatically change what we see  I think it’s a fascinating map. It’s filled with possibility, potential. It’s so much better than most homegrown fantasy maps.

That’s the explanation for the Map that isn’t Atlantis, on a book titled Fall of Atlantis.

In a sense, like The Dawn of Cthulhu, this is a book about world building.  It’s speculative fiction of the plainest, barest kind, taking ideas like ‘What would Greenland be like without the Ice?’   Or ‘What’s a plausible pathway for the Romans to get to the New World?‘  And  just spinning them out and extrapolating.  No plot, no characters, but fiction all the same.

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Those Other Lives That Matter…

Some people get very tired of Black Lives Matter. Well, okay. For those folks: Here’s some white people who got murdered by the police.

Tony Timpa, schizophrenic, depressed, in August, 2016, called 911 for assistance, police arrived, begged for his life thirty times. Officers handcuffed him behind his back, tied his ankles, laid him face down, sat on him, died of asphyxiation, Officers then laughed and made jokes as he died. No officers charged. Police department fought like a tiger for three years to keep the body-cam record from becoming public.

Magdied Sanchez, deaf, developmentally disabled man, in September, 2017, in Oklahoma. Shot by police officers because he wouldn’t comply with demands… being deaf and all. Onlookers shouted out that he was deaf and couldn’t understand. Shot to death anyway. D.A. cleared the officers, saying that deafness was irrelevant. “You don’t need to hear to understand what these officers are saying to you.” Apparently, because deaf disabled people are psychic or something.

Earlier in Oklahoma, unarmed suicidal man shot to death by police. Charges were laid on that one.

David Shaver, murdered in a hotel hallway in Mesa, Arizona, while on vacation. There’s Youtube footage of his murder. Look it up. It’s skin crawling sadism. The guy is crying and begging for his life. The officer walked, left the force, got a nice big settlement, claimed PTSD and got disability. The killing was captured on camera, but as with other cases, the police fought like tigers to keep that footage from going public. In fact, and this is horrific, the police exacted a promise from Shaver’s wife that she would not speak publicly about what she witnessed on the footage… And then they played his sadistic murder for her. Really, look it up on Youtube if you dare. Watch it, and then think about the living hell they put Shaver’s wife through.

Read moreThose Other Lives That Matter…

Chapbook Odyssey

Anybody remember chapbooks? Also known as chapter books, or chapel books?

Well, before self publishing was a big thing, they were a thing. And therein lies a tale. One that, I’m sad to say, makes me feel a little old. But here goes.

Chapbooks were basically a collection regular eight and a half paper sheets, folded in the middle, with a cardstock cover, and stapled in the middle (saddle stapled). This resulted in a 5×8 publication, which was digest sized. Small press and zine publishers used the format, and before the advent of eBooks, computers, modern printers and POD, it was the route to self publishing. Some of them were quite nice with glossy covers and high end art. Some of them were works of art by themselves with handmaid paper, and hand sewn fabric stitching.

I first came across chapbooks at a local bookstore, McNally Robinson. Three collections of sci fi poetry and short stories by a local film maker, Perry Stratychuk. Back then I was doing a fanzine for a local sci fi club, and I was intrigued enough to interview him. He was a nice guy, he worked for the National Film Board, and he’d written, produced and directed a ‘no budget’ post apocalyptic sci fi epic called ‘Roc Saga.’

That was my introduction. Something off the beaten path, something cool. But not something I was interested in following. At that time I was writing short stories, lots of them, and sending them out steadily. Self publishing seemed like a dead end – I’d get a few copies in bookstores and…. so what?

Then shortly after, in September, 1994, the World Science Fiction Convention came to Winnipeg.

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Godzilla Battle Royale!

Ever hear of Jeff LeRoy? He’s one of my favourite film makers – auteur of Rat Scratch Fever, Werewolf in a Women’s Prison, Dracula in a Woman’s Prison, Creepies, Predator World and many more. And he’s actually a nice guy.

I first came across LeRoy when I was watching Creepies. It’s a sub-B movie about a giant spider. I say sub-B, it was obviously shot on a nothing budget, amateur actors, amateur effects, but for all the sub par trashiness, it was fun.

There’s a scene where the giant spider is tumbling down the Hollywood Hills past the sign. And I had this strange moment of dissonance. The spider was pretty tosh, pretty much a stuffed doll. The scale model of the Hollywood Hills was really good, realistic enough that it sold me, and for a second, I had the weird impression that someone was throwing a two hundred foot stuffed doll down the real Hollywood Hills for the shot. It was just a second’s flash. I’m not foolish.

But it brought home to me just how complicated movies are, how absolutely many moving parts there are to it, there are literally thousands of components, and you have to get every single one right. There’s so much to do, and it’s the stuff you miss out on that calls attention to itself. The audience can be very unforgiving.

But I was impressed by this one thing. The movie clearly wasn’t expensive, but it managed to do some things cleverly. So I found Jeff on Youtube, complimented him, and he sent me another couple of his films – including Werewolf in a Woman’s Prison, filled with gore, nudity, a near ludicrous plot, and an over the top sense of fun.

I loved it. And of course, in a movie filled with gratuitious gore and nudity, I listened to the Directors commentary, because that’s the kind of nerd I am. He said something that really hit me.

He said that what’s important about a film, whether it’s made for Five Thousand, or Five Hundred Million, is that it needs to make you want to keep watching every moment, it has to be interesting, it has to be entertaining.

If you’re looking at your watch, checking your texts, or just reciting the dialogue before the actor says it… it’s not a good film, even if it cost a billion dollars.

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