The Grindhouse Madman

I grew up working at a Drive-In, B-Movies are in my blood, cyborgs, ninjas, Charles Bronson flicks, gritty Italian giallos about unstoppable yet sleazy tough guys, careening through life like human car crashes, goofy monsters and the inept heroes floundering after them. My brother was a huge fan of Mack Bolan books, I used to collect them for him. So with that grindhouse sensibility, how could I not love the crazed stylings of I.D. Russell.  I first ran across him running a table at a local comic convention, and I quickly became a fan of his altar ego, the demented, unstoppable cop, Frank, from River City, a human engine of destruction, whether he’s facing off against Robot Mounties, Japanese Ninjas, Colombian Drug Lords or the entre at a Red Lobster. Firmly tongue in cheek, his work is full of inspired, hyperviolent lunacy. So check him out, it’s worth it…

I have a compulsion.

I need to be doing something creative.

I’ve made two feature films and have a dozen scripts that I’d like to produce next. I’ve written over thirty novels and published seven. I’ve got lots more story ideas swirling around in my head or illegibly written in point form on scraps of paper all over the house. I run two youtube channels: one a sock puppet movie review parody show and the other an outlet for whatever random short film or goofy sketch idea that crosses my mind.

But I also actively train in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and previously studied Hapkido (where I received a black belt). I’ve dabbled in boxing, tae kwon do, yoga, karate, judo, and aikido. I’ve competed in tournaments, done demonstrations at schools and folklorama and while I’v3 engaged in some pretty intense sparring in class, I’ve never been in a fight. (I’d like to keep it that way.)

So I’m busy. Real busy. The thing is, I can’t sit back on my laurels, (not that I have many in any scheme of things.) There’s always another project to work on, another corner to turn, another thing to try.

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Worldbuilding and other Workshops

Hey Everyone!  I’m doing workshops for the Manitoba Writer’s Guild
* World Building – May 15, 2021
* Creating Compelling Characters – June 19, 2021
* Copyright and the Basics of Publishing Contracts – July 17
The workshops will be held through Zoom.  Supporting materials and the workshop notes will be provided as pdfs through email.
To support the writing community, I’m donating my workshop fees back to the Manitoba Writers Guild.  Writing is a lonely craft, and it’s an uphill one for many of us. The Guild helps us connect with each other, it offers community, support, resources and programs.  If you’re a Writer in Manitoba, I’d happily recommend that you sign up for a membership with the Guild.  If outside of Manitoba, then I suggest you look up whatever exists for a local writers association or organization.
In the meantime, visit the Manitoba Writer’s Guild at their website.

https://www.mbwriter.mb.ca/new-virtual-workshops/

About the Workshops….

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2021 – Writing Projects, Big Plans

Never say die. So what have I got lined up for 2021?  Four, maybe six new Ebooks, a hardcore quest to find an Agent and break through with a Traditional publisher, more contest, awards submissions, workshops, panels, convention appearances, and a major effort at marketing and promotion.  So, let me tell you about what I’ve got in the pipeline:

Lexx Unauthorized: Series Four, Little Blue Marble – the final volume of the chronicles of the LEXX television series, the end of the series, the fall of Salter Street Films, and the decline of Canadian production in a new era of corporate profiteering. LEXX was a unique creation, a Canadian produced, written and starring Space Opera from Halifax, Nova Scotia by an upstart B-movie and regional television programming company. The show had amazing visuals and a sense of surrealism, as much influenced by Jodorowski and Barberella as by Star Trek and Star Wars. Back when the show was in production, I was invited by the creator, Paul Donovan, to write a book. I jumped on that, spending three years and thousands of dollars on the project, travelling across the country repeatedly interviewing everyone in sight. It was a labour of love. Ultimately the book deal fell through back then. Frustrated, I just wrote the book anyway, the way I wanted to… without any consideration of actual publication or publishers demands. Years later, after a flood, a marital breakdown, three major moves, two hard drive crashes, a career change I rediscovered the original manuscript on an unmarked floppy disk. I figured that the traditional publishing marketplace has zero interest in a book about an obscure cult TV series over a decade old. So I decided to upload it as a series of ebooks, one for each series. It’s a huge work – all four volumes together come close to 400,000 words. This is the end of the series, the final volume. I’m happy with it.

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2020 In Review – Writing Ups and Downs

This is a bit belated, sorry about that.  It’s been kicking around in my drafts file.

2020 has come and gone, and frankly, none of us are going to miss it.  Between the Coronaclypse and all its attendant melt downs, the American election fiasco and Trump’s appalling conduct, wildfires, floods, murder hornets and everything else, I’m just as happy to be done with the whole thing.

But I figured I’d take stock of how the writing career has gone.

On the Positive Side, Seven New Ebooks

  • Bear Cavalry, A True (Not!) History of the Icelandic Bears – alternate history novel told as a Morgan Spurlock documentary.
  • Lexx Unauthorized, Series 2 – The Light at the End of the Universe
  • The Fall of Atlantis – a quartet of alternate history/speculative novellettes
  • There Are No Doors in Dark Places, a collection of horror stories
  • Lexx Unauthorized, Series 3 – It’s Hot and it’s Cold
  • What Devours Always Hunger, a collection of horror stories.
  • The New Doctor a media based alternate history novel, uploaded to Wattpad.

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The Capitol Coup, the People Power Revolution that Failed

Still thinking about the attempted Coup on January 6, 2021, about the Nazification of the Republican/Right wing, and the consequences going forward.  It ain’t pretty.

One of the defenses that Nazis are raising is to deny it was a Coup attempt at all. This particular party line is that it was a simple riot. Hell, it wasn’t even a riot, it was just a demonstration, a ‘First Amendment Protest’ that got out of hand. Watch for that little descriptor by the way, that’s probably going to be pushed really hard on the right.

“First Amendment Protest” as if anyone in that crowd was thinking of the first amendment as they tried to overthrown Congress.

But the Nazis have the shadow of an argument?  Is it a real coup if it’s such a badly organized shit show?  Aren’t coup attempts supposed to involve the Army, or at least professionals rather than semi-literate cosplayers and fat guys in T-shirts? Look at them, they just wandered around tasering each other accidentally, pooping in hallways, and stealing letters from Nancy Pelosi’s desk! How do we call that a coup attempt.

Well, there are a few responses.

First, history is full of half baked coup attempts by incompetent ass clowns.  Incompetence has never been a defense to a crime.

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After the WFC, Reflections and Musings.

he World Fantasy Convention in Salt Lake City is over and done with, life returns to normal. Or as normal as we get these days.

I thought I’d share a few reflections.

First up, I found it really well organized. The web site was clear and easy to navigate, the portal or video conferencing system, was intuitive. I got the hang of it pretty quickly, and despite trepidation, navigated quite easily. I found what I wanted to find without difficulty, and the few times I struggled, the tech crew was understanding and helpful. Apparently they had technical glitches, as with the readings, but they coped, adapted and everything went smoothly.

Not everyone had my experience, a few of the more famous established writers seemed to struggle a little.

But personally, this was great. As far as I’m concerned, this could serve as a blueprint for online conventions.

Programming what I saw of it, was excellent. Programming started Wednesday and ran through Sunday. There was a mix of ‘professional development’ and ‘writing development’ panels. I especially appreciated the ones on finding an agent and on marketing. But all the panels were interesting and imaginative.

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Super 8 and the Mystery in Dracula’s Castle

I was watching Super 8 last night. That’s the J.J. Abrams tribute to the 80’s, and Steven Spielberg movies. It has that same sort of feel of Stranger Things. Likely because they both have the same inspirations, ET, the Goonies, kids adventures and Steven King novels.

One of the cool things about Super 8, is the movie within the movie. The kids are using Super 8 cameras to make their own little epic. The connection is tangential, their Super 8 project means that they’re in the right place at the right time to see the train wreck which marks the alien escape and the main plot.

Oddly, that reminded me of a movie I hadn’t seen in a long time. The Mystery in Dracula’s Castle. This is an oldy, it aired way back in 1973, as a two parter, on the Wonderful World of Disney. Later on in the 1980’s, the two parts were stapled together and it floated around on cable channels.

Basically, the story is that a small group of kids get inspired, and decide to make their own version of Dracula on mom’s trusty Super 8. This intersects with the “A” plot which involves a jewelry heist, when the kids decide that the lighthouse the gang is hanging out with their ill gotten jewels turns out to be the perfect location for their Dracula movie.

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Semi-Finals!

Word came in today, my novel, The Princess of Asylum, has breached the Quarter Finals, and has made it into the Semi-Finals!

That makes it one of the top five entries in the Sci Fi/Fantasy/Horror category!

Finalist will be the top entry in the category.

Grand Prize winner will be the best of all the categories.

I feel like I’m in Glen Garry Glen Ross, man oh man, one more win and those steak knives are almost in reach!

I’m officially a Quarter Finalist!

My unpublished novel, The Princess of Asylum, has officially made it into the Quarter Finals, for the Booklife Prize.  Yay!!!

https://booklife.com/prize/5/category/6

The BookLife Prize is an annual writing Contest  sponsored by BookLife and Publishers Weekly. The Prize seeks to support independent authors and discover great written works in nine categories across the two Sections. The categories in the Fiction Contest are: Romance/Erotica; Mystery/Thriller; Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror; General Fiction; and Middle-Grade & YA Fiction.

It’s a multi stage process.

Quarter Finals:   All novels submitted to the BookLife Prize will be initially judged by the professional book reviewers of Publishers Weekly. Each submission will receive an evaluation called a Critic’s Report. Each Critic’s Report consists of a brief written critical assessment of the novel, as well as a rating–on a one to 10 scale–of the book’s strengths and weaknesses in the following categories: Characterization, Plot, Prose/Style, Originality, and Overall Strength. The submissions with the 10 highest scores in each genre will move to the quarter-finals.  THAT’S WHERE I AM.

Semi Finals:  All submissions advancing to the quarter-finals will be critically assessed by the editorial staffs of Publishers Weekly and BookLife. Of the ten quarter-finalists in each category, five will be selected based on merit by PW and BookLife’s editors to advance to the semifinals in their categories. The semi-finalists will be announced on BookLife on October 22, 2020. TOMORROW

Finals:  All semi-finalist submissions will be critically assessed by a guest judge–professional book editor or bestselling/award-winning author–in each of the five categories. The guest judges will select one submission from each category to advance to the finals round. These five submissions will be the winners in each of their respective categories.  The finalists will be announced on November 15, 2020.

The Prize From the five finalists, the panel of guest judges will select one grand prize winner for the Fiction Contest with a grand cash prize of $5,000 going to the most outstanding finalist in each Contest.

So….  Today, I ride high.  Tomorrow, I may end up as just another nobody.  A has been, a second place contender.  But right now, I’m a quarter finalist, with a shot at advancing to the Semi-Finals, and perhaps further.

Who knows?  But it’s exciting, right?

Meanwhile, here’s the review, once again….

I might as well make hay while the sun shines.

Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 9.25 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: D.G. Valdron’s bold, funny, fast-moving fantasy The Princess of Asylum follows quick-witted actress Dae Zea Lors after the destruction of her city. Dae survives in the wasteland by improvising a series of increasingly outlandish lies and personae, convincing bandits and orgus and more that she’s, variably, a princess, or an expert in jewel magic, and eventually a priestess. The story’s scope is epic, with airships and military sieges galore, but its tone is light and its perspective intimate, always tied to Dae. Inevitably, the hero’s lies make her a leader, and she’s surprised to discover herself caring about people beyond herself. The novel opens as a picaresque, with Dae bumbling from encounter to encounter, but by the end, as the plot takes shape, readers will actually care for Dae’s world and companions. The sense of urgency that powers the novel’s final third, though, is sometimes missing in the book’s middle, especially in the occasional cases when the balance between comedy and fantasy storytelling proves uncertain.

Prose/Style: Valdron excels at both the narrative perspective of his protagonist, a savvy actress who finds being on a fantasy adventure something of a comic imposition, and at the demands of epic fantasy storytelling. His worldbuilding is memorable and unique but communicated to readers in Dae’s offhand observations; his descriptions of the fantastic or terrifying are quick and powerful. Much of the novel is driven by dialogue, as Dae improvises new selves and lies to stay alive; at times, the characters she’s hoodwinking, such are written as if they’re willing participants in a comedy routine, such as the tyrant who apologizes for scheduling conflicts with her upcoming execution. The novel’s pleasures and occasional problems rise from the same source: the tricky balance between the comedy of Dae’s improvisations and the threatening reality around her. For the most part, though, Valdron aces that balance.

Originality: It is rare for a fantasy novel to center on such an exciting new character and idea. Besides the strength of the premise and Dae’s general delightfulness, the world of The Princess of Asylum is itself original, wrought with care, and revealed in tantalizing glimpses.

Character Development: There’s no doubt about it: Dae is a character readers will love, and her wit and sensibility drive the book. She faces hard choices, makes surprising sacrifices, and movingly comes to care about more than her own life. At times, especially in the novel’s middle, the complaints and patter of Dae’s inner monologue cut against the narrative urgency, especially when she’s joking or crabbing about the book’s cast as if they’re all in a play together rather than continually facing their own deaths. At such moments, she seems not to have grown during her adventures, reverting to being a comic type rather than a fully-shaped protagonist. That makes the novel feel long, even as it’s entertaining: If she’s not taking the situations seriously, readers will be tempted to join her. The saps, villains, monsters, and occasional upstanding folks she encounter also prove memorable, driven by their own coherent but interesting motivations.

Blurb: A fast-talking actress makes her scrappy way across the wasteland, surviving by her wits — and shaping empires with her lies. Imagine a vivid high fantasy, full of beasts and sieges and cults, narrated with the wit of Anita Loos.

Date Submitted: August 14, 2020

 

Local Heroes: Daniel McMillan, Lost Temples and Deceptive Visions

The one and only time, so far, that I met Daniel McMillan was last year in Brandon.  I was giving a workshop on Copyright for the Brandon Public Library and he was one of the participants.  Even in that brief session, Daniel distinguished himself with his focused, relentless approach. He wasn’t just there to learn, he was there to write, and he was voraciously interested in everything about the craft.  Since then, I’ve been impressed by his dedication to his craft, and to his prodigious output.  Now, on the eve of Daniel’s latest novel, the exotic and intriguing  The Lost Temple of Phoketh, I’m happy to showcase him and his work…

I honestly don’t believe that not expressing one’s self creatively is even an option. Nor is it self-indulgent, and it is certainly not a luxury meant to be attempted by the creative elite. We all owe it to ourselves to unearth our passions and chase after them or, rather, allow them to come to us without being shoved away by irrational fears or feelings of ineptitude.

Writing, for me, has become like a disease for which there is no known cure. Not that I would want to be cured. I love my illness, and will never relinquish it to anyone under any circumstances. It has set a long-dormant part of me free.

I wasn’t always a writer, but at the same time, I was always a writer. I published my first book in 2017—a non-fiction book that I may someday dust off and polish, but until then will remain mine and mine alone. It doesn’t live up to my standards. Even though it would take some effort to make it into something that I would share now, the point is that I completed it and loved doing it. At the time, it didn’t matter if it was good or not. The goal was just to get it done.

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