Did the Covid thing

As nearly as I can tell, I contracted Covid on a flight back from The Pas at the end of April.  I’d spent a week up in The Pas, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t infected or infectious there, as I phoned around and checked with contacts.

Symptoms started in heavy on April 29. I won’t bore you with them. They were the usual. I went downhill fast. I was exhausted, but I could only sleep for short spells and only sitting up. If I laid down, I could feel my lungs filling with fluid. When I went to sleep, I’d startle awake within an hour, with the sensation I was drowning inside my own lungs.  That lasted a miserable week.

After that, symptoms abated rapidly, with a minor relapse. But at the end of two weeks, the home Covid test was clear.

It was over and done.  Except it wasn’t.  For the next two weeks, I struggled with the after effects – exhaustion and fatigue, even minor exertions left me worn out. I had trouble remembering, trouble focusing.  I would watch a sitcom and be unable to follow the plot. At one point, I almost set fire to my kitchen making dinner. Underneath the feeling of normality, I could tell I was off, I wasn’t safe to drive a car on the road.

It was odd, I felt normal, and with effort could even function or act relatively competently for a brief spell.  I was certainly free of the nightmare of the first two weeks.  But this normality was deceptive.  I think it’s called brain fog, but the truth was that I wasn’t functioning, or couldn’t function effectively. The simplest things, everything took so much longer, felt so much more difficult.  It’s insidious, it’s almost impossible to describe how disabling it was, particularly when I could force moments of clarity, and yet it was disabling.  Brain fog.

Instead, I drifted through the next two weeks like a ghost, trying to do the absolute minimum, trying for recovery.

So here I am, June 1. I’ve lost the entire month of May. It feels like a hazy blur. I did some work for clients, did some panels at Keycon, I had contact with friends, did basic maintenance. But it all feels so remote, barely remembered, half forgotten. Mostly, it’s exhaustion and incomprehension, waiting in a kind of limbo to swim slowly back to myself. I lost a month from my life, and I have this desperate sense of everything slipping through my fingers, I need to do things, I need to do so much, I need to live while I can… and instead, I just existed.

Hoping to get back to myself.  I think I’m getting better, clearer, more lucid. I think I’m getting clear of it. But this is deceptive. Sitting here, you can feel fine, it’s only when you try something you discover you’re still dragged down.  What I’m most worried about is Long Covid, that this haze I struggle with will last and last and be my new reality.

But here we are in June, a new month, a new chance. I want to live, not just exist.

My Forty K Challenge

A while back, a famous local artist came to me with a challenge. Write a story about one of their artworks. More than one actually.  Anything I wanted.

Actually, there’s a little more to it than that. They were doing a portfolio, fifty or sixty pieces of art, full of surreal images and scenes, glimpses into a strange otherworld, both Buck Rogers and profoundly abstract. Here were the rules of the game.

There would be four writers, working independently:

  1. Write stories about the artworks and the artworks only.
  2. No cheating, no going by artwork titles, or by the artists sequence, no asking the artist, no talking to each other, no inside knowledge, outside knowledge, nothing.
  3. No limits – write about as many or as few pieces of art as you wanted. Write as much or as little as you wanted, for each artwork and for the whole. Write anything you wanted. You could write a hundred words on a single drawing, or a hundred thousand words on all of them. Write it any way you wanted.
  4. In six months, send it in.

That sounded like a blast. It was definitely working without a net. Of course I said yes.

So here I am, a week ahead of schedule, and I’ve delivered – thirty stories and forty thousand words.

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2021 – My Writers Year in Review

Well, so much for 2021. I thought I’d step back and take stock, do a year in review in terms of my career as a writer, or as an attempted writer.

The Bottom line:

All titles collected, I sold almost a thousand books this year, and legitimately made more money as a writer than I’ve ever done in my life. I released three new books this year: LEXX Unauthorized, Little Blue Marble; Axis of Andes and New World War. I had two more books almost ready to go, but couldn’t quite get the right artwork for the cover. In terms of unpublished new work wrote another novel and several short stories. Published a story in Wild Hunt Press’s anthology, Duel of the Monsters. Altogether, I think I wrote about half a million words.

I was recognized and certified as an Artist for purposes of Canada Council and Manitoba Arts Council, which will allow me to apply for grants. I did three Workshops for the Manitoba Writers Guild and appeared on or presented panels for Keycon, When Words Collide and three panels for World Fantasy Convention Montreal, including a reading. Less successfully, I pitched a couple of novels to over fifty agents and a few publishers, no takers, but maybe a couple of nibbles.

All in all I think I can say I worked pretty hard at being a writer, all the while keeping the day job going. Is this bragging? I dunno. I remember something the late Lex Gigeroff said to me. “That’s a lot of work to put into such a mediocre career.”

I keep bashing my head against the wall, I’m not sure there’s a future in it. But I keep plugging away. You take your small victories when and where you can.

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When Words Collide: Writing Alternate Histories

Hi, just a quick note, I will be program participant, panelists, something at the Alberta Writers and Readers Festival, When Words Collide.

I’m doing Writing Alternate Histories, with Celeste Peters, R.J.M. Dawson and M.E. Powell, at 3:00 pm, on Friday, August  13, 2021.  This year the Festival is a free online event.

The Festival is huge running from Thursday, August 12 through to Sunday, August 15, 2021.  It’s an annual thing. Usually its held live in person, and it gets pretty booked up.  Having it online and free means it’s open to everyone.

This is amazing. 12 tracks of programming going on each hour. That’s 240 programming events, plus interactive stuff, pitch sessions, blue pencil sessions, workshops, you name it.  And it’s FREE.  So register and join.

WWC 2021 – Events/Festival_Program.php (whenwordscollide.org)

And in the future, if you’re a writer or reader that plans to find themselves in Calgary in August…  make plans to check it out.

And if you’re already attending, check out my panel!  As to Alternate History, I figure I’m qualified, between Axis of Andes, Bear Cavalry, Dawn of Cthulhu, The New Doctor and the Fall of Atlantis.

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Amazon Hot List

Hey everyone!  Axis of Andes made the list.  We’re on “Hot New Releases in Alternate History Science Fiction

https://www.amazon.com/gp/new-releases/books/16275

Yay!!!!

More seriously? Yeah, #55 on the second page. Big whoop. Also note the rather narrow subject matter – a subgenre of a subgenre of speculative fiction

I promise you, it’s not going to my head.

On the other hand, I’ve actually sold a few books, and I’ve got a really good review. And filling out the list are powerhouse writers like Charles Stross, William Deitz, Ken Follet, S.M. Stirling.  And most of the books on the list are from the big six majors, or the medium level second tier publishers. And the list goes to a hundred books and I’m nowhere near the bottom.  So, it’s not bad..

So in the big scheme of things, maybe it’s not much ado. But it’s something, and it’s kind of nice. So I’m happy.

This is what being a writer is – mostly, you get rejected, or simply ignored, your effort to make a mark goes unremarked. And every now and then, you get a few crumbs like that.  You learn to appreciate them. And maybe make them last.

Keycon Econ Report

Well, there it went.  The first and hopefully the last Online Keycon was held over the May long weekend. How was it? A bit wobbly here and there, but on the whole, it worked out just fine.

I think people don’t really realize how demanding a Convention is, and how much work and dedication goes into running it.  The people who work on and volunteer for these conventions are really a breed apart, they put a lot of time and energy into it. You have to acknowledge that.

This was a pretty unusual Keycon, due to the Coronaclypse.  Last year, Keycon cancelled entirely, hit full bore only two months into the Coronaclypse, and amid a provincial shutdown. There was no way it could go on.

As people adapted to the Coronaclypse, we saw the rise of online Cons, E-Cons including When Words Collide in July, and World Fantasy Convention in October.  Unfortunately, Keycon was too early into the pandemic to make that jump.  There just wasn’t enough time to revamp  and reformat the entire Con, and the list of precedents and innovations that allowed for E-Cons wasn’t there yet. Still, the Keycon organizers set about planning for the next convention in 2021, and they kept their eyes and ears open, learning the ins and outs of E-cons, just in case.

I think by March or April, they’d figured out that things weren’t going to be opening up, and they were able to switch gears and reformat their convention.  The revamped online Keycon E-con, or as I like to call it kEycon would be free to anyone who signed up, and considerable thought and effort went into adapting the normal activities of a convention – panels, hospitality rooms, social events, etc., into an online format.

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Worldbuilding Quilting and Characters, oh my

Just a quick update on the writing front.

Last Saturday, I did a World Building Workshop for the Manitoba Writers Guild.  Thousands of words of sample world building, tons of reference materials, books, youtube videos, TV-tropes, etc.  We got a half dozen attendees, and it went really well, a hard core, pedal to the metal introduction to an interesting area of writing.

This Weekend, I’m doing panels at Keycon.  This year, due to the Coronaclypse, Keycon is an online convention.  I’m not sure about my panels.  So far, I think I’m on, or going to be on….

  • Pantsing, Plotting and Quilting – different approaches to writing a novel. There’s a whole bunch of us – Chadwick Gunther, Ron Hore, Susan Forest, Reed Alexander, going an hour and a half from 5:30 to 7:00 on Saturday.
  • Creating Deep Characters – pretty self explanatory, I hope.  Me and Casia Schreyer so far, one hour,  11:00 to 12:00 on Sunday.
  • Worldbuilding – again, with Catherine Fitzimmons, I’m going to sneak onto that one. One hour, 7:00 to 8:00 on Sunday

By the way, go see Keycon’s Website at ….    http://www.keycon.org/38/#sched       They’d love to have you drop by. Membership is free!

One of the nice things about doing convention panels is the chance to meet and kick back with other writers, talk about writing and share the space.  Less pressure, more engagement.  And if you’ve got someone on a panel with you, that guarantees there will be at least one other person attending.  😉

Apart from that, following up on the book covers for Aliens and Elves and Axis of Andes.  I’ve submitted a raft of short stories to Analog, Asimov’s and Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine.

And I’m working on a query letter and synopsis for my next stab to searching for an Agent.  Last year, I sent out 30 queries for one book, and 10 for second. No joy in mudville.  This year, I’m going to try and break 100 and 50.

And geez, I need to sign up for When Words Collide, and maybe try and get on some panels. Get ready for the World Fantasy Convention in Montreal in August. Oh and there’s more workshops for the Manitoba Writers Guild.  Apart from that, I still have to work on learning marketing and promotions, there’s books to edit and release.

I dunno.  Shouldn’t being a writer involve actually writing something.  All this other stuff is starting to feel like work.  😉

LEXX – The Thrill of the New

LEXX Unauthorized, the final volume!  The amazing behind the scenes chronicle of the most brilliantly surreal sci fi series ever made.  Twenty years in the making.  Releasing next week! Be sure to get your copy and don’t forget to buy the previous books.

I remember the first time I saw I Worship His Shadow.

Forgive me, I’m trying to promote the final book, so that means talking about it and the other books. But I’m coming to the end of my run with LEXX, this thing that’s shadowed me for twenty years, and I think that makes me contemplative.

So… the first time I saw I Worship His Shadow.

It was amazing. We kind of forget that sometimes. We are so awash in stories, in film and television, books and games, there’s only so many ways to play something. After a while, we just get used to it, we get jaded, and there’s so much that becomes so predictable. Genuine surprise and wonder eventually gets dulled.

Ever have a moment where you’re watching a film or television show for the first time, and it’s so utterly formulaic, that you can literally shout out the lines before the actors do? Because even though this is the first time you’ve watched it, it is so dull, so much a part of things we’ve seen over and over, that there’s no surprise. Watching it for the first time, you can recite the actor’s dialogue and the story beats.

But what about those times when an actor says something, when the story does something that you didn’t see coming. When it’s honestly new and unexpected. Remember that thrill?

If any of you are writers or artists out there, then take this as a suggestion. Be unexpected, do the unexpected. The most interesting thing for people is not knowing what happens next. That’s what people watch for. Because if they know what’s next… why do they need to bother watching or reading? Maybe there are other reasons, but if there are, you damned well need to deliver something.

I Worship His Shadow? It was absolutely brilliant. Things happened that I wasn’t expecting or anticipating, everything was new. It was that ‘first time’ sense of wonder and excitement. I literally had no idea what was coming next, who was going to live, who was going to die, where the story was going to go, who was even important to the story, what anyone was going to say. I just had to keep watching to see what happens, I was watching without a net.

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LEXX – The Clone War, An old spec script

[FREE ONLINE] LEXX CLONE WARS aka MAXIMUM CLONEAGE – D.G. Valdron (denvaldron.com)

It’s odd.  I’m not really a fan by nature.  I liked Star Trek, enjoyed Star Wars, but I’ve never really gone overboard.  I’m mostly a take it or leave it kind of guy.  I go through life appreciating things, but I generally don’t obsess.

Well, maybe two exceptions.  LEXX and Doctor Who.  I step up for those. I like the Doctor because he’s good. I like the LEXX because they’re bizarre.  Of the two, I think it was LEXX I went overboard for.  Almost to the point of obsession.  I wrote the book – the LEXX Unauthorized series. Along the way, I wrote fanfics, submitted spec scripts, watched, wrote and researched obsessively, I even edited together my own versions of LEXX episodes.

I make no apologies, LEXX was endlessly fascinating and anarchic, behind the scenes and on screen. There was an energy, a creativity, a sheer imagination and bravado to the show that still amazes me decades later. It wasn’t perfect, there’s a weird stunted sexuality, they suffered from too much ambition and too little money, and sometimes it went off the rails. But it’s best, it was brilliant. And more than brilliant, it was subversive and surreal.

I’m glad to have had had the access and the contacts that allowed me to research and write, LEXX Unauthorized.

Honestly – this post is just shameless self promotion. I’m trying to get you to by the last book – hell, buy all of them.

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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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