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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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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There Are No Doors in Dark Places

I’m going to talk about my collection of short stories: There Are No Doors in Dark Places.  It’s part of my trilogy of horror along with Giant Monsters Sing Sad Songs, and What Devours Always Hungers.

Honestly, I’m not sure what I’m doing with this blog. Seriously, angry rants about Covid-19 and black lives matter, or biographical sketches, philosophical questions, thinking out loud as to what I’d do with Doctor Who or Robin, or really obscure reviews, it’s whatever seems to occur to me at the moment.

I’m sure that there are other writers out there with blogs that are just laser focused on the exigencies of writing, or the cutting edges of techno-pop culture, or whatever the hell. There’s blogs full of deep insightful book reviews, sophisticated discussions of the going’s on of the book industry, or a niche about comics.

Me? Who the hell knows?

I just write about… Whatever.

I’m I don’t really have much of anyone reading this stuff. That’s kind of liberating. I write, compulsively. If it was a successful blog, readership and everything, regular followers, I would probably need to be more focused, more narrow.  I’d have to get my shit together. But here, I just write whatever.

Some people talk or think in terms of their writing careers.

For me, writing is not so much a career, but more a personality disorder.

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Lovecraft’s World

Back when The Mermaid’s Tale came out, I was attending a Sci Fi Convention called CanCon in Ottawa, Ontario.

Interesting story there. One day, I get an email from Lorina, my publisher, asking about the book launch for The Mermaid’s Tale. I replied back, that it sounded like a terrific idea, I was all for it. Then I learned there was actually a book launch scheduled at a convention called When World’s Collide in Alberta. Terrific! But then I found that When World’s Collide was sold out, both the convention and the hotels. I missed my own book launch. Kind of ironic, or something.

So I thought what the hell, and went to CanCon. It was nice. The problem for me is that I don’t attend these things regularly enough to be able to take full advantage of them.

If I have any advice for young writers, it’s this: Go to conventions regularly. You don’t have to go to all of them, but pick a few, and go a few years in succession. The first time at a particular convention you’re just getting the lay of the land. I think it’s the second or third time, maybe even fourth, that you can actually take advantage of the potential opportunities. Hell, if you go there three or four years in a row, then you may just keep on for the hell of it.

The first year, it’s up and down. You go to panels, you sign up for things, you say hello to random strangers. It’s all hit and miss

So anyway, at CanCon, I attended an absolutely terrible panel on Lovecraft and Racism.

How terrible was it?

Let me put it this way: One of the panellists, in the minutes before the panel actually started, had to google Lovecraft on her phone. Well, that’s a good sign. That’s preparation.

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The Agents Merry Go Round – Part Two

So here I am searching for an Agent.

I confess, I feel almost as if I’ve passed through a time warp. The era in which I started trying hard to be a Writer, and the era I find myself in now, seem so different. Yet I don’t feel different. My writing doesn’t feel different. I went on this journey, restarting my life again and again, the time filled up, and yet, returning to this passion of mine, picking up the pen it feels as if no time has passed, but suddenly the world is different.

So what about this new world of smart phones and an amazingly comprehensive internet and online commerce? What does it mean to me as a Writer?

In one sense, it’s been disastrous for Free Lance writers. You hear that a lot from free lancers and former free lancers. The markets have dried up, magazines and newspapers are a dying industry, the world is awash in free content, or low price content. It’s harder than ever for most creatives to make a living at it, or even a successful hobby.

But then again, in the fiction trade, it was hardly ever easy. There were times perhaps when things were more open, where there were paying markets for fiction, where publishers were looking desperately for product to stock the shelves and fill the catalogue. Or where people in just the right places and time could get lucky. Unfortunately, I was never in those times or places.

So be it.

I’ve read that there are more novels around now than ever before, more readers, more books than ever before, the world is awash in print, either manual or electronic. Okay, maybe. Sure. I’m not sure I’m seeing it. I remember when I came to Winnipeg, I counted twenty bookstores, new and used in a half hour walk. Today, I count one new bookstore and maybe a half dozen used. Of course there are the big box book superstores in the suburbs and the ebook market, so apples and oranges.

But if there are more books out than ever, then my god, there are more Writers out there than you’ve ever seen. I’ve read someplace that there are a million scripts floating around Hollywood at any given time. I don’t know whether that’s true. But I wouldn’t be surprised. Every publisher, every editor, every agent has a gigantic slush pile. Looking through some of the literature on Agents, it’s like they get literally hundreds of inquiries a day coming in through mail and email from prospective writers. The numbers out there are insane.

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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. Seriously, time to suck it up, and go for it.

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.

Back then, when research involved buying directories, combing through trade publications, searching for interviews and references, it was maddeningly vague.

You know what some writers did?  They’d go through books checking the dedications and the acknowledgements, hoping to find the name of the writer’s agent.

“Special thanks to my Agent, Anonymous Blandy, without whose help this novel would never have seen publication.”

The theory being that if these were books that you really liked, which were written similarly to yours, then you could guess this agent might like your stuff.  But what were you going to do, irritate the staff at Bookstores as you worked your way with pen and notepad through the Sci Fi section. Grab your own table at the library and stack em up? Or just go through your personal library? How many books did you read in a year? Twenty? Fifty?  Or search through review for books you thought might be enough like your style and subject matter, then search out the books themselves, check if they’re complementary, then search out the author, and hopefully, get a lead on the author’s agent.  Sometimes, the search for an Agent was this Rube Goldberg Odyssey.

Read moreThe Agent’s Merry Go Round – Part One

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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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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Death and the Writer

It was my grandfather’s death that made me commit to being a writer.

I always wanted to be a writer. That didn’t mean I was all that regular about it.

Let’s see. There was Batman adventures on the blackboard when I was young. I had my two stories published in the local paper when I was thirteen.

I wrote a couple of short stories in high school. One about aliens coming into the Solar System, discovering that it was already occupied, and not having enough resources to leave. So they were basically parked out in the asteroid belt with no place to go, waiting for us to eventually find them, and not looking forward to it. There was another story about a society of sentient elephants who had banded together to try and escape a failing environment, only to discover that they were living in a giant experiment.

There were a lot of stories in my head, planned, sometimes outlined, sometimes started. Sometimes just rolling around in my head. I spent a lot of time in my head. I’d make up stories, when I was picking up garbage at the drive in theatre prior to showtime, or pumping gas or sweeping floors at the garage.

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