Home Invasion Blues

I had an interesting experience yesterday. A friend of mine called, her neighbor and reported her brother in her yard and she was afraid to go home.

Her brother is kind of rough. Basically, drug addict, indigent. He’d been married, had a job, a kid. Lost it all. Beat and gaslit his wife, abused his family, he found something he liked better and his life spiraled down.

My friend, his sister had tried to help him, had tried to maintain a relationship with him. But as he went on, he got more and more unstable and potentially violent. The last time he showed up at her place, he told a story of ripping off his drug dealer’s cash, and in turn his drug dealer beating him up and stealing his phone and ID, and she’d spent half the night driving him around. It wasn’t getting better.

So, I judged she was right to be worried. I told her to pick me up when she came in from work, and I’d go with her to her house.

I figured that even as potentially violent and unbalanced as he was, having a full-grown male there, even one as inoffensive and docile as me would deter any potential violence and keep things even. And if there was violence, I’d probably handle it directed at me better than she would.

I suspected that I was going to be stuck in a great deal of someone else’s drama. That wasn’t really appealing. But you look out for the people you care about.

So, she picked me up, off we went to her house.

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Ron vs the Zombie Publisher!

ADVENTURES WITH RON, Part One

So, I have this friend, Ron. R.J. Hore. He’s a nice guy, retired banker, genial fellow. I would see him at Collectables Conventions and Antique Fairs, Farmers Markets, Fleas. He’d always have a table selling his books, often sharing the table with another writer. He had a replica Saber Tooth Tiger skull at his table, that was cool.

Anyway, whenever I saw him, I’d buy one of his books. That’s a thing I do. I buy books by local writers. Small press, self published, whatever. I’m a writer, they’re writers. I want to support my brethren.

The bottom line, I got to know Ron.

Honestly, he’s a pretty good writer, and mostly, I admire his gumption. I don’t think I’ve got the fortitude to sit at tables at these little conventions, hawking my books, watching thousands of people walk by refusing to make eye contact. I’m not really a people person. But I like people who are.

He’s a small press guy, his books are mostly published by Champagne Book Group with editors and everything.

He met the Champagne people when they had a dealers table at a local convention called Keycon, showed them his stuff, and they liked it. The rest is history.

Anyway, one day we were talking, and he had a problem.

It seems that he had a second publisher, eTreasures. They’d published four books for him – We’re Not in Kansas, a stand alone, and a trilogy – Toltec Dawn, Toltec Khan and Toltec Noon.

But he’d lost touch with them. Not replying to correspondence, there were no royalties, no reports, nothing. He was feeling kind of abandoned.

I’m thinking ripped off.

But you know how it is, I have certain skills for solving certain kinds of problems, so I agreed to look into it.

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Hey, I’m back! And I’ve been busy!

Wow. I hadn’t realized I hadn’t posted here in quite some time. It’s been nine months since my last update.  I’ve actually been writing a lot. But it either goes into my hard drive, or it’s posted on Facebook or Medium. I suppose I’ve let the Blog sit a bit.

Partially, it was a sense that I didn’t have much coming out to talk about. I try and get a few books out each year, and use the website and blog to promote them. But that kind of tailed off it felt.  And, to be completely truthful, I don’t think I’ve got much of a readership on this thing. Or any readership at all. Not even when I was posting extremely regularly in prior years. I think that the Internet has evolved, often and perhaps mostly, in toxic directions, and Blogs like this have largely been left behind. There was a time when a good steady Blogger could build up a real following. I don’t think that’s the case now. Certainly, what I was finding was that there were no comments, my comments pages were just drowning in in spam-bots.

So technically, I guess, this is just kind of an accessible memoir. The real shot at building an audience is on social media, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, social media and discussion forums like Medium, Quora, Reddit, Substack. Most of which I’m hopeless at… but I’m devoted to at least giving it a try. So I’ve written a lot there, to no success whatsoever. But I do get a dozen or so people occasionally reading a facebook post.

Partially, I’ve just being busy with other things, as I’ll be noting.  Let me offer a loose chronological update.

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2022 – Writing Year in Review

Well, here’s the roundup for another year of smashing my head against the wall. So how’s the writing career.  At the very least, I can say that I worked hard. Perhaps not every target was hit, or every possible mission was pursued, but I put the hours in.

Opened up with a project, Twilight of Echelon, for At Bay Press, a collaborative effort with Robert Pasternak, an artist, and three other writers. My part of it was about thirty-five, inter-related short stories and about 40,000 words. I’m not sure what the other writers have been up to. It’s still in the editing phase, and I think the release date is October, 2023. The money is zilch, but At Bay Press is a pretty reputable publisher, I’ve always wanted to work with Pasternak and other writers. So… one of those things you do.

I finally went back and re-did my old Doctor Who books. Basically, they’re explorations of Doctor Who fan films, reviews of the history of the genre, the very best examples, along with explorations of fandom, changing culture, technology and buried parts of the show’s history. Possibly a stupid topic, but it was what got me into self publishing in the first place. For years, I’ve been quietly researching and updating as new films were created, lost films were rediscovered, as the show and technology continued to evolve. It was time to sit down, do some serious revisions, updating, fix up old problems, cover new ground. The duology became a trilogy, and I think I wrote perhaps 100,000 new words give or take.

No novels this year. I did knock off a few short stories here and there. Total probably comes to about 30,000 words. I slipped some into new short story collections. Maybe reserving one for an upcoming collection. One thing that was significant was that I started sending stories out to markets again. Collected rejections, but did get a personal rejection from Analogue. At least I think it was personal, maybe they just have an upper tier of form rejections. Not sending out to many magazines though. Frankly, I’m not really interested in floundering around with the middle and bottom level markets and fringe anthologies. I don’t really give a damn about that. I suppose there’s some ‘validation’ from getting published in some mid-tier anthology or small press market. But I already know I’m a good writer, there’s no one I care about impressing. Does that sound like a swelled head? Trust me, I can show you my sales records, that’s a good reason for humility.

Finally, I had a completely non-commercial project – an alternate history chronicle of the Peter Cushing Doctor Who movies. My idea was to extend the franchise from two movies, to a handful lasting into the seventies. It was fun to do deep research, and to tell stories and sub-stories about the vagaries of B-movie films and opportunistic film making, to explore how stories evolve and shape themselves for different mediums and audiences. I think that ran 80,000 words, totally non-commercial, but entirely therapeutic. I suppose it was a waste of time, it didn’t advance my writing career one bit. Nobody read it. It was completely non-commercial. But you know what? I don’t’ care. I’m always chasing the brass ring, and it’s always out of reach. Sometimes, it’s you just have to do something that makes you happy. And I really needed to do something that made me happy.

No novel projects this year. But it adds up, that’s somewhere around 250,000 words ballpark. Somewhere between 220,000 and 280,000. I think that’s a pretty reasonable rate of work, and even if a big chunk wasn’t conventionally useful, I don’t think any writing is ever truly wasted. You learn by doing, you get better by doing.

Overall – I released five of my own books this year:

A Pirate’s History of Doctor Who
Another Pirate’s History of Doctor Who
The Last Pirate’s History of Doctor Who
Drunk Slutty Elf and Other Stories
Drunk Slutty Elf and Zombies

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WORLD FANTASY NEW ORLEANS, REVIEW AND RUMINATION

Well, World Fantasy Convention 2022 in New Orleans is over, and as usual, it is followed by my ongoing existential crisis.

Overall, the big positive of the experience was that it was New Orleans. Storied, marvellous New Orleans, capital of French North America, traded back and forth between the Spanish, French, British and the Americans, birthplace of Jazz and blues, center of Cajun and creole culture, gateway to the Mississippi and entrance to the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, the ultimate crossroads, alluring, magical, historical, every bit of it steeped in romance. There are other remarkable cities in North America, but there’s none quite like New Orleans.

I’ve wanted to see it my whole life. I remember being heartbroken by Hurricane Katrina, horrified by the devastation, but heartbroken by the idea that something unique and marvellous might be destroyed forever, that I’d never get to see it.

My brother, in a moment of insight, tells me I’m A to B. That my trajectory is a straight line, I am purpose driven as an arrow, launching relentlessly towards a target. I am object oriented. I couldn’t just go to New Orleans. I needed a purpose.

And the World Fantasy Convention gave that to me – a reason to be there.

I took advantage of it, arriving several days early to play tourist and go sightseeing, delighting in buying overpriced merch, because this was New Orleans tourist junk. I took the tourist tours on double decker buses and ghost walks, spent Halloween night on Bourbon Street, rode the streetcars to the ends of their line, took a ferry. I wandered all over the French Quarter, Algiers Point, the Waterfront and Riverwalk, Garden District, Business district, visited the Graveyards. Ate in restaurants. Made and hung out with friends. There was music and musicians everywhere, on streets, in restaurants, everyone playing. I love the way people spoke, the cheerful rush of words, the playfulness of the banter.

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And now I have Audio Books!

So here’s what happened.

I finally get around to doing print books. Yay, I suppose.

But actually, I do print editions of my LEXX series. And I’m really happy about that. LEXX has been a really long drawn out project for me, almost twenty-five years, with a lot of work, a lot of money, a lot of ups and downs.

In the end, I poured it all into writing the book I wanted to write, the way I wanted to write it. And eventually, starting in 2017, I started releasing the series as ebooks, finishing in 2021. And now in 2022, I’d done print editions.

I was happy. After all these years, all this work, I had a sense of closure, of finality. With print books, I’d taken it as far as it could go, polished it as much as I could. I had something physical that I could autograph and ship to Brian, Paul, Jeff and other people, “Here’s my tribute to your good work, have a nice life.”

It was done, I had closure and completion, and I could finally let it go, lay down the burden.

So I post on the Facebook LEXX groups that I’ve done print books, they’re all out. That’s right.  For anyone who is still a fan of LEXX after 20 years, and somehow can’t get enough about LEXX through wikipedia and other Wiki’s, etc. etc., there is now an actual series of trade paperbacks chronicling the rise and fall of both Salter Street Films and the LEXX series, in excruciating detail.

Some dick write back.

“Print books are okay, I suppose. But I don’t like to read. I’d rather have an audiobook. Could you do an audiobook?”

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Okay, so now I have PRINT books!

“Why don’t you have print books?” Fran Bitney, a friend of mine, asked me.

I like Fran, she’s one of the local Keycon people. Very nice, very sweet person. Her mother is a poet. We’re on speaking terms, we have friends in common, no animosity, friendly enough. So when I say friend, that’s basically the category of people who don’t throw rocks and sticks at me when they’re sure I’m out of range.

Look, I take what I can get.

Anyway, Fran asked the question.

I’ve been doing eBooks. Been really fine doing eBooks. Been happy doing eBooks.

I have avoided doing print books.

Theoretically you can. There’s presses like Friesen that do small print runs. If you want to pay for a hundred or a couple of hundred and try and sell them, go ahead.

There’s Print On Demand (POD), and that’s getting better and better. There’s companies that do POD – Ingram Spark, Lulu.com, Amazon, Draft2Digital, probably others. There’s even POD machines in bookstores, McNally Robinson, the local independent bookseller had one.

I haven’t really been interested. The possibility is there, but so what?

Basically, if you’re self publishing 98% of your sales will be eBooks. That’s just how it is. You don’t get to be in bookstores, where print books are sold. You don’t get to have the commercial infrastructure of major or medium presses and publishers with their infrastructure to push print books. Print books are expensive, that’s asking people to take a big chance.

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Keycon Post-Mortem

Well, admittedly this is late. Be nice, I’m finally catching up after the beating Covid handed me in May and June.

Yeah, June. Did I post on June 2, 2022, saying I was finally recovered? I wish. It’s insidious, you think you’re fine, until you actually try and do something, then everything takes twice as long and is twice as hard. There was steady improvement. But I think it took me the middle of June to shake the damned thing completely. I got my fourth shot as soon as possible. Had a bunch of health issues to deal with, still dealing with them, and a lot of catching up to do.

So Keycon?

Normally, if I’m there and doing things, I’d be announcing on the blog in advance, to make sure people had extra time to skip readings and avoid my stuff. Also, it’s kind of handy to have the note so I can update my artists resume.

Honestly, I was barely functioning this Keycon. I was clear of the virus by the time it rolled around, and definitely not infectious. But I was still depleted. I was good for a few hours, then it was time to go home, or find a soft spot on the floor for a nap.

This Keycon was a bit interesting for a few reasons. It was physically back for one, which was nice for the people attending. Keycon is the huge social event for the Winnipeg fan community, and while I’m not really part of that community, or any community, I respect that importance. And let’s face it, that social event is the primary function, no one really cares about writers or panels or programming. It works on other levels, and that’s a good thing. The point is it works.

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Me and the Mermaid

Is that proper grammar? “Me and the Mermaid”? Should it be “The Mermaid and I”?

It’s amazing how much I don’t give a shit.

So here we are, two blog posts in one day! Or maybe three or four! I’ve got some stuff in the draft folder to put up. And over a month without a blog post. That’s very erratic. I suppose I’m a bad blogger. I need to be consistent, and I sure as hell need to put some effort into making these blog posts search-friendly.

Who cares?

I’m pretty sure no one is reading. Blogs are a thing of the past. They’ve been replaced by Instagram, or Snapchat, or Twitter or Tik Tok. There’s endless merry go round of social media that we’re all supposed to be on and current with, or I dunno, they’ll take away our avatars.
Did I say Merry Go Round? More like a baroque game of musical chairs, except the chairs are constantly replaced with random furniture.

But what do I know? I’m only on Facebook and this blog, which in modern terms is the equivalent of two tin cans with a piece of string. I might as well have a Myspace profile.

This offers a certain freedom. I can write about whatever. Maybe someone will read it. Maybe no one will.

It doesn’t really matter.

I find I say that a lot these days.

Anyway, on the Goodbye to LEXX blog post, I mentioned a certain something. I thought I’d fill in that blank.

The very best, the most satisfying, the most profoundly feel good moment of my lifetime career was telling Titan Books to go fuck themselves, and killing a book.

The worst? That was the day I finally sold my novel.

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Farewell to LEXX

As of June/July, 2022, literally twenty years after the show went off the air, long after almost anyone else cared, my long, long relationship with LEXX comes to an end, with the release of trade paperbacks of each of the four volume LEXX Unauthorized series, and the release of an audio-book version of volume one.

This feels significant, if only to me. But here I am, I’ve got a blog, so I’ve got a forum to talk about it.

To begin with: What is LEXX?

It’s a television series that ran four seasons from 1997 to 2002, about an organic spaceship, a ten mile long dragonfly designed to blow up planets. The ship was stolen by a wayward crew of misfits – Stanley Tweedle, a former security guard fourth class; Zev or Xev Bellringer, a rebellious wife and escaped love slave; Kai, an undead former assassin, and 790 a love-struck robot head.

Over the course of four seasons, they fought an evil empire, destroyed a planet sized bug, presided over the destruction of an entire universe, went to heaven and hell, and ended up on Earth, where things didn’t go well.

It was also a marvellously surreal and subversive show, owing as much to Barbarella and film makers like Bunuel and Jodorowsky as it did Star Trek and Star Wars. It frequently indulged surrealist and absurdist sensibilities, introducing stunning images and ideas. It was, quite simply unique.

And it was a thoroughly Canadian product, even a regional product, conceived, produced and populated by Atlantic Canadians, from Salter Street Films in Halifax. The background story of its creation and production was almost as unconventional, bizarre and entertaining as anything on camera.

I loved it.

I loved it enough to write books about it.

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