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 In terms of unpublished new work wrote another novel and several short stories.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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Frankenstein vs the Ape!

Hey, that’s me at the bottom!

Welcome to Wild Hunt Press’s Duel of the Monsters, Volume 2.  Chris Nigro, the publisher of Wild Hunt invited me to contribute.

The rules were:

  1. They had to be recognized monsters – Frankenstein’s, Vampires, Wendigo, Sea Serpents, Krakens, Sasquatch, Grizzly, Lizard men, known to folklore, movies, television etc.
  2. They had to fight!
  3. There had to be a definite Winner!

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What if Donald Trump had been born middle class?

I mean sure, it’s easy to be a billionaire when you inherit a billion dollar fortune.

But let’s do a little experiment.  Let’s ask ourselves if Donald Trump had not been born into fame and fortune, if he hadn’t been a millionaire by the age of two and a half, if he had been required to make his own way in life, without the gigantic advantages.  Would he have been another Jeff Bezos or William Gates? Or would he have been just a regular guy?

Let’s assume that this alternate Trump, born to the middle class, had the same personality and personal qualities? Donald Trump is barely literate, a poor reader, almost no impulse control, full of manic impulses, lazy, loses interest, perpetually narcissistic and selfish, engaged in self aggrandizement, unwilling or unable to learn from mistakes, This isn’t an attack. It’s not flattering, but these are all traits that he has exhibited, and are the benchmarks of his erratic business career.

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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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Axis of Reviews!

Well, my two book series, Axis of Andes and New World War is out in the world, and astonishingly, it’s selling like hotcakes. And I’m getting reviews.  So in the vein of shameless self promotion, I just want to share some of them, starting with this gem:

Crusty Critic, on Amazon.  Reviewed in the United States on July 23, 2021
Professor Valdron Tells It Like It Might Have Been. 5.0 out of 5 stars
Frankly, this is the best alternate history (AH) book I have ever read, and I have read a lot, including those by the “famous” authors. It is not done in the usual AH cliched pattern, with “heroes” and “villains” and love interests. It is written the way you wish all the best history books should be, whether recounting Real History or AH.
That’s….  not bad at all. Maybe I should stop now.  Where would I go from that?
The rest if the brief review is quite complimentary as well.  Here’s another excerpt:
….like listening to a series of lectures by a favorite professor. You are astonished by his erudition, amused by his clear-eyed cynicism and way with words (e.g., his “explanation” of the true nature of fascism hits home in today’s US), and saddened by his depictions of racism, colonialism, and Big Power attitudes (none of which has gone away in our Real History)….
Okay, so what else?

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New World War

Wow. Been a while since I posted.  Luckily no one is reading, so the heat is off.  It’s been a busy month.

First up – I’ve completed two writing workshops for the Manitoba Writers Guild.  The first one was Writing Compelling Characters in June.  That was a tough one, I’d done a version of this workshop for Keycon but it had gone fairly disastrously. This really did feel like working without a net, but it went really well.  Subsequently, in July, I did a three hour special – Copyright/Publishng Contracts Feedback was extremely positive. I donated my fees for these workshops back to the Manitoba Writers Guild, and the workshops have been recorded for future use.

Currently, I’ve jumped head first into the search for a Literary Agent.  This took a week of preparation, working on query letters, synopsis of different lengths, getting the writing samples together. This weekend, I took the plunge. Let’s see how it works out this time.

The big news is NEW WORLD WAR sequel to AXIS OF ANDES!   Yes, we have the continuation and conclusion of the epic saga of WW2 in South America.  The multi-front war between Ecuador, Chile and Peru, slowly but relentlessly spills over into almost every country in South America.  The jungle war rages and turns into Indian Revolts, Bolivia falls into Civil war. Argentina and Colombia meddle and waiting in the wings a hidden power waits to make itself known

I’m thrilled with the way it’s all turned out and come together…

Onto the next project.  I’ve got a couple of novels to finish writing, a bunch of short stories to write, two more collections of stories to upload, a vampire novel to release, and a third Who-book.  And I’m sure I’m missing a few things…  Oh yeah, seriously update the website.

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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