Demon Hotel, Based on a True Story

The Demon Hotel is a real thing. Or it was. Demon Hotel used to be an abandoned three story apartment block at 44 Hargrave in downtown Winnipeg. It was a formidable brick structure dating from around 1910, with a red brick facade and old fashioned bay windows which loomed ominously. The stone stairs that fronted it had been slowly worn by thousands of feet going back and forth over decades. The front lobby was covered with mosaic tiles, and featured a long broken pay phone.

Inside the building was a maze of resident staircases going up and down, emergency stairs, and service stairs which concealed the ancient wiring and plumbing. I’d actually visited it decades ago, passing by the broken pay phone, its casing cracked, and hanging out with street kids in the basement, as they hot knifed hash and talked music and gossip.

I’m not sure why the building closed down. Perhaps settling or subsidence of the soil following the great Winnipeg flood a decade or so ago, you could see visible cracks running up from the foundation, crawling the length of the building, and skewing the window frames, giving the front of the building a wicked twisted smile, as if it knew something you didn’t, something dark and disturbing.

But close down it did. The last tenants moved out, died or were evicted. Desultory efforts at renovation were begun and then abandoned. The windows on the lower floors were boarded up, but now and then, lights seemed to shine from the unboarded upper windows. Shapes were sometimes glimpsed in those upper windows, the fleeting impressions of windows looking down.

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The New Doctor – How Very Peculiar

A few years ago, I did a novel length piece of work called The New Doctor.

Basically, what happened was back in 1991, there was a local actor named David Burton.  He was a semi-big deal in a small town, he had a radio show, a column, did theatre.  Anyway, he was trying to get the local dealership to give him a car, for promotional purpose.  To help persuade them, he embellished his resume a little bit. Doctor Who was off the air, he figured what harm was there in attaching his name to a defunct children’s show. So he claimed that he was going to be ‘The New Doctor Who.’  It looked good, and when it failed to materialize, he could just say the project fell through, as these things often did.

Unfortunately, Doctor Who was kind of a cult thing, with legions of crazed fans, so he got a lot more attention than he intended. So much so, that he had to make up a more detailed story. A mysterious company, a hush hush pilot project called ‘Monsters of Ness’; shooting at caves, in a small town, a warehouse; even a location shoot in Austria; a red phone booth instead of the blue Tardis; twin girls called Heart and Diamond as companions. None of it was ever verified, and people did try. Eventually, the whole thing faded away.

Okay, that’s the ‘true part’ of the story. The consensus is that it was all a hoax, and personally, I don’t fault Burton at all. He told an innocent little white lie to polish up his resume, and it kind of exploded on him. If anything, I’m sympathetic.

So, I got the idea, what if Burton’s story was true.

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Booklife Contest: Princess of Asylum, Update

So here goes… I’ve entered my unpublished novel, Princess of Asylum into the Booklife Contest.   It’s a legit contest.  All the entries get a professional review, which you can use, or bury forever in a lead lined vault, depending on how the review turns out. Some of them are pretty scathing, I gather, looking at previous comments (complaints).  After the initial round there’s the quarterly finals, the semi-finals and then a First prize of $5000.00.

Anyway, I got my review back….

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.

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.

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Local Heroes: R. J. Hore

I first noticed Ron (R.J.) Hore at a small local comic convention held at the Lord Gort Hotel.  This wasn’t one of those conventions which goes on forever, with thousands of people, hundreds of dealers, galleries of artists and cosplayers and celebrity guests.  This was just one of those piddly comic conventions, where it’s nostly actually comics – local stores, local toys, collectors looking to thin out their collections.

There in the middle of it all was Ron, a friendly, grandfatherly man holding court, at a table with a crystal ball, a saber tooth tiger skull, and a load of books, the Mousetrap Chronicles as I recall.  A local writer. I chatted politely, bought a book, made him sign it and went along with my day.  Hey, local guy, trying to sell his book.  You want to support that.  If we don’t support our local writers, who will?

Damn though, if I didn’t run across Ron at craft shows, and at Keycon, and the big ComicCon, at gaming cons, anime cons, local shows.  If there was an event selling tables, and sci fi and fantasy had half a chance, there’d be Ron, charming and gentlemanly, taking his ease and selling his books.  And he always seemed to have a new book out.  Ron was practically a fixture at these cons and shows, a welcome presence.  I’ve pretty much got all his books by now, but he just keeps writing them.

Whether he sold one book or dozens, he’s always retained his sunny disposition.  He’s a man who enjoys every part of the craft of writing. “I’m retired, so I have to do something,” he told me once.  “I told my wife that writing is cheaper than golf.”

So here’s R.J. Hore, in his own words…

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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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Rethinking: King Kong Meets Dracula

Image by SteveIrwinfan96, borrowed

First up, let me shout out to BigJack Films, a youthful youtuber who seems utterly fascinated by all things King Kong. He seems barely out of his teens, if at all, with a bad haircut and a reedy voice, which suggests that puberty was cruel. But he’s prolific as hell, and his videos ring with a level or research and genuine enthusiasm that can’t be faked.

And he’s got a lot of fascinating King Kong-iana. The skinny on abortive Kong projects, including the 1960’s Hammer films attempt which failed, but somehow resulted in Jim Danforth’s ‘King Kong’s Volkswagon commercial’, commentary on Universal Studios exhibitions, and surveys of giant apes generally.

He’s so comprehensive in his approach, that he even catalogues and reviews King Kong fan films.

Who even knew there was such a thing?

I’m interested in fan films, and I see them as relevant works in their own right. Fan films are seldom, if ever perfect, and quite often, many of them are flat out terrible. But every single one of them is made with love, and that counts for a lot. So I was very intrigued by his reviews.

Generally, King Kong fan films fall neatly into two categories.

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The Squad…

This was going to be about my third horror collection, What Devours Also Hungers. The others are Giant Monsters Sing Sad Songs, and There Are No Doors in Dark Places. They’re collections of old and new stories, and with each collection, I try to explore a different subtle flavour of horror.

Giant Monsters is melancholy horror, the sadness of monsters and victims, the absence of happy endings.

Doors in Dark Places dwells in fatalism, the relentlessness and inescapability of terror.

What Devours Also Hungers is about restlessness. It’s about evil that doesn’t stand still but reaches out. It’s hungry and aggressive, even relentless. It’s the evil of predators, expansive and robust.

Or maybe I’m pulling your leg.

What Devours is fifteen short stories.  When I write these blog posts to promote these things, I try talk about some of the more interesting or significant ones.  Where they came from, how they came about, why I wrote them. Sometimes it’s personal, sometime’s it’s a writing exercise, it’s about structural challenges and the writing journey. Sometimes it’s fun stuff, or some interesting bit about the story’s history.

If you’ve read the Doors in Dark Places blog post, I’m very personal there, and I talk about the personal energy, the personal darkness and fears, that can animate and drive stories.

But sometimes, hey, a story is just a story. You get an idea, spin it, and it runs off on it’s own. There’s no deep psychological root, no personal trauma. It’s just telling a good story.

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Review: Fear the Walking Dead, an Apocalyptic Rant

I’ll be honest, I haven’t watched Fear the Walking Dead for a couple of seasons now. I understand that just about all the original cast of characters are dead, and while I celebrate this fact, it’s not enough to make me watch the show.

I really hated it. The only thing that kept me watching the first few seasons was utter hatred. Every episode, it just kept getting more loathsome. Towards the end, I’d be sitting there as it played, my lips drawn into a rictus of grin, teeth grinding, muscles seized up, ever fibre of my being screaming at the television.

The problem with the show, is that it’s the worst celebration of White Privilege, I’ve ever seen.

Literally, this was a show that had Karen before Karens were a thing.

And here’s the thing, as far as I know, they were all completely unconscious of the suffocating racism and classism that permeated just about every single episode. Literally, how could you be that offensive, and that consistently offensive, by accident? Who the hell was writing this thing? Didn’t any of the actors ever come up and say “Hey, we’re practically the Swiss Family Klansmen, what’s up with that?”

Let me back up a little bit.

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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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