Ron vs the Cover Monsters!

ADVENTURES WITH RON, Part IV

Ron and I had his four books ready to go, except for … everything.

A book isn’t just a manuscript. You need an ISBN registration, you need a cover, you need a back cover blurb and material, an author’s bio, an author’s photo, copyright information. We needed this stuff called Metadata – a long description, a short description, a one line description, something called BISAC, something else called SOE (search engine optimization).

Basically, after the big monolith of the manuscript itself, we also needed to build all the little tiny pieces of text that would go into the book and its online prooofiles.

Ron’s Toltec books were a trilogy, so we thought it would be a good idea to include adverts in each book of the trilogy for the other trilogy books. That turned into adverts for all of his books. And the idea of adverts suggested that we should include blurbs and art for the adverts. And the Adverts section needed to be slightly different for each of the four books. So a lot of work to keep track of.

If all this strikes you as bearing a passing resemblance to this thing called work? Yeah.

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Ron vs the Format Monster!

ADVENTURES WITH RON, Part III

Now, if you’ve been reading this series, we should be at the Happy Ending. My pal Ron has his rights back. His books are taken down from Amazon. He can do anything he wants with them. He’s no longer chained to an undead zombie publisher.

If you haven’t been reading this series… what’s wrong with you? Go back. Read the series. It’s got sex, adventure, naked women, shaved goats, literature, the Village People make a guest appearance, the cure for cancer, the secret to happiness. Go!

Now! Read! I’ll wait here!

Back? Yes, there was slight exaggeration. But what do I care, you read it.

So, I say “Ron, you’ve got your books back, what are you going to do with them?”

Now, he can take them to another publisher, that’s an option. Some small press publishers will take previously published books. A lot of them don’t. For a lot of publishers, it’s like a sandwich. When you’re publishing, you like to publish a fresh new sandwich. You don’t necessarily want to publish a sandwich that someone has had sex with before. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

But yes, finding another publisher. Definitely an option.

Or he can self publish. A lot of people are doing that these days. I’ve done it… a lot. I gave courses in it. I have a bunch of materials I can give him to get him going and make it easy for him.

He says to me, “I was hoping you would do it.”

Surprised, I quickly look around to see who he’s talking to, someone who apparently walked into the room when I wasn’t paying attention, and is gullible enough to do all sorts of work for free.

But it’s just the two of us.

I have a bad feeling.

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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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Thinking About Audiobooks – Part One

Well, I don’t really listen to audiobooks. Maybe I should. I listened to my friend Julie’s 12 episode Calamity Jane western audio podcast and that was pretty good. So maybe I should give it a shot.

Because Audiobooks are exploding all over the place these days. I’d heard about it the last couple of years, but I hadn’t quite realized how much.

So is this meaningful? Well, I looked up the statistics. And there’s a tangled knot of information. But here’s how I break it down. The US book industry (I’m assuming that includes Canada) is worth about 30 billion dollars in 2019-2020, the last year before Covid. Now of that, the big five book publishers, Penguin-Random House, Hachette, Harper-Collins, McMillan and Simon-Schuster, the guys you find dominating bookstores, represent about 10 billion dollars in sales during this period. There’s maybe another seven billion represented by the big five Educational publishers, the guys who do school textbooks and stuff. The rest, I assume divides up among the small and medium publishers, specialty houses, etc., the small fry.

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Drunk Slutty Elf and Other Stories

Hey!  My latest collection of short stories.  Released October 14, 2022.  This actually very belated. I should have posted this months ago, and posted it on Facebook months ago.  I am so bad at this self promotion thing it’s unreal.  I think I’m way too self effacing. I retained Paul Carpentier to copy edit for me, and he couldn’t stop talking about how funny it was, both at World Fantasy and afterwards – I almost wanted to run away and hide. There’s something in me that just doesn’t know what to do with praise, that won’t believe it, that suspects or expects an attack or something. I really have to overcome that.

Anyway: The story behind Drunk Slutty Elf?  What can I say?  My latest book, but for Drunk Slutty Elf and Zombies, the follow up, which is done and just waiting on the cover. I have some hopes for this duo, and I plan on pushing them for all they’re worth.

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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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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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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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