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.

Read moreStanding at the Foot of a Mountain

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.

Read moreRethinking: King Kong Meets Dracula

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.

Read moreDeath on a Lonely Road, the First

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.

Read moreReview: Fear the Walking Dead, an Apocalyptic Rant

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.

Read moreLovecraft’s World

Rethinking It: Robin, Year One

How about something a little different? Robin, Year One. This is another one of my “Hey, if I could get my hands on a Franchise – Doctor Who, Space Force, Stargate, etc., here’s the cool thing I would do!”

Yeah, it’s never going to happen. But they’re fun ideas to play with. The thing with being a writer is everyone asks you ‘where do you get your ideas.’ But the thing is, ideas are only the start. It’s what you do with them, where you take them, how you develop them. Behind any story, any novel, there’s this whole background. The story is like the tip of the iceberg, or the front of the stage. But there’s all this stuff underneath the water, or behind and below the stage, premises and assumptions, choices, arcs directions. There are all these elements which give the story shape, structure, energy. It’s all this backstage stuff that gets worked out, which really makes a story interesting… or uninteresting.

Call it backstage at the writers mind. The thing I like about these sorts of exercises, is that the reader actually knows the end product or at least the shape of it. People know Doctor Who, or Godzilla, or Stargate. People know who Batman is. So I can take that, spin, work it, and say “Here’s an interesting line of ideas, premises, arcs.” And I think that you can relate to it a little better than some random idea, you’re closer to being able to see what the end result would be.

So, Robin,Year One. Or Batman and Robin, Year One.

Here’s something I’ve been kicking around.

Read moreRethinking It: Robin, Year One

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.

Read moreThe Agents Merry Go Round – Part Two

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

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.

Read moreChapbook Odyssey

Murder in Minneapolis

As a rule, I try not to get too political on this blog. I like to talk about writing and life. Politics is messy and bitter.

Having said that, I just can’t look away from the Minneapolis fiasco, and as a basic human being I can’t help but be outraged.

I know this post may be read long after, so let me start with a recap.

On Monday, May 25, 2020, Memorial day in the United States, a deli in the Powderhorn district of Minneapolis, reported to police that a middle aged black man was attempting to pay with a forged twenty dollar bill. Four police officers converged on the scene and apprehended a man, Floyd George, who was in his car who apparently fit the description. There were two other persons in the car. It is not clear whether George was the actual person or simply fit the description. I assume that will be clarified at some point.

George was ordered out of the car, and apparently reluctant to do so. However, he exited or was removed from the vehicle and handcuffed with his hands behind his back. At some point, he fell down. From this point on, he was laying down, on his stomach, hands cuffed behind his back, with three officers on him. One officer was on his legs, another on his back, and the third, Officer Derek Chauvin, knelt with his knee on George’s neck, for roughly seven to ten minutes. The fourth officer maintained control of the scene, keeping bystanders away.

On several occasions, George complained that he couldn’t breath, claimed discomfort, and asked for help. He begged not to be killed and cried out for his mother. There was a strange conversation, where one of the officers who was physically holding George in place kept instructing him to ‘get in the car’ despite the fact that George was physically immobilized by three officers, including the one kneeling on his neck.

After begging for his life and calling for his mother he fell silent. A number of bystanders complained that the officers were killing George, there were demands or requests to check his pulse. An ambulance was called, by the time it arrived he was dead. The body was moved onto an ambulance gurney and carried away, with no apparent resuscitation efforts made on site at any point by either the officers or ambulance attendants. The officers then departed the scene in their respective patrol cars.

Read moreMurder in Minneapolis