TORONTO INDIE AUTHOR CONFERENCE

Well, the first annual Toronto Indie Writer’s Conference has come and gone. There will be one next year, and I’m signing up for it the minute they hang out a shingle.

It was great! 

Most writer’s conferences tend to focus on craft – how to write, what to write, the political and social issues of being a writer, the technique, and sometimes the fun stuff.  It’s all very literary.

This was about Trade – how to do a Kickstarter, the techniques of Facebook ads, that kind of thing.

We do get a bit of that in occasional panels at regular conventions – but usually it’s a group of people who are very experienced on the panel talking shop with each other. It’s like listening to a lively discussion in Greek.

This, on the other hand, was really focusing on working trade issues, mainly single presenters, exploring topics at skill levels in systematic ways. It was fascinating. Of the eight sessions and four round tables, there wasn’t a single dud in the bunch. Everything was useful or interesting, even if I didn’t necessarily understand it or wasn’t in a position to take advantage of it.

Honestly, some of it, was just totally above my level, I could barely follow along, but even then, it was good – If I couldn’t handle it now, I picked up enough to have some idea of how to learn, and the feeling was that I could master it eventually.

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COMING SOON – SQUAD 13

[draft cover by Dean Naday]

SQUAD 13 –  Suppose all those unkillable, masked slashers from the 80s and 90s were rounded up and enlisted into the army as a nightmare squad of unstoppable killing machines. Suppose you used them for problems just as terrifying – vampire infestations, zombie outbreaks, alien invasions, incursions from another dimension, all those supernatural paranormal nightmares. The situation is bad, the Squad goes in and they never leave survivors. Suppose they’re worse than anything they face. Suppose you’re trapped in their nightmare.

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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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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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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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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Worldbuilding Quilting and Characters, oh my

Just a quick update on the writing front.

Last Saturday, I did a World Building Workshop for the Manitoba Writers Guild.  Thousands of words of sample world building, tons of reference materials, books, youtube videos, TV-tropes, etc.  We got a half dozen attendees, and it went really well, a hard core, pedal to the metal introduction to an interesting area of writing.

This Weekend, I’m doing panels at Keycon.  This year, due to the Coronaclypse, Keycon is an online convention.  I’m not sure about my panels.  So far, I think I’m on, or going to be on….

  • Pantsing, Plotting and Quilting – different approaches to writing a novel. There’s a whole bunch of us – Chadwick Gunther, Ron Hore, Susan Forest, Reed Alexander, going an hour and a half from 5:30 to 7:00 on Saturday.
  • Creating Deep Characters – pretty self explanatory, I hope.  Me and Casia Schreyer so far, one hour,  11:00 to 12:00 on Sunday.
  • Worldbuilding – again, with Catherine Fitzimmons, I’m going to sneak onto that one. One hour, 7:00 to 8:00 on Sunday

By the way, go see Keycon’s Website at ….    http://www.keycon.org/38/#sched       They’d love to have you drop by. Membership is free!

One of the nice things about doing convention panels is the chance to meet and kick back with other writers, talk about writing and share the space.  Less pressure, more engagement.  And if you’ve got someone on a panel with you, that guarantees there will be at least one other person attending.  😉

Apart from that, following up on the book covers for Aliens and Elves and Axis of Andes.  I’ve submitted a raft of short stories to Analog, Asimov’s and Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine.

And I’m working on a query letter and synopsis for my next stab to searching for an Agent.  Last year, I sent out 30 queries for one book, and 10 for second. No joy in mudville.  This year, I’m going to try and break 100 and 50.

And geez, I need to sign up for When Words Collide, and maybe try and get on some panels. Get ready for the World Fantasy Convention in Montreal in August. Oh and there’s more workshops for the Manitoba Writers Guild.  Apart from that, I still have to work on learning marketing and promotions, there’s books to edit and release.

I dunno.  Shouldn’t being a writer involve actually writing something.  All this other stuff is starting to feel like work.  😉