Local Heroes: Casia and the Rose Princesses

I hate people like Casia Shreyer.  I started noticing her at conventions, this petite whirlwind of activity, organizing group tables for multiple authors, helping out people, keeping journals, going camping, raising children with her husband, running a household, yarn crafts, studying tae kwan do, and writing up a storm, blasting out twenty books so far (twenty!), all with inexhaustible energy, irrepressible good cheer. She’s one of these good people who can’t help trying to make the world better, and inadvertently making the rest of us look like lazy cynical gits in the process.

I’ll tell ya, lazy old monster that I am, my response to such cheerful brilliant souls is usually just to do something horrible, usually with a wood chipper, and bury the remains where it won’t annoy people.  But Casia, she’s probably reorganize the underworld, chug out another book series and bring pilates classes to hell.  We don’t really want pilates classes in hell, do we?.  So there’s no point, really. What can you do?

Casia’s Rose Garden is a five book series, a young adult adventure series for teen girls.  With allusions and similarities to everything from the Fisher King and Tibetan Buddhism, to Sailor Moon, they’re about young women growing as they struggle with a difficult and complex world and challenges of life that are not always cut and dried.  It’s an impressive body of work and I think it deserves to find a wider audience. 

Take it away, Casia….

Read moreLocal Heroes: Casia and the Rose Princesses

Covers are a Pain in the Ass

Covers are a giant pain in the ass. Seriously.

I love writing. It’s my sane place, it’s my compulsion. I’ll just happily write away, stories, novels, briefs, what have you. There’s nothing like a good piece of writing to soothe the soul.

But then I do this self publishing gig, and it’s not enough to write. You have to edit, revise, arrange, assemble, format. Most of this I can do myself, with varying degrees of skill, or lack thereof?

But covers? Oh geez. What do you do for that?

I’ve been told, and I have reason to believe that the best selling covers are images of shirtless young men with six packs.

Yeah, okay, sure. That’s pretty much every romance novel cover ever! So I guess it appeals to women, and gay men. And come to think of it, that’s every Tarzan, every Doc Savage, every superhero, and a hell of a lot of adventure stories. So women, gay men, teenage boys, etc. It’s got universal appeal.

Maybe that’s what I should be doing for covers?

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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.

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.

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The Last Time I Almost Got Shot

[What you are about to read is true. It happened.  One day, out of the blue, Cops broke into my home arrested me for trafficking and held me at gunpoint. Then it was over and they went away.  If any of you wonder, I will quite readily admit that given the statistics, there’s a chance that if I was native or black, or if I’d acted differently, I could have been dead.

Ignore the picture by the way. That’s an illustrative image I’ve taken off the internet. The persons depicted in it had nothing to do with what happened to me.]

There I was, sitting back, in my bathrobe, checking my email, breezing through web sites, watching some saturday morning cartoons and unwinding a little before going downstairs to work on the bathroom.

And I notice, looking out my picture window, a couple of men in dark uniforms jumping out and running up my drive way. I had a big picture window, but the curtains were gauze. It looked like they were police officers running up my driveway with weapons drawn. But I hadn’t called 911, there was no emergency. Maybe they were ambulance attendants rushing up, and heading to the wrong house.

My first thought is that my neighbors are having some sort of domestic crisis. Maybe a heart attack. Or some domestic dispute. Their driveway is right next to mine, so sometimes on a quick glance, it can be a little confusing as to which driveway. But no, it definitely looks like mine. They’re heading to me.

So I go over to the front door to open it and see what they want.

As I get there, they burst in, screaming “Freeze, get down on the floor! You’re under arrest for trafficking in cocaine!”

They’ve got a shotgun pointed at me. The other one has a pistol in a two handed grip. They’re both screaming. And their orders are contradictory. That’s my first thought. Do I freeze? Or do I get on the floor? If I freeze, will I be shot for getting on the floor? Or if I get to the floor, will they shoot me for not freezing.

Read moreThe Last Time I Almost Got Shot

What would you do?

Here’s a thought experiment.  Try it on.

What if God came to you one day.

And God said,  “I don’t like you.”

God goes on,  “It’s just one of those things.  It’s not personal, it’s not something you did, or didn’t do. There’s no reason for it.  Sometimes these things just happen.  I just don’t like you. I know the books say I’m ‘love’ and I’m supposed to love everyone, and that’s mostly true, maybe for everyone else. But not you. I draw the line. I don’t like you. I’m God, and I can do that. I don’t have to justify or explain. It is what it is.”

“So here’s the deal,” God continues, “your life will be meaningless and worthless. Nothing you ever do will matter.  No one will ever care about you. Your existence will be pointless and meaningless. It will be that way every single day, every single moment.  You can kill yourself tomorrow, or you can live a long time, I don’t care. You can rob liquor stores, or build cathedrals, or go to church every day, it won’t make a difference. You won’t make a difference to anyone or anything, you’ll have no accomplishments, no family, no legacy. Eventually, you’ll die, and I’ll be rid of you. But I really don’t care. That’s the way it is because I don’t like you.”

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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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Reflections on a Pandemic

WARNING:  Strong and Salty language in use.  Unkind things are said in the unkindest possible ways.  Words not used in polite company are employed in appropriate ways.  Do not read if you are easily offended.  If judicious use of vulgar language is not for you, then piss off. I don’t care. Sometimes you have to be blunt.

Hi ho. So here we are, into the seventh month of a pandemic, no end in sight. Most of us are holding our breaths waiting for a second wave.

The United States… Well, let’s put it this way. Their handling of the pandemic has been nightmarishly bad. We can blame the Orange Narcissist, but in fact there’s plenty of blame to go around, ranging from badly mismanaged and ill coordinated pandemic plans at federal, state and local levels, politicization of the virus, and just an appalling amount of selfishness and stupidity among large parts of the population.

You could spend weeks dissecting everything the Americans did wrong. But so what?  America is a distraction.  It’s a distraction from how completely badly so many others dropped the ball.

I’m going to be blunt: There are a lot of dead people in Canada, because the people who should have been paying attention were asleep at the wheel. The same for Italy, for Iran, for France and England, Spain and Germany, Russia, Brazil, India, you name it.

Those people, the ones asleep at the wheel, do not deserve to be let off the hook. They do not get to point to America and say “Yes, we were negligent and sloppy and half assed, we weren’t paying attention, or exercising due diligence, yes the sins of our past caught up with us, and we weren’t prepared, we acted late and badly, and we lied to you some, possibly a lot… but hey, look at Trump!”

No.

Dear Bastards, you do not get to do that.

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Honeymooning!

Elijah McClain was a young black man, kind of skinny, glasses. He lived in the suburb or Aurora, in the city of Denver. He had no criminal record, had never been in trouble, he didn’t do drugs, there were none found in his system. He was a massage therapist, he volunteered at the SPCA, and he played the violin for lonely animals. He was just a sweet kid who never did anything to anyone. On August 24, 2019, he bought Ice tea at the corner store for his brother and began to walk home. Then police killed him.

The story goes was that it was a warm night, and he was wearing a ski mask. He did this because he had anaemia his face was cold, apparently there might be some mild autism, or some issue with thermo-regulation. I know people who are cold in warm weather. It happens.

Someone called 911 on him. The report was that he was acting “sketchy,” according to an audio recording of the 911 call released by the Aurora Police Department. The caller told a 911 that the person “has a mask on” and “he might be a good person or a bad person.” The caller went on to say no weapons were involved and when asked if he or anyone else was in danger, the caller said “No.” We don’t know what ‘sketchy’ means, and neither did the police. But what’s clear from the call is: No danger, no weapon.

Nevertheless, three police officer converged on Elijah McClain as he was walking home with his iced tea. He was indeed wearing a ski mask. There were no weapons or burglary tools visible. There was, apart from the ski mask, nothing unusual about his behaviour. He wasn’t furtive, looking into windows, checking car doors. He wasn’t running. He wasn’t acting bizarrely.

So basically, the police should have noted ‘unarmed man wearing ski mask, carrying iced tea, walking at a normal pace.’ No sign of weapons, no sign of danger, no sign of a crime. No unusual behaviour. And that was it, they should have pissed off somewhere else.

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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