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.

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.

“I want well written novels, with compelling characters and interesting plots.”

That seemed to be every one’s default. That really set them apart from all those other agents out there who wanted badly written novels with dull characters and boring plots. Gosh!

Oh and then there were the ones who really narrowed it down.

We look at fiction and nonfiction.

Gee whiz, that’s helpful. Seriously, that’s so goddammed helpful. Really, zeroes in, narrows it down.

Read moreThe Agent’s Merry Go Round – Part One

Bloodsucker – A Sneak Peek

“Melissa is a street kid who believes she’s a vampire.  As she cruises and feeds among the low lifes of a decaying city, she encounters hookers, drug dealers, homeless people, perverts, predators, musicians, artists and social workers, all of them just trying to get by.  Meanwhile, trio of young serial killers are cruising for fun. And elsewhere, a black lab has been exposed and secret investigators are on the trail.  Melissa tries to cope with her new nature by setting limits and moral standards, but as she progresses, she crosses line after line.  Eventually, her journey leads her back to the secret laboratory, and the revelation that she’s not a vampire, but something worse….”

BACKGROUND

Bloodsucker is my first novel, way way back.  Not much to say… I’d been writing short stories for years.  I had dozens of stories. The market for short stories was  crap, and I figured that I’d developed enough as a writer to try something more ambitious.  Simple as that.

Actually, there is more.  When I moved out to Winnipeg to go to law school, it was my first time in an even semi-large city. I was far from home, and on a very limited income, I didn’t know anyone out here. Eventually, I ended up living downtown in the Exchange district in the middle of what turned out to be the red light district, in an old low end building, owned by a divorced entrepreneur and his sons.

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The Fall of Atlantis and Other Stories

That’s obviously not Atlantis on the book cover.  If anything that’s Anti-Atlantis, with it’s central sea in there, surrounded by land and ringed by mountains.  That’s an almost complete inversion of Plato’s idea of an Island nation out in the Atlantic.

The picture is Greenland of course.  But not the Greenland we know, it’s Greenland without the ice.  This is a topographic radar map of Greenland’s elevations. It plays a little trick on us – blue is the colour designated for sea level elevation, so everything on the radar map that’s coloured in blue is at sea level elevation or lower.  The green parts are just above sea level.  The reddish brown represents mountain country.

It actually gives you a decent idea of what Greenland was like, or would have been like without all that ice.  Not a perfect idea, there’s a thing called ‘Isostatic Rebound.’ Basically, most of Greenland is under two miles of ice.  That two miles of ice is compressing the bedrock. Take it away, and Greenland will probably lift.  But I suspect that mostly, that lift won’t dramatically change what we see  I think it’s a fascinating map. It’s filled with possibility, potential. It’s so much better than most homegrown fantasy maps.

That’s the explanation for the Map that isn’t Atlantis, on a book titled Fall of Atlantis.

In a sense, like The Dawn of Cthulhu, this is a book about world building.  It’s speculative fiction of the plainest, barest kind, taking ideas like ‘What would Greenland be like without the Ice?’   Or ‘What’s a plausible pathway for the Romans to get to the New World?‘  And  just spinning them out and extrapolating.  No plot, no characters, but fiction all the same.

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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.

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Fascism – An Axis of Andes sneak peek

EXCERPT

The Rise of Fascism in Ecuador in the 1930’s

The thing you have to understand about fascism is that it isn’t an ideology at all.

It’s theater.

It’s all about dressing up and marching around and shouting in unison. It’s about being mad as hell and not taking it, whatever it is, any more. It’s about right and wrong, traditional virtues, manly men, womenly women, nervous but alluring sheep. It’s simple solutions to a complicated world, the innate superiority of tribe and fixing the world with a sock to the jaw of some craven jew/marxist/indian/etc. etc.

Fascist ideology is almost always a contradiction in terms. What a fascist believes, what a fascist does is self serving and fluid, fitting the needs of the moment.

There is no real theory. Theory is for eggheads sitting in their ivory towers, contemplating the world, passively studying and forming theories.

Well, while the eggheads sat there and studied, the Fascists were about action. They would go out and act, and let the eggheads study that. And while the eggheads studied, they would act again. Fascists would remake the world, through the sheer power of will and action.

Fascism was not about thinking, it was about acting. It was not about reflection or ideology or theory, it was about passion.

It was all nonsense, of course. But Fascism had the advantage of looking good with all its shouting and bluster and appeals to blood and virtue.

Read moreFascism – An Axis of Andes sneak peek

Death and the Writer

It was my grandfather’s death that made me commit to being a writer.

I always wanted to be a writer. That didn’t mean I was all that regular about it.

Let’s see. There was Batman adventures on the blackboard when I was young. I had my two stories published in the local paper when I was thirteen.

I wrote a couple of short stories in high school. One about aliens coming into the Solar System, discovering that it was already occupied, and not having enough resources to leave. So they were basically parked out in the asteroid belt with no place to go, waiting for us to eventually find them, and not looking forward to it. There was another story about a society of sentient elephants who had banded together to try and escape a failing environment, only to discover that they were living in a giant experiment.

There were a lot of stories in my head, planned, sometimes outlined, sometimes started. Sometimes just rolling around in my head. I spent a lot of time in my head. I’d make up stories, when I was picking up garbage at the drive in theatre prior to showtime, or pumping gas or sweeping floors at the garage.

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Your Heroes Were Monsters

I’ve been meaning to write about Lovecraft and his racism. I think that maybe there are interesting things to say about that subject. Fair warning, this essay will be rambling and meandering. I’m working through ideas. Take it or leave it.

But instead, what set this off was Isaac Asimov. I think if you’re an average lay person, you’ll probably go ‘Who?’

But if you’re a science fiction nerd, he’s practically god. Born in 1920, Asimov was a biochemist, eventually a professor of biochemistry. Selling his first story in 1939, he was an incredibly prolific science fiction writer, with a career that spanned literally hundreds of stories, dozens of novels, the Foundation Future History series, right up to his death in 1992. On top of that, he was a critical editor. His name was on a leading science fiction magazine. He wrote mysteries. He moved into non-fiction and became a science populariser and general writer. He’s credited as the author of over five hundred books. That’s stunning.

Within the sci fi community, he was incredibly active, friendly and popular, and accessible. He was a charming guy, not retiring like Clarke, not arrogant, not weird. Just fun to be around. Any narrow field is rife with backbiting, with feuds, with dirty deals, and people getting screwed over or doing the screwing. But not Asimov. Everyone seemed to like him, no enemies, which is remarkable

He cultivated this avuncular, charming public image – the fiendishly intelligent, but friendly and approachable guy, with muttonchop sideburns and black rimmed glasses. Not threatening, not intimidating, just… likeable.

Not the best writer in the world, but a hell of a guy, and as I said, practically a god in the Science Fiction community, and well liked.

Also, it turns out, he was a serial harasser, a regular groper, who constantly sexually propositioned women, whether his advances were wanted or not. He groped breasts, he groped ass, he put his arm around women, he didn’t ask permission, he just did it. For some it was welcome, for many it wasn’t, but he just didn’t care. He reveled in it, he wrote a book called the ‘sensuous dirty old man’ about his career and joy in sexual harassment.

None of this was a secret. He was a staple at conventions. Everyone knew he did it. Men, women, women who’d been groped and accepted it, women who’d been groped and didn’t like it. Everyone knew. The behavior was there, no question, and it was normally unacceptable even for the standards of its time.

So now, finally, twenty-eight years after his death, Asimov’s reputation is finally crashing.

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The Mermaid’s Tale: We Got Reviews!!!

I got reviews. Not of The Luck, not yet. I’m hoping for those, and I’m planning on running it by the few famous (semi-famous?) people I know in hopes of getting a plug.

But for The Mermaid’s Tale, I have reviews. Normally, I just stay away from those things. It’s a ‘no win’ situation. If you get a bad review, well it ruins your whole day. If you get a good review, then you end up believing it, you get a swelled head, start thinking you’re special, and it’s just feeding your ego. I’ve got enough of an ego, maybe too much of one. If you get a mediocre review… well, who cares? So there’s no good outcome from reading your reviews, I try not to.

But here I am, trying to sell the book to you, and promote my upcoming book, The Luck, and hell, even sell you on all/any of my other writing. I’ve got a whole web site and blog devoted to it – so hey, narcissism central!

So anyway, I thought I’d delve into reviews and share some excerpts of comments with you. Not the entire review (unless they’re really short), because that’s the property of the author.

***

Michael Fletcher, author of Beyond Redemption.

“This book is violent and brutal and haunting and beautiful. If I could give this a sixth star I would.”  

I think that this is actually the official plug for The Mermaid’s Tale. I suspect that Fletcher is the most semi-famous person to have reviewed me. Fletcher is actually an absolutely brilliant writer, definitely out of my league. I picked up Beyond Redemption on a trip to Australia and was absolutely rivetted reading it back home. It was just amazing, a powerhouse tour de force of imagination, horror, empathy and sweetness. I was in awe. So seriously, this is a writer that you need to go well out of your way to find.

Read moreThe Mermaid’s Tale: We Got Reviews!!!