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Cliff:collageThere it is.

Three hundred blog posts…and counting.

And the credit all belongs to…you. D’you think I’d keep this up for 300 posts I didn’t feel like I was getting through, if this site wasn’t an invaluable line of communication to friends, colleagues and readers from, well, from everywhere? You’ve commented and you’ve written, hundreds of you, and I love it.  Some really smart people hang out at my place, ideal readers every one. These are the individuals I’m thinking of when I start a new poem, short story, novel. I want to constantly surprise and amaze them, show them something unexpected. Never let them down, never take them for granted.

Thanks, folks. Thanks, so much.

Not only am I celebrating #300, there’s other news:

Yesterday I completed the first draft of what appears to be a short novel. Worked on it for nineteen (19) consecutive days, 2500 words a day. The experience left me drained, exhilarated…now I have to take a few days and try to figure out what the hell I’m going to do with it. I have another manuscript waiting for revision, an older effort I’m hoping to resurrect, but think I’ll stick with this new one for awhile. It’s in really rough shape—still, I think there’s a polished gem in there somewhere.  It’ll take work, tons o’ research too. Ah, well, I should be used to that.

A surprisingly pain-free draft—not assailed by the usual demons of self-doubt and I tried to take breaks, the occasional walk, get away from the keyboard. Is this the beginning of a new trend? Will I (gasp) stop punishing my body/mind/spirit in the name of art?

To add to the positive vibes around here, my wife has returned from Yellowknife, so our little family unit is intact once more. Sherron spent ten days up there with a troupe of professional artists, rehearsing and performing a dramatic presentation recreating events from the life of a longtime local character, Tom Doornbos.  They used a variety of puppets and employed a number of locales around Yellowknife to tell their story and their play was a great hit. Now there’s talk of touring it…stay tuned.

After picking Sherron up at the airport, we drove to the Broadway Theater and took in a showing of “Berberian Sound Studio”, which I thought would be good…and turned out to be the best movie I’ve seen this year. You can find the review over at my film blog.

And, finally…I promised you a treat, didn’t I?

Well, how about an entire CD of free music, over forty-seven minutes worth of catchy, mind-warping “chillout” tunes?  I’ve just released “Ambient i-viii” in its entirety over on Bandcamp. Here a link to the site—enjoy, download, share.

I’ll start you off with a sample track, one of my favorites, titled “Ambient vi”:

One last time: THANKS.

And keep those comments and e-mails coming.

Love to hear from you…

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Taking a break from writing, concocted and edited a new short film.

“Exoplanet”…a love letter to science fiction.

Dedicated to Ian Sales and other bringers of wonder:

 

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Couldn’t get into serious writing yesterday–still catching up on research on my western novel, The Last Hunt, and I’m not yet at the point where I can begin to tackle necessary revisions.

My science fiction story needs one final polish/run through before I send it off.  I’ll likely get that done today.

And so…yesterday.

Decided to create a little something with Garageband.  The first effort wasn’t very good but the second tune had promise (as soundtrack music for the creepiest film ever made maybe) and then came the third number…

Well.  I didn’t really set out to create a spoken word bit, but that’s how it came out.  I was poking around my notebook and came across a series of phrases that, if you put them together, would almost make a kind of narrative…

I plugged in the microphone and gave it a shot.  The very first vocal track was perfect and then I started building and shaping music around it.

The end result is “The Midnight Detective”, a 2 1/2 minute effort that plays around with noirish conceits and comes together for a rather tasty finale.

This piece should work on whatever audio player your computer employs (if it’s fairly new) and, of course, you’re free to download it and share it with pals and like-minded folks who might get a charge out of my whacked out, postmodern detective.

You’ll find more of my musical noodling and spoken word efforts on my Audio page.

Click here to listen to Midnight Detective

* This post is dedicated to Caroline Ames–Happy Birthday, kid.

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I’ve been working, what else?

Plowing my way through Of the Night, polishing a bit here, snipping a word or two there, prepping the manuscript to send off to the printer by the first week of October.  Which means I’ll have achieved my goal and published two books this year.  I thought it was important to do something, well, special to mark my 25th anniversary as a pro writer and getting my two “Ilium” novels out to readers and fans in the same calendar year seemed like just the thing to do.  It’s been crazy hectic, frustrating and maddening…but it looks like we’re going to manage it.

Of the Night is a far shorter novel than So Dark the Night—I like to call So Dark my “A” movie and Of the Night my “B” picture.  One is a bigger, bolder project, the other smaller and more modest.  But I love ‘em both and you will too.  We’ll be using Adrian Donoghue’s cover art for Of the Night and Chris Kent (as far as I know) will be designing the look of the book once again.  We’ll have it out in time for Christmas and the novel will likely retail in the $10-11 region.  There will be further progress reports so keep checking in periodically for more details.

Wild summer here in Saskatchewan, the weather verging on freaky.  Rain, rain, rain.  We have an old house and a basement with a stone foundation so I’ve had a fan running constantly downstairs because of the damp seeping in from outside, the surrounding soil saturated.  I have several hundred books down there, my boys have a TV and their XBox set up so they can have their own little space.  Must work to keep the area habitable, no killer mould growing in the walls, etc.  The lousy weather has made it abundantly clear the roof tiles and eaves need replacing, the trees trimming back (again); yikes, when I think about the pending expense, it makes me wanna cry.

Ah, well, we’ll get by.  Somehow.  We always do.  Just when I think we’re going under, some respite arrives in the nick of time.  But there are some periods, nerve-stretching intervals, when things look pretty bleak and occasionally I am brought face-to-face with the very real risks and terrors that accompany life as a full-time independent writer and publisher.  I’m 46…is life ever going to get easier, will there be some kind of reward waiting at the end of the rainbow?  Or just a tarnished piss pot?

“Theirs not to reason why…” and all that.  Thanks, Alfie, but all those guys died, as I recall.

Hasn’t been much time to kick back and indulge in my other passions:  films and reading.  Watched a few cool flicks like Samuel Fuller’s “Shock Corridor” and “Pickup on South Street”, two Herzog efforts (“Grizzly Man” and “Bad Lieutenant:  Port of Call New Orleans”) and Robert Bresson’s “Pickpocket” but not too many more.  And I haven’t yet gotten around to reviewing those few movies I have watched for my film blogSigh.

As for reading, I’ve just finished Michael Palin’s Diaries (1969-79) and I’ve completed almost all of Denton Welch’s books, marveling at what a magnificent writer he was (no wonder William Burroughs revered him).  Presently absorbed by Charles Simic’s The Monster Loves His Labyrinth, which is composed of entries from his writer’s notebook(s).  Wonderful, wonderful stuff.  If you haven’t read any Simic, rush out and find some.

Lots of music playing while I work—some ambient stations I found on ITunes, as well as albums like The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s “Who Killed Sergeant Pepper”, the definitive Joy Division compilation, “Heart & Soul”; old favorites like Interpol and Elbow and Black Rebel Motorcycle are always on hand to get me revved up.  Soundtracks (“The Thin Red Line” and “The Fountain”) to give me mood music to write to.

That’s enough for now.  I have to get back to, y’know, editing.  Of the Night awaits my full attention.

In the meantime, why not take a few minutes to browse through this site, check out some of the stories, essays, excerpts, spoken word and music I’ve posted here over the past 3+ years?  All of it FREE to read and download.  Honest.  No strings attached.

C’mon, whaddaya say?  You wanna hang out for awhile?

Great, make yourself at home.

If you need me, I’ll be upstairs, first door on the left…

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My, my, how time flies.

It seems like only yesterday we were having the book launch but I see that a significant amount of time has passed since then, the summer well in progress…and I’m overdue for an update.

You know how it is, when this blog goes silent, that means I’m working.  So deeply immersed in a project, I’m thinking of nothing else.   Including food, water and most of the other basic necessities of life.

I’ve been feeling in a rut, writing-wise, which sometimes inspires me to bend my brain in other directions.  I know very little about visual art, theory or practice, but every so often I like to pick up a paintbrush, find an old slab of board and have at it.  This time around, my medium of choice was collage.  I keep files of visual images and dozens of issues of old magazines lying around just in case I get it into my head to try something like this.  Collage is a cumulative process; I moved the images here and there, tried them against different backdrops…but the key for me came when I decided to incorporate small blocks of text, usually relating to economic theory (the most savage form of social Darwinism imaginable).

It struck me as I was going through the literally hundreds of images I’ve collected over the past X amount of years, that I am an astonishingly morbid person.  I mean, Jesus, click on the image (above), you should get a larger sized version.  Would you trust someone who saves pictures like this to babysit your kids or date your daughter?

This is some sick, sick shit.

But as I was piecing everything together, as it all started to fall into place, I realized that what I was creating was a depiction of humanity run amok, the awful, indescribable damage we, as a species, have inflicted with our ideologies, our stupidity and greed.  Depressing, yes; sick-making?  Undoubtedly.  But is this vision inaccurate, flawed or misleading?  Well, like any creative endeavor, it’s up to each individual to decide for themselves.

The end result of that little experiment pleased me to some extent but I didn’t feel like I was quite done with cutting things up.  My eyes happened on a pile of books I’ve snagged from various thrift shops and library book sales over the years.  I decided I wanted to create an homage to one of my literary heroes, William Burroughs.  I’m sure you know all about the “cut-up method” that was developed by Burroughs and his mentor, Brion Gysin.  Take any number of literary texts, carve them up, piece them together and marvel at the wonderful word collisions and strange juxtapositions that are created.

My project started out as a noble venture but, as with most activities that involve me creatively, my Muse took over and things quickly got out my control.

I used scissors to pare out sections of a 1960 thriller called Operation Terror! I then snipped out various portions of the other books I had lying around:  an anthology of detective fiction that included Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue”, a forgotten novel by Ngaio Marsh, etc. etc.  Found a heavy sheet of black cardboard, set up on our basement workbench and proceeded to play with the various passages I’d selected.

At one point I realized I was probably defeating the purpose of the whole intention of “cut ups”, that my method was too conscious and controlling but by then it was too late.  I was caught up in creating an all new narrative, trying to come up with a satisfactory climax–

Good Lord.

Once I’d arranged the text into a coherent storyline, I decided I wasn’t done:  I would then write a story based on the outline I’d created using the borrowed snippets.  A completely original work utilizing pre-existing text.  And I’d frame it as a teleplay for a long-forgotten TV series…

I repeat:  Good Lord.

But there’s no use trying to talk sense to my Muse:  she simply won’t be reasoned with.  Once she gets an idea into her head, I am powerless to resist her.

So at the conclusion of this article you’ll find a link to the PDF version of my weird, whacky “mashup”.   It’s an homage to Mistah Burroughs in the form of a script from a 1950’s crime drama that never was.  Go figger.

I make no apologies for this story and predict it might annoy a significant proportion of readers.  But fans of Burroughs and Gysin might be more inclined to give grudging approval to the thought behind this bizarre creation.  They would see it, quite rightly, as a labour of love and even if they found fault with its execution, they’d think kindly of me for at least making the attempt.

Click on the link directly below for a free download of my story:

G-Man (PDF)

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A couple of things to cover this time around:

The proof copy of So Dark the Night arrived and we’ll get pictures up soon.  It’s a beautiful book—the folks at Lightning Source have done a brilliant job and we couldn’t be happier with the finished volume.  Unfortunately, there were a few minor glitches:  for one thing, we forgot to add the cover price (yeesh!  what dopes!) and there were a couple of formatting mistakes inside that needed tweaking.  So we sent in a revised set of cover and text files and that should be it.

In the meantime, the proof sits on my desk, just as pretty as you please.  At least five or six times a day I walk over, pick it up and ogle it, turning it over and over in my hands.

So…unless there are any unforeseen problems, we should be going into production in the next ten days and I’ll begin taking orders for So Dark the Night at that time.  Or you can buy my book through Lightning Source (and eventually Amazon and wherever else I can get it)

Watch this space.

For those of you who are currently seeking some fun reading, I’ve decided to post my newest short story, a work of suspense called “Bedevilled”.

This one has two main sources of inspiration:

The first was Roman Polanski’s “The Tenant” (terrific creepy film and the perfect evocation of Roland Topor’s short novel) and the second…well.  We’ve all seen the stories on the news, an obscene act of violence perpetrated by someone who is clearly delusional.  Our initial, knee jerk response to gruesome incidents like the killing on the Greyhound bus is to wash our hands of the assailant, throw away the key, put him out of his misery, etc. etc.  But, of course, as a writer my curiosity is piqued when I try to divine the thinking of such an individual:  what in God’s name would cause them to act out in such an extreme and horrific manner?

And so I wrote “Bedevilled”.

I have to say, now that the novel’s done and at the printer, I find I have some extra time to do things like journaling and writing short stories and I’m enjoying myself immensely.  “Bedevilled” challenged me and I think the end result is a solid short story.  I’ve played around with the formatting on this one, tried to make it more readable and eye-friendly (in PDF form).  Let me know what you think, dear Readers, especially you folks using devices like the iPad, Kindle, etc.  Do you like the fatter margins, find the spacing agreeable?

Let’s kick off the summer reading season with a tale of psychological suspense, shall we?

Click on the link below and…enjoy!

Bedevilled

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Anchorite

The first one is a kook.  Total whack job.

Rings the doorbell and right away starts babbling about ley lines and planetary convergences, everything explained by this crude chart he holds up for perusal.  And all the while keeping his eyes cast down because he’s afraid of being “blinded by immanence” or something like that.  It’s hard to make out what he’s saying because he’s weeping, practically vibrating from a combination of fear and excitement.  The guy won’t be talked down or dissuaded.  Eventually, he just wanders off, pausing every once in awhile to shout and point at the house.  Weird.

But the word must be out because another one shows up the next day, an old man who won’t approach the door.  Content to stand at the end of the walk, bracing himself on a cane when the arthritis in his hip gets too bad.  He’s there until dark.  And then he’s gone.

More arrive daily, most content to be bystanders, others bolder.  There are all kinds of places on the internet.  Conspiracy theorists and cultists and people who believe the apocalypse is due a week from Thursday.

A particularly awkward moment when a woman thrusts out an infant, screaming:  “Heal him!  Don’t let him die!”  Closing the door but she won’t stop screaming.  Rushing out to calm her, reason with her.  And the whole time it’s “my baby, my baby”, the neighbors looking on with frank disapproval.

It gets worse.  A steady stream of people arriving, knocking at all hours.  The congestion creating a parking and traffic nightmare.  It’s a quiet neighborhood and residents start to complain.

The police and authorities are, predictably, completely unhelpful.  Initially dubious, suspecting some kind of publicity stunt.  They check around, find the sites in question.  Someone alerts the media, which means more unwanted attention, phone calls, requests for interviews.  The situation only exacerbated when the Pope becomes involved, issuing a statement denouncing superstition and idolatry.

Uniformed officers are stationed around the clock, an attempt to keep the growing throng under control.  Weapons have been seized, along with extremist literature and bizarre religious tracts.  The situation quickly deteriorating.

Late one night, someone breaks through the cordon.  Presses his face to the door, whimpering:  “Libera me, Domine” and, as he is being dragged away, howling:  “Miserere mei, Deus!”

Living like a prisoner now, never able to venture outside or peer from a window.  And  day and night, 24/7, serenaded by a continual soundtrack of prayers and hymns.  Someone even sets up a loudspeaker and plays amplified recordings of rabbits being slaughtered and children crying—o, pity the suffering children.

Unplug the telephone, turn off the lights, sit in the dark.  They’ll weary of this eventually, go back to their homes.  Give them nothing to encourage their simple credulity.

Alone and besieged.  Resigned and dangerously bored.  Reorganizing the cupboards and bookshelves, performing a thousand small chores.  Playing endless games of solitaire and, naturally, winning every single time.

© Copyright, 2010  Cliff Burns (All Rights Reserved)


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