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Posts Tagged ‘indie writing’

Looks like it’s still going to be 2-3 weeks before the physical copies of my new short story collection arrive.

Once again, it seems the geeks have an advantage over the rest of us.  If you don’t want to wait for the “dead tree edition”, you can buy either the Kindle or e-book version of Exceptions & Deceptions and fire it up on your tablet or gear of choice.  

Available today. Right now.  Just point your cursor and…click.

Amazon has their version up and running and another joint called Lybrary.com has an e-Pub version ready for downloading (which can be viewed on most reading devices). I imagine Powell’s Books and Barnes & Noble will both be selling e-versions of Exceptions & Deceptions very soon as well.

Those of you wanting to lay your hands on an actual book, alas, must wait a little longer.

Patience, my children.  As I type this a proof is winging its way to my mailbox and from there we go straight into production.

I’m as anxious as an expectant father with a pocketful of cigars…

"Blessed..."

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* Click on image to enlarge

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Okay, sorry, yes, I know, it’s been awhile. These things happen. Don’t forget, I’m an independent writer and publisher, which basically means the work never stops. When I’m not writing, I’m filling orders or sending out review copies or doing promo, trying to spread the word about my work discreetly, a word in the right ear, hoping that approach will eventually lead to a tipping point and then all at once I’m no longer an obscure scribbler from the plains of western Canada, the bastard son of Philip K. Dick and Terry Gilliam, but instead, ahem, a writer of stature.

Sigh.  Yes, indeed. Wouldn’t it be nice…

But I’m always heartened when I glance at the ClusterMap (to the lower right) and see where my visitors are coming from. They originate from every continent and often drop by more than once.  A substantial proportion are downloading the stories and excerpts I make available on this site. Sales of my books may not be going through the roof and I may not be getting rich, but I know for a fact that tens of thousands of people around the world have been/are reading my prose and that’s a thrill. God knows, they need an alternative to the tripe they’re finding at their local, big box bookstore.

And I’m only too happy to oblige. Bring me your bored, your lonely, your frustrated, intelligent readers, appalled by what traditional publishing venues are regurgitating like pre-chewed maggots.

Let me risk repeating myself by saying how great it is receiving your comments and personal e-mails; I’m delighted when a smart, well-read person reaches out, sends a few words my way.  It’s a lonely life and sitting at this keyboard, day in and day out, I sometimes lose focus on real world obligations and duties. Interacting with literate folk is a way of bursting the bubble and re-establishing me in Earth Prime. So keep those remarks and observations coming.

Oh, and here’s a (mostly) true story, with a picture to prove it:

She spotted it first, motioning for him to join her. Both of them bending over it, quizzical and amused. Examining the carcass from a number of angles. She even stopped someone, a complete stranger, pointed at the sidewalk, asking him: “Isn’t that something?”

He grunted, unimpressed, impatient to get back to his preoccupations. Hardly giving it a glance before continuing on his way.

She was outraged. “He didn’t even care! How often does he see something like this?” Gesturing at the sidewalk.

“It’s almost Biblical, isn’t it?” her husband observed. “A rain of fish.”

It came up it conversation a number of times in the following days.  Spontaneous recollections of that moment when they stood over it, speculating on how it came to get there, that spot, like it had been left for them to find. She’d taken a picture with her phone, showed it to her friends but, again, the response was disappointing.

“They didn’t get it,” she complained, her expression wounded.

Every so often she’d cue up the picture, gaze at it, reliving the sense of strangeness she’d experienced when she realized what it was, the incongruity it represented. She found it odd that, try as she might, she could recall nothing of the day in question except coming across the fish. Surely something else had happened. Something memorable and out of the ordinary. She wracked her brain. Had they eaten a good meal or gone to see a show?

It bothered her that she couldn’t remember.

The many hours she had chosen to forget.

 

for Sherron

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Peter Darbyshire has just published an article in the Vancouver Province, discussing the future of books and publishing—you’ll find it here.  He was good enough to ask me about my experiences as a long-standing independent author and publisher (21 years and counting) and I was only too happy to oblige.

Smart man, Peter, a guy who knows what he’s talking about.  He’s had his own adventures in the publishing biz and is familiar with the new technologies that are allowing authors the chance to by-pass traditional gate-keepers and take their work directly to readers, via e-books and print on demand efforts.

As I wrote to Peter in a followup note, one of my fears is that while these technologies may empower good authors turned off by a corporate system that slots and niches books, producing dozens of copy-cat knockoffs of popular titles, it also accords terrible scribblers the opportunity to foist their mindless, adolescent crap on the world.  Thus, the marketplace is currently overwhelmed by dreadful vampire porn, brain-eating zombies and godawful tripe that wouldn’t pass muster in a high school yearbook.  Anyone can call themselves a writer these days and with a minimum investment can produce a decent-looking book with their name on the cover.   “Look at me!  Aren’t I great?  And you all thought I was a loser!”

I recently posted similar views on a couple of sites frequented by amateur writers and wannabes and was soundly taken to task for my arrogant insistence that there is a difference between good writing and bad writing.  One remark I’ve heard a number of times is that “we live in a post-literate society and the old standards no longer apply”.  You know, standards like good spelling, syntax that isn’t tortured beyond recognition, an ear for dialogue, an aversion to over-writing, etc. etc.

In the old days, these dingbats would be working in the rightly discredited sub-sub-genre of “fan fiction”, read by a few geeks with too much time on their hands and a roomful of Star Wars action figures.  Now they can inflict their offal on a far wider audience, pricing their e-books at 99 cents to draw the most possible readers and congratulating themselves for their genius.

It’s truly sickening.

I do not want to be lumped in with folks who have no respect for the printed word, who wish to emulate literary idols like Stephenie Meyer, James Patterson…the very worst of the worst.  I revere great writing and devote enormous time and effort to producing the finest, most literate work I can; to hear these people crowing about how many e-books they’ve sold, how much money they’ve made, goes against everything I believe in, as an author and an artist.  Their attitudes revolt me, their “writing” makes me shudder, their success impresses me not one whit.  They are bottom-feeders and pornographers and if that’s what sells these days, the literary world is in more trouble than I ever imagined.

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This is the view from my window.  Notice the old, dessicated oak tree struggling for life alongside our big maple.  It’s a “witch tree”, all right, look at it.  Entangled in the strangling roots of its neighbor but somehow surviving, year after year.

Cold this morning, with a nut-cutting wind chill.  A good day to stay inside, build a fire and read.  Yesterday, I finished the new Lee Child novel, Worth Dying For, in about five hours.  Just tore through it.  Give Child credit, he’s got a sweet franchise going.  Sometimes his “Jack Reacher” novels are suspenseful, sometimes they slip into formula.  Reacher the unstoppable superman (yawn).  This one is better.  The story hums along and there are good supporting players.

January 1st, if you recall, I start my “100 Book Challenge”.  I’ve already set aside 18 first-rate tomes, fiction and non-fiction, that I’m hoping will get me going, build up some momentum that will carry me through the year.  These include some of the smashing great books Sherron, er, Mrs. Santa left under the tree for me.  Stuff I’ve wanted to read for ages.  Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet, Jim Shepard’s Love and Hydrogen, Ken Kalfus’s first short story collection, Thirst,  and Huston Smith’s autobiography, Tales of Wonder.

I’ll be spending most of the next two days finishing my year-end cleanup.  A ritual that goes back many years.  Remove all material related to last year’s projects and prepare for new work.  New Year’s Eve, sometimes pretty close to midnight, I clean and vacuum the crappy old carpet in my office and that’s it:  I’m ready for whatever comes.

I know, my family thinks it’s weird too.

And there are my resolutions to prepare, a roster of promises I try very hard to keep (and usually end up batting around .500).  Then I write out a list of “pending projects”, big and small jobs I’d like to focus on in the coming year.  Need to straighten up in the basement too; the workbench overflowing with crap that has to be put away (or shit-canned).

I find I’m feeling pretty good as 2010 draws to an end.  Two books released this year, a number of solid shorter efforts…plus there’s the music I’ve created with Garageband, two disks of weird ambient tunes that still make me smile.  I’ve discovered I love noodling around and experimenting with different media—Sherron has infected me with her belief that making art shouldn’t always be work, there can also be an element of play involved.  In 2011, I want to do some photography, stills and short videos.  Sometimes I get tired of working exclusively with words and need a break.  A chance to explore non-verbal, non-narrative concepts.  I’ve even tried my hand at painting.  I hope to do more visual experiments in 2011 (and beyond).

But the main focus, of course, continues to be improving as a writer, growing and developing,  moving the bar ever higher with each book or story I take on.  I’m certain the “100 Book Challenge” will introduce me to different influences/perspectives and it will be interesting to see how that affects my work.  God, wouldn’t it be wonderful if I started writing more like Italo Calvino or with the ferocity and power of a Celine?

Er, I forgot.  Louis Ferdinand Celine’s not exactly a popular figure these days.  Very difficult to find his work.  Awful man…but even Beckett  admired his writing and those two were miles apart, ideologically speaking.  Celine’s malign nature is as undeniable as his genius.  They probably went hand in hand.  But anyone who denies themselves the opportunity to read Death on the Installment Plan or Journey to the End of the Night because of his personal failings (however despicable) is missing out on some of the finest writing of the 20th century.

All that said, the first book I’ll likely tackle in the New Year is Michael Palin’s Halfway to Hollywood: Diaries 1980-88.  A volume I can zip through in less than a day.  Something fast and breezy and fun to get me started.

And then only 99 more to go…

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A tip of the hat to John Miedema, for selecting this blog as one of his “Ten Favorites of 2010“.

Bless you, John.

 

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Last night we had the official launch of my new novel Of the Night at the North Battleford Library.

A heartfelt thank you to Wendy and all the hardy souls who braved the first serious cold snap this winter to celebrate the birth of my latest literary offspring.  Sherron and my two sons handled the lights and tech and made sure everything went off without a hitch.  Thanks, guys!

Naturally, I over-prepared, endlessly rehearsing my introductory remarks and the three excerpts I had chosen to read.  Ah, well.  I think it went off well and the good vibes bubbled over into the book signing afterward.

Speaking of those remarks:

I’ve decided to post them, since they’re a good, concise description of my experiences over the past two decades as an independent author and publisher.  I hope these words will inspire others while, at the same time, providing insights re: some of the difficulties and frustrations I’ve endured for choosing the less-travelled path (my essay “Solace of Fortitude” covers similar territory, albeit at greater length).

To all the indie authors out there, struggling to make themselves heard:  write on!


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What do you do when you’ve written a good book and no one wants to publish it?

Twenty years ago, when faced with that dilemma, I made the somewhat irrational decision to go ahead and print it myself.  I knew nothing about what went into producing a physical book but, to my mind, that was beside the point.  Getting that book, that gruesome little book, into the hands of readers was paramount.

Because the alternative—giving up, throwing in the towel—means that a good book never even has a chance at finding a readership.  It languishes in a box somewhere, years and perhaps even decades pass and it doesn’t see the light of day.  It might be a lost classic…or a piece of garbage.  We’ll never know.  Book-lovers aren’t accorded the opportunity to render their verdict.

And let’s take a look at the recent track record of the folks who decide what gets published and what doesn’t.  Hardly encouraging, to say the least.  Sales figures are dropping precipitously, bookstores and chains all over the U.S. and Canada are closing or seeking bankruptcy protection; independent bookstores have almost entirely disappeared.  Venerable publishing divisions have been lopped off or dramatically downsized, layoffs announced, the demise of the book predicted, onset of a post-literate culture looming—

Doesn’t sound like publishers and retailers have succeeded at capturing the contemporary zeitgeist, does it?  Why have so many people, apparently, stopped reading or scaled back to the point where a substantial number of respondents in one poll indicated they hadn’t read a single work of fiction in the past year?

Could it be that the industry is printing and selling books that nobody wants to read?  Perhaps in their efforts to meet the lowest common denominator, rehashing the same types of books over and over again, scraping the creosote off the bottom of the barrel, traditional publishers have alienated serious readers; worse yet, bored them with formulas, derivative prose, copycat covers and cookie cutter authors.

Publishing today has been debased by celebrity and dumbed down to attract people who normally wouldn’t tackle anything more demanding than the back of a cereal box.  This mentality is abetted by greedhead agents looking to nab their 15% of the pie and corporate editors who know full well the suits upstairs want big numbers, bestsellers…and if they don’t deliver, they’ll lose that rent-controlled apartment, all those sweet perqs and per diems that make their lousy lives bearable.  Shit, let’s face it, the markets take one more big dip, the guys in the boardroom start getting nervous and anyone could end up in the street.  There are more than a few ex-CEOs and executive vice-presidents living behind 7-11’s, begging spare change so they can get their Blackberrys out of hock.

So let me ask you something:  why should I, as an author, defer to anyone affiliated with an industry that publishes godawful tripe by the likes of Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer, Sophie Kinsella and…well, feel free to fill in the blanks with your most detested hack of choice.  Those inept scribblers aren’t better writers than I am:  their prose has all the symmetry and grace of someone slipping on a wet floor with an arm-load of pots and pans.  Understand, I don’t resent their big money contracts, but I sure as hell detest them for taking up valuable shelf space and making mince-meat out of the printed word.

I love good writing and revere authors who trust and respect their audience enough to break away from convention, fearlessly leading readers into strange, unknown terrain. But it’s getting harder and harder to find work that seems fresh and exciting.  You have to look farther afield, to some of the small and micro-presses out there…because traditional publishing is a wasteland of zombies, vampires, tepid romance and poor-me memoirs.  It’s enough to make a book-lover weep.

But there are alternatives.  Those small presses I alluded to…and a growing number of independent authors who, taking a cue from their musical counterparts, have gone their own way, demanding total autonomy over their career and creations.  Seizing control of the means of production, refusing to be exploited and humiliated by a system as ancient, obsolete and calcified as a dinosaur turd.

Independent authors…like me.  Back in 1990 I knew I had a good book, a cool collection of short stories that counted among its fans none other than the great Timothy Findley.  How could it fail?  But that volume, titled Sex & Other Acts of the Imagination, was turned down by literally every press and publisher you can name.  So I released it myself.  We sold out the entire print run in 4 1/2 months…and I was hooked.  I loved the sense of empowerment the process of self-publishing gave me, loved how every decision–from the selection of cover art to the choice of interior font–was left completely up to me.

This year, 2010, our imprint Black Dog Press is two decades old and it’s my 25th anniversary as a professional writer.  Usually I’m not one who displays much interest in birthdays or anniversaries but I felt compelled, on this occasion, to do something I hadn’t done before, which is release two books in one year—just to prove my oddball micro-press is still alive, still kicking.

I think the books in question, So Dark the Night and Of the Night, are representative of the best of what independent presses are capable of producing.  Thrilling, literate, original fiction; books for readers who still treasure a well-told story.

And aren’t they beautiful?  For that, credit belongs to our long-suffering cover designer, Chris Kent, working his magic with lovely artwork created by Ado Ceric and Adrian Donoghue.  I also want to say special thanks to Sherron, for the invaluable role she has played in the conception, creation and release of literally every single thing I’ve written for the past quarter century.

So…what do you do when you’ve written a good book and no one wants to publish it?

D.I.Y.  Do it yourself.  Use new technologies like print-on-demand and e-books and blogging to get your work out there.  Let your readership decide if your prose is worthy…or not.  Write as well as you can and edit your work carefully; do a better, more conscientious job than your traditionally published, over-paid counterparts.  Help defeat the impression that the indie movement is nothing more than a haven for amateurs and never-will-bes.  Most of all, don’t let anyone deny you a voice, your rightful place at the campfire.  Your story is important.  It’s part of a long tradition, a Great Narrative as timeless and enduring as the very fabric of Creation.

“In the beginning was the Word…”

And don’t you ever forget it.

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Well, here it is, unveiled for the first time.

The cover of the next novel in the Ilium “cycle”, Of the Night.  Coming soon to a bookstore near you (we hope)…

Our pal Chris Kent completed work on the cover this weekend and I have to say he’s come up with another beauty (Chris also executed the cover for my previous book, So Dark the Night).  Australian visual artist Adrian Donoghue created the original image and Chris, as designer, supplied the fonts and conceived the “look” of my book without damaging Adrian’s wonderful work.

(Click on the cover if you want to see a larger version)

Final edits on the text will be complete this week and both the text and cover files will be sent to our printer, Lightning Source, by the weekend.  Then we get a proof copy, check it out and if everything looks A-okay, Of the Night will be available for sale.  I’m anticipating an official release date somewhere around October 20th.  Keep checking back for the latest updates and news.

My deepest thanks to Chris, Adrian, and my wife, Sherron, for combining their talents and visual acuity to give me the loveliest cover an author could ask for.  Folks, you’re the best!

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Another long interval between posts and, again, all I can do is mutter, “sorry, busy” and then get on to the matter at hand.

First of all, the cover and text files of my novel So Dark the Night have been uploaded to Lightning Source and we have been told to expect a bound proof of the book in the next week or so.

The process of prepping the book, getting the files formatted properly, meeting Lightning Source’s very complicated and detailed specifications, took some doing.  Honestly, the folks at Lightning Source are great, helpful and quick to respond to questions.  Full marks to them for that.  But their process is so amazingly convoluted it would scare the living bejesus out of anyone with little or no tech savvy.  Fortunately, my wife Sherron is fearless and possesses endless reservoirs of patience.  She needed every last drop.  She worked for hours on consecutive nights, trying to make sense out of the printed guide supplied by Lightning Source and then, God help her, doing her best to master Adobe Pro 9, which we needed to complete the process.  She was a trooper, I tell you, plowing her way through while her husband (that’s me) had to take frequent “time outs” to maintain his composure and rein in his well-known impatience and incendiary temper.

And let me also single out our cover designer/graphic artist Chris Kent for praise, salute him for assistance and tolerance above and beyond the call of duty.  When Sherron finally had to throw up her hands, he graciously agreed to meet with her and help her get those &$#@ing files sorted out.  Chris, you da man!

So now it’s wait for the proof and see if there are any glitches that need correcting.  This is computers we’re talking about, after all, semi-sentient creatures showing the first stirrings of consciousness.  God knows what that proof will look like.  Lightning Source has a promotional offer on right now–for the next month they’re waiving their set-up fee of $75.  So I guess I should consider this, my initial shot, a freebie.  Nothing to lose, right?

But if all goes well, we’ll get the proof, it’ll look fantastic and production can begin immediately.  I’ll put in an order for 100 books and we’ll arrange a launch, peddle the books to Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton.  Send fliers to the indie bookstores still out there (damn few of them) and prevail on friends in far-flung places like Vancouver, Toronto and Los Angeles to flog the sample copies I send them.

What else can I do?  Newspapers have slashed their book review pages–and, even so, indie/self-published work constantly had a hard time getting any kind of acceptance from the mainstream media.  No one in Canada reviewed Righteous Blood, despite the review copies publisher Peter Crowther supplied at my insistence (sorry, Peter!).  Should I try my luck with their on-line counterparts?  BookNinja and Bookslut, places like that?  What think you, Readers?  Where do you go to get your reviews, information on interesting new releases?  Let me know…

I’ve checked into shipping and, hoo boy, have prices ever skyrocketed in the past few years.  Mailing out copies of So Dark the Night is going to be a pretty costly proposition.  Tentatively, here are the numbers we’re looking at:

So Dark the Night—$17.95 per copy (U.S. & Canada); £13 (U.K.); €14.75 Euros (Europe)

E-Book:  $9.95 (U.S. & Canada); £6.50 (U.K.); €7.50 Euros (Europe)

Shipping:

$12.00 (Canada)

$8.00 Surface (USA)  $9.50 Airmail (USA)

$16.50 (Air)  Overseas

I’ll be making half the book available as a free PDF and I’ll also be recording the entire book, which you’ll be able to hear (free) as an MP3 download or podcast.

And there you have it; you’re now completely up to date.

Besides getting the book ready, I’ve had to register Black Dog Press as a business ($110.00) and check on my PST and GST status (thankfully, neither applies to a micro press like mine).  To keep myself sane, I’ve been creating more music, which I hope to post in the next few weeks.  For those of you who liked my “Soundtrack For A Science Fiction Movie Never Made” (thanks for the kind words, by the way).  Anyone who hasn’t popped over to my Audio page for a whole buncha free stuff to listen to and download should check it out.

I’ll drop a line or two when the proof arrives, maybe even include a few pictures.  We’re on pins and needles around here.  Nervous as expectant parents.  Counting the hours and hoping for the very, very best…

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Here’s a link to a new site devoted to indie writing and publishing.  I wanted to show my support so I wrote a “guest” editorial and Zoe’s just posted it.

Pop by Zoe’s joint and show your support for writing that veers from the mainstream and presents readers with original, challenging work. I predict very soon it will be the place to go to for authors seeking alternatives to traditional publishing venues and information on the exciting new technologies that put control over their writing/careers back into authors’ hands.

Publishing Renaissance will be an invaluable resource to writers and readers and I can’t praise Zoe’s efforts and energy enough.

Good luck, kid…

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