Category: blog novel

“Flash” fiction: First writing of 2010

Never thought I’d say this but…

So Dark the Night is done.

Editing, polishing and buffing now complete.  After some proof-reading for typos and mis-spellings, it’s off to the printer in the form of a PDF and, hopefully, by early March we’ll have a physical book to offer you.  Really pleased with the changes I’ve made; I’ve tightened the novel considerably, lopped about 5 pages from its length.  Speeds up the pacing..the idea is to make the book impossible to put down.  And I think I’ve come pretty close to achieving that goal.

Can’t wait to see Ado Ceric’s gorgeous cover art on a trade paperback.  Hoping to keep the price around $17-18 max.  And, of course, we’ll still be offering the newly revamped So Dark the Night as a free e-book for those of you who have evolved and now do most of your reading from some kind of screen.  Judging by the number of downloads I’ve had over the past couple of weeks, I’d say a lot of folks received Kindles or other e-readers as Christmas gifts.  After all, what else do you give a discerning bibliophile (if you’ve got over $200 to spare)?

There will be more posts re: the release of So Dark the Night (the book) so stay tuned.

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In the meantime, idle hands and all that:  once I completed edits on the novel, I had some free time and indulged in some “automatic” writing.  This is what I came up with, my first fiction and verse of 2010:


Toxic Waste

A witch’s heart won’t burn, so what do you do with it?  It can’t be buried, its evil influence would still be felt, blighting crops, causing stillbirths.  To cast it into a well would poison the water for miles around.

No, best to keep the vile thing locked away.  In a lead-lined canister, sealed with wax, submerged in holy water.

And who better to steward the damned things than me?  Serving as an invaluable repository for witch-hunters desperate to dispose of something infernal, indestructible.  Making a pretty penny off it too, if I may say so.  Not many willing to do the work, to be honest.

It’s the shrieking and carrying on that’s the worst.  There are nights I have to stopper my ears. They never rest and they never stop yearning to be free.  From a hundred shelves, a thousand faceless jars.  Some of them claiming innocence, and they’re the most dangerous and insidious of all.

© Cliff Burns, 2010


Boxes

They have departed to the pleasure domes
abandoned their husks to decay

Meatless, eternal, every wish fulfilled.
Etheric couplings, satisfaction guaranteed;
high adventure, simulated to the last pixel
experience without significance,
vouchsafed by an overcautious A.I.

You can never die and so
you can never live
and virtual love is no love
at all

They can emulate everything except a soul
(but it’s only a matter of time)


© Cliff Burns, 2010

Revisiting “So Dark the Night”

Thought I’d better pop in with an update, let you know what I’ve been working on in my little office at the top of the stairs.

Editing, mostly, with a little bit of music and sports talk radio to help ease the pain.  Aw, it hasn’t been so bad.  I’ll admit to experiencing a lot of trepidation when I decided to give my novel So Dark the Night another run-through before I published it as a print-on-demand book next year.  I posted it on this blog two years ago and since then have received numerous requests from readers that I release a “dead tree” edition of my supernatural thriller (and I do try to please my readers).  Probably a smart idea:  between this site and Scribd, So Dark has been downloaded at least a couple thousand times…a situation that pleases me beyond measure.

But I was worried that the interval of two years would rub some of the lustre off the book, reveal flaws, expose slipshod writing.  Fortunately, that hasn’t been the case.  The changes I’m making are cosmetic and are mainly due to how hard I was bearing down as I completed my final edits.  I had been at work on So Dark the Night for three years and I wanted to make sure it was exactly right.  I think it seems too tight in places and I am trying to loosen it up a tad, enhance Nightstalk’s narrative voice.

I’ve given myself a some firm deadlines to have this manuscript polished up and the book released by a certain date (more on that later).  Delighted that the book is holding together very well (thus far) and that my faith in it, my love of the two central characters, is more than justified.

I’m also pleased that both my cover artists, Ado Ceric and Adrian Donoghue, have agreed to allow me to use their art when I release So Dark the Night and Of the Night in 2010 (likely through Lulu.com).  The books have each been assigned ISBNs and we’ll soon finalize cover design and jacket copy.  Feels good to be an indie publisher again–it’s been more than ten years since we released The Reality Machine and that’s too long.  Gotta make up for lost time.

Stay tuned.  2010 is gonna be a busy year.  Gotta celebrate my 25th year as a professional writer in style.

Break out the bubbly, string up a pinata…hell, folks, let’s have ourselves a party!

Listen to my work on audio

imagesWith the help of the tireless Anthony, a support staff member with WordPress, I’ve figured out how to add a special “Audio” page to my blog.

You’ll find it by looking to the right hand side, under the “Stories” widget.  Just click on “Audio” and you’ll discover a large selection of my stories, poems, commentaries, even an excerpt from my novel So Dark the Night. All available for free listening and downloading onto whatever device (iPod or cell phone) you currently favour.  Many of these pieces are accompanied by music, which provides dramatic highlights, a soundtrack that is either pleasing or provocative (or both).

The most recent offering is a six-minute chat about “indie” writing I recorded because I’ve received a host of questions, both here and in various forums where I hang out.  People want to know what it means to be an independent writer…and I want to do what I can to dispel this notion that one goes the indie/self-publishing route because your work can’t cut it with traditional publishers.  Hey, kids, I chose to go my own way because after 20+ years of dealing with inept, sociopathic, moronic editors, I’d had enough.  New technologies like blogs, podcasts and print-on-demand put more control into authors’ hands, a situation I welcome with open arms.

For the record, here’s what I said–

Indie Writer

–and after giving it a listen, I hope you’ll have a clearer understanding of what I’m trying to accomplish with this blog.  And please check out the rest of my audio releases, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the production values and the power and intensity of the work.

Theatre of and for the mind…

A Few Quick Notes…

So Dark coverFirst, let me give a quick plug to a new site devoted to writers and writing.  I received a note from one of the administrators and after making sure they were legit and not just a money grab directed at desperate, wannabe writers, I promised them I’d drop a word in my next post.

Lit Drift looks smart and hip and whoever designed their site did a smashing job; appearance-wise it’s one of the best author-oriented venues I’ve come across on the web.  Their only revenue is derived from advertising and they don’t promote any specific print-on-demand outfit or offer editorial services at ridiculously inflated prices.  I say pop over and see what they’re up to; I like the way they operate.  And if you need further convincing, they give away free books every Friday and darn good ones at that.

Another thing I want to bring up is the possibility that I may offer both my novels, So Dark the Night and Of the Night through Lulu.com.  My pal Ian Sales (watch for him, he’s gonna be a superstar on the Brit sci fi scene) has worked with them and approves of their bare bones approach to publishing.  The author presents his/her manuscript and they print copies as each new order is received.  No overhead, no piles of books moldering in a warehouse somewhere.  Traditional publishers take note.

There’s a bit of a process that goes along with this decision, including revising the manuscripts and making sure they’re basically typeset and ready for printing, clearing up a few typos folks have pointed out to me, polishing them to an even brighter sheen.   I’ll also have to secure permissions from the artists who provided me with such wonderful covers and prepare some jacket copy and…

You get the idea.

of-night-final2Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts–how many of you would be interested in securing copies of the two books?  So Dark the Night, because it clocks in at around 400 pages, will likely retail around $18-20 and Of the Night in the $14-16 range.  That’s an estimation but likely pretty close to how it will end up.

And, finally, I wanted to tell you how much I’ve been enjoying mucking about with Garageband, the music program that came with my iMac.  Folks, I have been making some lovely music, a series of atmospheric pieces, instrumentals ranging from cool ambient tones to rockin’ riffs.  I’ve recorded about seven or eight minutes so far, often so immersed in a piece that an entire afternoon will be gobbled up and I won’t realize how much time has elapsed until I hear the boys downstairs, home from school.

I’ll be adding the best bits to the blog later on–it’s a thrill to have another mode of expression open to me.

Enough for now.  More promo work to do today (the burden of an indie artist) and then, hopefully, a couple of hours of Garageband later on.  Getting lots of hits on the stories I recorded and posted last week so I guess folks are enjoying them.  There will be more to come soon.  Just keep tuning in…

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“Read an E-Book Week” (March 8-14, 2009)

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These are interesting times.

Book store sales are dropping, Borders on the verge of collapse, while places like Amazon report an impressive rise in their stats.   Fewer people are reading books but there’s been a modest increase (3%) of those reading “literary” offerings.  Newspapers are in decline, advertising revenues dwindling; to a great extent, folks now get their news, sports and entertainment info from on-line sources.

Despite their daunting price tags, more and more people are using devices like the Kindle and the Sony e-Reader or related palm-sized gadgets.  And employing said gadgets to avail themselves of books presented in electronic formats, downloading and reading them in growing numbers.

I’m an old fashioned lad, a real throwback when it comes to all this technology–miles behind digital sages like Mike Cane, who have seen the future and are showing the rest of us dummies what lies ahead.

But I’m learning.  I’ve posted two of my novels and numerous short stories on this site and, frankly, I’ve been astonished by the amount of people who have downloaded them–some of them are reading my fiction and essays on their computer screens, even printing them up to peruse at their leisure.  But I’m also noticing a growing number who are coming over from various e-book sites and forums, places like this and this

Wonderful.

Frankly, I couldn’t care less how you read something I’ve written, what format you choose.

Coming up in March, some folks are celebrating the new reality in publishing by sponsoring “Read an E-Book Week” and I’m only too happy to throw my weight behind this event.

Thanks to this blog and the ability it gives me to electronically publish my work, I’ve been able to bypass the gate-keepers of publishing, editors and agents with one eye on the fickle marketplace and the other on their bank accounts.  They’re no longer interested in identifying the “best” writers, merely the ones that hold out the most hope of selling the most books and earning them (agents, editors) more money. And that, of course, means producing empty-headed commercial fiction, copycat books and the latest “poor me” memoir.

But, re: the sales figures above, their record of late hasn’t been too impressive.  The reading public has largely ignored the authors they herald, the derivative works they champion.

It’s time for a new paradigm and e-books are part of the solution.  They put power and control back into the hands of writers, allowing them to publish their work without editorial interference or an unhealthy obsession with what’s perceived to be popular.

Authors can now create their own “buzz” and attract readers from around the world to their work.  Others have debated the merits of offering material free, but I have found it has worked wonders for me, raising my profile to hitherto unheard of heights.  Tens of thousands of folks from around the world have visited this blog and many, many of them have taken the opportunity to read and enjoy the material I offer.

Hats off to the folks behind “Read an E-Book Week”.  I congratulate them for their foresight and the vision they have of a future where authors are granted paramount importance and corporate publishing is, increasingly, marginalized, rendered superfluous, perhaps even obsolete.

That day isn’t far off.  And when it finally arrives, it won’t be cause for mourning or despair.  On the contrary–and I’ll be one of the liberated, independent artists dancing a victory jig on their graves…

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“So Dark the Night” is here!!

Cover

What a night! We’ve got fifteen year old Glenlivet scotch waiting to be poured, a celebratory drink after loading my biggest and best novel onto this blog. And we can make it an anniversary party as well—it’s almost a year to the day since we started our strange l’il site, Sherron pushing new technologies on me, tempting me with promises that they would permit me to bypass the old, traditional publishing structure I despise and approach readers directly. It was a very enticing vision.

Tonight, part of that dream is coming true for me.

Here’s my brand new book, a funny, scary, noirish thriller and I’m presenting it to you through the auspices of my blog, no editors, no agents, no bookseller…just you and I, dear Reader, the most intimate transaction conceivable. Is this the way the future will be?

So Dark the Night is a terrific book. Not a terrific blog novel or e-book, a terrific book period. The fact that I’ve been forced to publish it myself to my mind reveals something seriously fucked up in the publishing biz. How could they let this one slip through their fingers? It’s got everything going for it: funny, attractive leads, supernatural demon spawn galore…

I don’t want to go on and on, there will be ample opportunity to talk about the genesis and lengthy gestation of this novel in the days to come. No project has challenged me as much or rewarded me so amply for my efforts. I love this book, love the two central characters like old friends. It is a pleasure to introduce you to Cassandra Zinnea and Evgeny Nightstalk. They’re creatures of the night without the pointy teeth and aversion to garlic. They frequent shadowy, darkened streets and confront the uncanny and ghastly with cool heads and stout hearts. They make a great team, brains and brawn, beauty and the beast–their adversaries should be on their guard, these are two operatives who don’t scare easily, investigators with nerves of steel.

Here’s a link to the pdf (also posted on the “Novels” page). Be warned, however: once you read those first couple of pages, you might find it hard to stop…

So Dark-excerpt

A New Look

Welcome to the revamped “Beautiful Desolation”.

The old template was limited in terms of certain key options (widgets, etc.) and there simply wasn’t room to grow. Now, thanks to the tireless efforts of Sherron, I can post my novels, some short films, podcasts, music…yup, lots of good stuff envisioned in the coming months.

Starting with So Dark the Night, my occult thriller, a funny, scary, endearing novel featuring the dynamic duo of Evgeny D. Nightstalk and his gorgeous, brilliant partner Cassandra Zinnea. Edits are in the home stretch and I’ve moved up the release date to mid-March. Mark it on your calendar, boys and girls.

Sharp eyes will also spot the “Donation” button off to the right. I thought it was time to give those of you who are so inclined the opportunity to support a starving artist whose annual income would make a medieval peasant scoff. I emphasize that this is a voluntary process–you’re welcome to read whatever you like for free, keeping in mind that any downloading or printing of copyrighted material for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited. Anyone who abuses this privilege risks legal injunction…and dealing with the nastiest writer west of the Greenwich meridian.

There are exciting times ahead and I hope you’ll keep abreast of new content constantly being added to this site: the 4 novels I plan to release in the next 15 months, the rants and invective, reviews and updates.

With the film version of my novella “Kept” heading into production, I’m hoping traffic will increase substantially. The new template will help, methinks. It’s far more readable, easier on the eyes and just plain nicer to look at.

As always, your comments and remarks are welcome, your input greatly appreciated.

Thanks for dropping by.

“…I’d rather be in Philadelphia!”

fields2jpeg.jpgOh, I hear you, W.C.

For the last few weeks I have been grinding away on final edits of So Dark the Night and it has not been fun. Rewarding, yes; mentally stimulating, undoubtedly. Fun? Not a chance.

I responded to a post on another blog this morning by opining that maybe the computer wasn’t the besttypewritrjpeg.jpg invention for obsessive compulsive perfectionists like yours truly. In the bad old days of typewriters, if you made a mistake or needed to slice out a paragraph, you had to type the entire fucking page all over again. Which either made you do it right the first time or decide that it was “good enough”.

Alas, those two words are not in my vocabulary. There is no such thing as “good enough” and now, thanks to the cut and paste functions, the ease of editing with computers, my work may never be “good enough”. That’s a terrifying thought.

I’ve been banging away on So Dark the Night for over three years now. I’ve gone through the “final” editing process before and always seem to get drawn back for one last run-through. Imposing a deadline for myself this time around has really helped. This book will be loaded onto my blog the end of March, even if it kills me. It’s like the last rounds of Ali-Frazier’s “Thrilla in Manila”: both fighters battered, Frazier nearly sightless but neither giving up or backing down. Telling their corners not to stop the fight, no matter what.

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This book has nearly destroyed me…and redeemed and strengthened me in the process. When virtually every singlenewmanjpeg.jpg editor and agent either refused to look at it or turned it down after a cursory glance (or, like Jessica Wade at Ace Books, simply refused to respond to my queries after telling me how much she liked the first excerpt I sent her), I was traumatized. Doubted my talent, my courage, my Creator…but now, a la “Fast Eddie” Felson at the conclusion of “Color of Money”, I’m back. Oh, baby, am I ever.

Working with confidence and vision, seeing the novel in more dimensions and depth than I ever have before. I’ve finished edits on the first half of the book and today I begin Part II. I’ve divided So Dark into 20 page chunks and I pound away on each one like a heavy bag until I’m satisfied I’ve knocked the fucking stuffing out of it…and then I move on to the next segment.

fawltyjpeg.jpgThe intensive editing has led to some, ah, interesting, side effects. Most notably, dreams; incredibly vivid ones. To the extent that when I stop work around 9:00 each night I have to deprogram myself, ease out of my fictional world, watch an old “Fawlty Towers” or original “Star Trek” episode with Sherron and have a giggle. My two sons are good sources of distraction too–funny, smart, interesting buggers. Their thought processes never cease to fascinate me. Their February break is coming up and during the timetarntulajpeg.jpg off I’m hoping a couple of old films I’ve ordered off the internet (“Conquest of Space” and “Tarantula”) will arrive and we can sit down, as a family, for a midnight-double-bill-creature- feature. I love sharing old flicks with them, chortling at the hokeyness and marveling at the absence of CGI, the wires showing and none of us giving a shit.

Sorry, have to make this post short. If I don’t make my daily page count, I can’t sleep at night. Insistent, nagging voices keeping me awake, telling me what a lazy, shiftless bastard I am.

Make sure you come back the end of March and see the end result of all this crazy-making work. So Dark the Night will be the leanest, tightest 470-page novel you’re likely to come across. That’s a promise–and as anyone who knows me will tell you, I always keep my promises.

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“This is a public service announcement…with guitars!”

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I’ve been dropping hints that there are big things ahead for this blog in the coming year, now I’d like to make it official:

In the next fifteen months (or so), I shall be posting 4 separate, full-length novels on this site. They will be available to read and download (under the terms of Creative Commons) for FREE. I might have one of those PayPal “tip jars” fortipjpeg.jpg those of you who want to offer a small stipend to keep me in printer cartridges but I emphasize payment is optional. The main thing is to get my novels out there in the public eye and give folks the opportunity to read them.

The first offering, So Dark the Night, will be posted the end of March. I’m in the process of doing a final edit and polish, wearing out my brain on the 475 page fucker. But it’s a gorgeous book–I’ve excerpted it in “Stories” if you want to pop over for a look–and when you read it in its entirety…well, I can hardly wait.

The next book is shorter, about 160 pages. It’s titled Of the Night and is set in the same universe as the first one, although not a direct sequel. I’ll have that one ready likely the first week of June.

Two others will follow and I’ll talk about them in greater detail at a later date.

These books have been languishing too long and it’s time to get them out there rather than have them locked away in yeboxjpeg.jpg proverbial trunk, gathering dust.

I’ve set a pretty aggressive schedule for myself, with hard deadlines, so the next year+ is going to be busy and my poor, arthritic fingers are going to take a terrible pounding. But if not now, when? I am encouraged by fellow scribblers Peter Watts, Scott Sigler, David Wellington and Cory Doctorow, authors who have garnered no small amount of attention and acclaim by posting their work on-line. Cory has made the astonishing claim that one of his novels has been downloaded 650,000 times…and that’s just from his site alone (not counting those “linked” to him). The mind boggles at such numbers. And Peter, disenchanted with how Blindsight, a terrific book, was promoted by his publisher, posted it on rifters.com and earned himself a spot on the Hugo shortlist (and I still say you shoulda won, bro).

bookjpeg.jpgSo there it is, my friends. All part of my profound desire to bypass traditional publishing and get my work directly into the hands of readers. Whether or not I have the kind of success others who’ve gone this route attained, I can’t say. But if I don’t it won’t be because I’ve offered up substandard, amateurish work. So Dark the Night is a thriller in every sense of the word, filled to brimming with sharp, hard-boiled dialogue, supernatural “bogeys” and the most endearing private operatives since Holmes and Watson navigated the steamy streets of old London town.

Watch for it the end of March.

It will be worth the wait.