Category: Creative Commons

“The Midnight Detective” (Spoken Word)

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.

Short poem to start the day

This morning I was sitting at my desk and happened to glance out the window, at the ungainly maple tree in our backyard that is always in need of trimming back.

Last night we had a substantial amount of rain.  The air rich with a variety of living scents, pouring into my home office, filling the room.  All at once, I started scribbling…

18/08/2011

shining leaves
dripping morning light
brushed by the wind
stubbornly resisting
its relentless entreaties

“Anchorite” (New short fiction!)

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)


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…

For your listening pleasure… (Blog Post #100)

imagesWell, this is cause to celebrate.

This happens to be blog post #100 and, if that isn’t enough, later on this week this site will receive its 50,000th visit.

Wow.  That’s an overwhelming number of people coming to a blog devoted to a Canuck writer who has eschewed the big time, stubbornly maintained his singular vision with an orneriness not often seen in writing circles.

God bless you, folks.  You’re all the proof that I need to reassure myself that the indie path is the one for me and I shall continue to produce work that fits no niches or stereotypes or genres, confident that smart, discerning readers will find me…and help spread the word.

To mark this auspicious occasion I’ve recorded three of my favorite short-short stories, adding music and sound effects to enhance the experience.  Once again, Sherron lent a helping hand, pulling the whole mess together.  The final result surprised and delighted me to the extent that I think it’s safe to say there will be more such efforts in the near future.

Ah, heck, enough of my jabbering.  Have a listen to these pieces and, as always, I encourage you to leave a comment, letting me know what you think…

Cliff Burns Reading Short Stories (V.2)

“Also Starring” (Free Fiction)

imagesWell, it seemed unsporting to allude to my short story “Also Starring” (see my last post) and then not add what is, arguably, one of my best known and most popular stories to the blog.  This one leads off my Reality Machine collection and sets the tone for what comes next.

“Also Starring” made it into a number of very decent anthologies, including The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror (tip of the hat to editor Ellen Datlow for choosing a story that, like so much of my stuff, defies easy classification).

I love movies and especially love movies that feature an outstanding supporting cast.  Over the years I’ve become something of a cinema buff and I’ve come to really appreciate the work of character actors like Strother Martin, Ronny Cox, Peter Lorre, Joseph Cotten, Victor McLaglen, John C. Reilly, Harry Carey and thespians of that ilk.  Familiar faces you can never quite put a name to, actors whose consummate skill and professionalism render them all but invisible.

This is my homage to them.

Click here for your free PDF download of “AlsoStarring

“New World Man” (science fiction story)

images-2What? More free reading for you?  Why not?  It’s summertime, kick back, take it easy.  And here’s a mind-blowing little gem, a short story from my Reality Machine collection that I think, in all honesty, is one of the ten best I’ve ever written.

“New World Man” owes its origins to some time I spent with…I guess you’d call him a street kid.  I met him at a record store/head shop after we moved back to Saskatchewan (from Baffin Island) in the mid-90’s.  Hung out with “Kyle” (not his name), met his extended family, seven or eight young people sharing a grotty one-room apartment, sleeping bags spread out on the floor like nests, music constantly playing.  Kyle was a Rancid freak and tried to convert me–didn’t take, pal, sorry.  He introduced me to someone who morphed into the “Marvin” character and gave me a peek at a sub-culture, a way of viewing the world that was invaluable to the writing of the story.

But “New World Man” also reflects my growing misgivings as I watch the increasing prevalence and attraction of video games; we’re on the cusp of functional virtual reality, full immersion in an invented, interactive environment.  What will that do to relationships, the role of family and friends, regular social intercourse with strangers on the street, at the market? More on this subject in a future post…

A German editor selected “New World Man” for an anthology of the 20 All Time Best Science Fiction Stories (Goldmann Publishing); he told me with some glee that my tale bumped one by Ike Asimov from the book.  My name even made the cover, along with Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick and William Gibson.  Wow.  The story also appeared, I should add, in the Canadian science fiction magazine On Spec.

If you really love this tale, you’ll find it in my book The Reality Machine, which is available through my virtual “Book Store” (above)–you can also pick it up from Mark Ziesing Books, Amazon, abebooks.com, etc.  Originally published in 1997, it contains some of my favorite short pieces, including “Also Starring”, “While You Were Away” and “RSVP”.

Now get reading:

Click here for a free download of my short story “NewWorldMan

sfjpeg

To bring in 2009…a little “flash” fiction

Accident

This is a car crash.  It’s happening right now.  A collision in progress.  Metal folding and bending, glass slow-motion bursting, bodies swaying in their seats.

And the thing is you see it with perfect clarity, high-def to the max.  You watch in fascination as the air bag blooms in front of you, a time-lapse explosion expanding toward your face as you lean forward to meet it.

Something else.  A heaviness.  In the region of your chest.  A tug in your neck that isn’t quite pain but soon will be.  A sound, a soft exhalation but really a scream in the midst of being born.  From the backseat.  Ten A.U.’s behind you.

Any moment now it will all come rushing in, a cacophony of distress, a wall of noise and sensations.  Someone, maybe even you, might be in the midst of dying.

On the threshold of an instant.  The law-defying lip of an event horizon. Falling…and forever suspended mere petaseconds away from nothing at all.

car

(A tune-up of sorts, the equivalent of a pianist cracking his knuckles.  No pre-planning, just put fingers to keyboard and see where it takes me. Some of my best stuff comes through this process.  It requires a leap of faith…and a willingness to fail.  I like “Accident” and welcome your thoughts on this modest example of “automatic” writing.  If you’d like too see more of my short-short prose, go to the “Rarities” page and check out some of the work I’ve posted there…)

* Also, be sure to have a look at my latest post on RedRoom where I talk about nearly taking my stupid head off New Year’s Day.  And the important object lesson I drew from the experience.

“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