Category: e-novel

Happy Birthday…From me

Every year my birthday rolls around and I do my level best to ignore it, dismissing its significance.  This drives my wife crazy (that awful epithet “fun-killer” fired at me like a curare-tipped dart) but, on the other hand, it definitely simplifies gift-buying.

“Anything you want?”

“No.”

“Nothing?”

Firmly:  “Nothing.

And so forth.  But this year, okay, I have to admit, there’s a lot to be thankful for.  We had a health scare in our family recently and that really put things in perspective.  My daily mantra of “health, happiness and wisdom” assumed new relevance…and poignancy.  Fortunately, it turned out to be a false alarm and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief.  But we had a renewed appreciation for the frailties of the flesh and the bonds of family.

Then there are the two books I’ve released this year—yeah, sure, the e-books had been bouncing about for awhile, but to walk into a bookstore and see my work sitting there, waiting for some curious reader to happen along…well.  Sends a shiver through me just thinking about it.

Yeah, it’s official.  We’ve cleared the proof and Of the Night is good to go.  For sale as of…NOW.  You’ll find pricing and shipping info in my Bookstore.  Click on the book cover (above) and ogle the artwork, browse the jacket copy.  If you order your copy from me, I’ll be happy to sign it.  Otherwise, you can get it through your local bookstore, from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

I love this book–it’s a fitting companion piece to So Dark the Night.  Scary, darkly humorous, a short novel you’ll zip through in one or two sittings.

To accompany the release of Of the Night, providing a kind of fanfare, is a CD worth of new  instrumental/ambient music I’d added to my Audio page.  I call this selection of musical oddities Language With No Vocabulary and I’m making it available to you free—play it, download it to your heart’s content.

Here’s a sample cut, a luvly little number I call:

Cidades Fantasmas (Ghost Cities)

(Photo by Jason Minshull)

The Latest Poop

What can I tell you, it’s deja vu all over again (with apologies to that immortal sage of the baselines, Yogi Berra).

God bless the people at Lightning Source (our printer), they turn out a fine product, the look and binding of the volumes they produce of consistently high quality.  But the hoops you have to go to to make your text and cover files conform to their rigid parameters will, eventually, drive a teetotaller to drink and a man of faith into the arms of the Great Dissembler hisself.  We had similar problems with our first book with LS, So Dark the Night, and it seems experience hasn’t made us any wiser.  I give Sherron credit for not throwing up her arms in frustration on at least a dozen occasions…her patience is one of her greatest virtues.

We’ve submitted the interior (text) files twice now and, thanks to the Columbus Day holiday, we’ll have to wait until Tuesday (October 12th) to find out if we got the formatting right this time around.

Still hoping to have the proof in my hands and ready for approval in 10 days.  Is that merely the errant wish of a terminal fool?  We shall see.

In the meantime, I checked out prices with my chum Les at the local Canada Post outlet and got some figures re: shipping costs for Of the Night.

If you’ll recall, the book retails for $11.00 (USA & Canada) and postage is as follows:

Canada:  $3.00        USA:  $7.00           Europe/Overseas:  $14.00

First Class airmail.  From my door to yours in the time it takes you to say “UPS”.  And, natch, there will also be Kindle and e-book versions available, likely for around $3.99.  Yesterday I posted an excerpt from Of the Night on my Novels page, the first 30 pages or so, just to sink the hook in.   Those who read the previous incarnation of this book (I posted it as a free e-book until a few days ago) will notice the improvements I’ve made.  It’s a leaner, meaner effort.

Feel kind of bad leaving things so up in the air in terms of the book’s release date and availability.  I’m already getting inquiries…hang in there, folks, it’s coming.  In the meantime, here’s another one of my Garageband efforts, an instrumental number I’ve dubbed “Uncertainty”.  Give it a spin:

Uncertainty

“So Dark the Night” (Various)

Where to begin?

Let’s start with the fact that orders for So Dark the Night are rolling in.  The book continues to sell on Amazon and in a variety of formats.  Friends and people who’ve followed my work for a long time have been clamoring for their copies and I have done my best to oblige as quickly as possible.  On Friday, Sherron and I made a quick trip in to Saskatoon and hit some of the major bookstores.  Now readers in my favorite city will be able to buy So Dark from McNally-Robinson, Indigo Books, Turning the Tide and Stu Cousins’ fabo music emporium, “The Vinyl Diner” (on Broadway Avenue; tell him I said “hello”).  Even donated one copy of the Saskatoon Public Library.  Why not?

Jim, the manager at Indigo, provided me with my most gratifying reaction of the day.  I introduced myself and I could tell he was hesitant about taking on any new stock but as soon as he got a look at the cover, he grabbed the copies I’d brought in with me.  Thanks, Jim.

I’ve been plugging the book wherever possible but, of course, one walks a fine line when doing any promo; I don’t wanna come across as a “shill” but, at the same time, I’ve got a wonderful book that should make everybody’s summer reading list so I want to do what is necessary to spread the word.

I’m preparing for the reading and book launch we’re having here in town on Thursday, trying to decide which excerpts to read, rehearsing, etc.  I like to put on a good show…especially when I have my pal Laird Brittin “opening” for me, playing a couple of original tunes, including two we wrote together.  It’s going to be a fun evening so if you’re in the area, swing on by.

Last night Sherron and I searched out locations around town and shot footage for a book trailer we’ll be cutting together this week.  Plan on releasing it on YouTube and I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s up and running.

My thanks to the people who’ve already bought and read So Dark the Night, dropping me notes filled with kind words and praise.  Folks, you’re the reason I keep putting pen to paper.  It sure as hell ain’t the money or any desire for fame, I’ll tell you that.

To you, this author dedicates his work…and his life.

The Importance of a Critical Community

I admit it:  I despise wannabe writers.

Now, let me be clear—when I say that, I’m talking about a certain segment of people, who meet a very specific criteria.  I’m not referring to “young writers”, “aspiring writers” or “beginning writers”; those are entirely different categories (to my mind).  Aspiring authors are humble and don’t take on airs.  They possess few, if any, professional credentials; they might have a couple of poems or short stories published or filled dozens of notebooks with their secret writings over the years, but they certainly make no claim to any kind of status.

The wannabe is far less circumspect.  These folks make all sorts of exalted statements and assign themselves great prominence in the literary community.  They’re very quick to proffer advice, usually in the form of smug, self-assured pronouncements that speak of enormous (alas, unrecognized) talent and a vast breadth of wisdom and worldly experience (ersatz).  That they have virtually no standing among accomplished, professional, full-time writers is entirely beside the point.  Why, they’ve written dozens of books (no one has read) and have been putting words on paper all their lives (no one has noticed).  They offer their services as experienced editors and are quick to thrust their work on you, in order to prove they should be taken seriously.  God help anyone who questions their undisputed brilliance.

The on-line universe has been a bonanza for wannabes.  If they have written anything—some of them, like the proverbial hundred monkeys at keyboards, are amazingly industrious, despite their utter lack of talent—they can post every word of it on their blog and to hell with the editors who never responded to their submissions or the people in that stupid writing group who said their suite of poems about losing their virginity was “childish and cliched”, “needs a lot of work” or just “ARE YOU KIDDING?!!!”.

Sometimes I’ll skim through some of the literary sites in the blogosphere and far more often than not I’m appalled by the really sub-literate tripe that people post on a public forum.  Puerile verse and poorly rendered soft porn/romance and slightly fictionalized episodes from real life.  Juvenilia.  Artlessly composed and stupefyingly dull.  Painful and embarrassing stuff, the sort of thing you might find in the locked diary of an emotionally disturbed adolescent.  Some are clearly cries for help:  look at me…aren’t I special…I feel things more deeply than most people…love me…I’m lonely…no one understands meI need affirmation

There might be a few sympathetic comments left by either kind-hearted readers…or fellow wannabes offering cautious praise before inviting them over to their site (presumably to see what real writing is all about).

I have heard it said that the explosion of on-line writing has led to an explosion of bad writing and I have to admit that this is demonstrably true.  The vast majority of what people post on the web is dreadful, godawful stuff, unfit for human consumption.  The lousy rep e-books have is well-deserved (most of the time).

One of my roles as an indie writer who publishes exclusively on the net is to work hard to demonstrate that cyberspace is not solely the domain of amateur hacks and weekend scribblers. There are some truly gifted writers out there, producing original and ground-breaking work.  Some, like myself, have chosen to put their writing on-line because of the desperate state traditional publishing is in these days.  These are experienced authors with real world credentials and undeniable literary chops.  By maintaining the highest standards, tirelessly subjecting our work to the most intense scrutiny, editing ruthlessly, eschewing conventions and formula, we wish to reward intelligent, discerning readers who are tired of the status quo and are exploring other venues, seeking alternative visions and fresh perspectives.

But it can be disheartening for readers, sifting through the thousands upon thousands of blogs and literary sites, trying to find something of value.  And that’s why a credible on-line critical community is required.  With the newspapers cutting or drastically paring down their book sections, I’m hoping more good critics will start web sites and help single out particular writers who shine amidst the dross…and dismiss those who don’t make the grade.

And it would be most helpful if amateur writers used the new technologies to better develop their skills before they foist their cringe-worthy efforts on the rest of us.  I’m talking about searching out like-minded souls, joining on-line writing groups and vetting their work with a diverse assortment of fellow writers (from around the world), getting feedback.  Sharing their work privately, rather than punishing the general public, exposing not their beautiful, unblemished souls (as they hope) but their ineptitude.   If you truly wish to be seen as someone with designs on being a serious writer, worthy of respect, give some thought to what you’re making public—believe me, you’re doing no one any favors if it’s garbage.  You’re hurting yourself…and you’re making it more difficult for your talented, hard-working colleagues to reach potential readers.

Naturally, these words of caution will not sit well with wannabes.  They’ll sniff that I’m being “elitist” and that the internet belongs to everyone.  Unfortunately, the democratization of the web means that an entrenched cult of amateurism has developed and these people guard their domains like pitbulls.  They brandish their imaginary credentials and howl in outrage should anyone refuse to defer to their alleged expertise.  Why, their writing has been read by thousands of people (who knows how many?) and they’ve published everything from young adult novels to a ten part vampire series, not to mention their “erotic” fiction and two volumes of poetry about a beloved Pekinese that recently went to doggie heaven (all of it available in e-book format, listed on a site with a thousand other books no one in their right senses would attempt to read).

I plead with new and aspiring and upcoming writers to avoid such a ridiculous mindset:  recognize your limitations, don’t publish precipitously, before your work is ready for public perusal and consumption.  Have respect for the legacy of fine writers and great literature that preceded you; after all, you initially dreamed of becoming a writer because of the joy and succor and inspiration the printed word gives you.  Your favorite authors wrote hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of words before they had mastered their craft to the extent that they were, at last, worthy of publication.

Why, in God’s name, should it be any different for you?

“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.

* * * * * *

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!

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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