Category: “Of the Night”

Pictures from my reading

Here are a few snaps from my McNally-Robinson reading:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special thanks to Alicia Horner, Events Coordinator at McNally Robinson, for her efforts to publicize the reading and the consideration she showed my family and I.  Yer one of the good ones, Alicia…

Briefly…

Lots of activity around Casa Burns of late, fascinating diversions and developments, including:

My son, Sam, finally overcame all sorts of technical glitches and released his latest cinematic effort, a short film titled “Snoop”.  It’s already garnered a good number of “hits” and positive comments from folks who’ve seen it.  I know I’m prejudiced, but I’m just amazed how well it’s framed and cut; the kid’s visual eye is nothing short of amazing.  Be sure to head over to YouTube and take in an eye-catching caper film.

Last weekend, I checked another item off my “bucket list” and participated in a sweat lodge out at the Sweetgrass Reserve.  My gratitude to Joseph Naytowhow and my wife, Sherron, for making the arrangements, and to elder Fred Paskimin for a once in a lifetime experience.  It’s going to take awhile to assimilate the power and intensity of that afternoon.  A lot of spiritual energy surging and buzzing around that cramped, sweltering interior…

A few of you have been pestering me for an update re: my “100 Book Challenge”.  All I can say is that I’m holding my own.  I just finished book #82 but I confess progress has definitely slowed over the past couple of months.  I’m going to have to pick up my game if I expect to make the cut.  Recent reads include Knockemstiff, a superb collection of short stories by Donald Ray Pollock, and The New Space Opera 2, a so-so anthology of SF tales that featured a couple of genuinely solid efforts, including “The Island” by Peter Watts, which was the high point of the book.

Spending too much time over at Jukesy, arranging playlists of strange, ambient tunes and discovering new groups to add to my personal soundtrack:  A Place to Bury Strangers, The Vandelles, The Radio Department, Hank Williams III…

Still researching my western novel, arranging my notes for the next draft, which should commence soon.  But there are distractions, including pricing out a new roof for our house (which turned 100 this year), tons of yardwork, a pressing need for all-season tires for the Toyota—

And, of course, my upcoming reading at the McNally Robinson bookstore in Saskatoon (Wednesday, October 12th).  In case you missed my previous plug, here’s the official invite, drawn up by my pal Alicia at M-R:

Hope to see you there.

Setting the bar high

What are your goals as a writer, as a creative person?

This question has been much on my mind for the past while.  I’ve been accused of being an “elitist” and what have you because I insist that if you write for the purpose of making money, seeking fame and fortune, you are little more than a whore.  I have also been pretty clear that I have no interest in pursuing some big, fat publishing contract, nor do I give a tinker’s damn whether you’ve won a Hugo, an Edgar or the fucking Nobel Prize for that matter.  Baubles and trinkets.  Bullion and bullshit.

Kids, I’ve been offered the chance to write franchise novels (“Star Wars” or “Star Trek”) and told the agent involved to shove it.  As far as I’m concerned, you do something like that, “sharecrop” someone else’s universe, you are off the artistic roll call.  (Thanks, Bill, couldn’t have said it better myself.)

I don’t go to conventions, suck up to editors, try to flog my work to them like a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman.

I don’t shill myself by teaching writing workshops—such ventures help spread the abhorrent lie that good writers can be stamped out like fucking cookies.  I’ve written about that in more detail here (the more delicate among you may have to avert your eyes at certain points in the essay).

Okay, so that’s what I don’t want…but what is my greatest aspiration as a writer?

To be the best.  To push myself to the limit and produce work that breaks new ground, written in language so finely wrought it’s like reading through a score by one of the great classical musicians.  Note perfect.  I want to be held up there with the finest authors in the world and not be found wanting.

I have no interest in being average.  A “decent” writer.  Ugh.  Better to be forgotten than instantly forgettable, which pretty much sums up most of the books being released these days.

Because I have chosen to go the indie route, I have automatically rendered my writing suspect in many people’s eyes.  If I’m acting as my own publisher and printer that must mean my stuff is no good, rejected by mainstream places because it fails to meet their exalted standards.  Which automatically begs the question:  have you been in a book store recently, seen the kind of shit the traditional publishers are spewing out like a drunk’s partially digested lunch?

I expend an incredible amount of time and effort revising and polishing my work—my novel So Dark the Night took over three years to write (not including the research that preceded it).  And I’m a full time writer.  Imagine that.  Day in and day out for 3+ years.  (Shudder)  But I knew I had a wonderful book, was confident that once it was finished and released, people would love it.  And I was right.

But, again, because I’m not a self-promoter, I think I’ve hurt sales of both my novels.  I even resisted sending out review copies, partially because I knew that no matter how good the books were, how professionally executed and bound, there would still be the stigma of the indie/self-published label.  This despite a professional writing career spanning over 25 years, many publication credits, anthology appearances, critical raves.  I haven’t sent copies to some of the famous authors I’m acquainted with, seeking their praise and approbation.  There’s just something within me that balks at the notion.  I want my books discovered, not read because of some kind of viral ad campaign.

So Dark the Night and Of the Night are superb literary efforts.  They are sprinkled with genre elements (mystery, horror/dark fantasy) but they are intended for an intelligent, discerning mainstream audience.  They have enormous cross-over appeal thanks to winning characters, snappy dialogue and homages to film noir, pulp fiction, and cult cinema and TV.  Fans of Paul Auster, Jonathan Carroll, Nicholas Christopher, David Mitchell, Philip K. Dick and Jorge Luis Borges will find a lot to like in both novels.

What they won’t find is the kind of incompetent, derivative, semi-literate drivel that is prevalent both in the self-published world and, as I’ve just related, on the traditional publishing scene as well.  You wanna read the next Stephanie Meyer or Dan Brown or J.A. Konrath?  I’m sorry, you’ve come to the wrong place.  I’m a real writer, boys and girls, I seek to create ART.  I want to destroy your preconceptions and offer you prose that is exciting, intoxicating and pitch perfect, right down to the placement of commas.

I want to be the best writer in the world.

There.  I’ve said it.

It’s a pipe dream, of course, there’s no such thing.  But for me, the bar is raised to the highest possible peg and I won’t lower my expectations for any market niche, slot on the bestseller list or dollar figure you can name.  My literary heroes are men and women who slaved away tirelessly, selflessly, stubbornly, refusing to conform to the whims of agents, editors or readers.  Iconoclasts and artisans, defending their work, their legacies, with the ferocity of pit bulls.  Facing penury, enduring lives of desperation, anonymity, pain and hopelessness, yet never forsaking their vision or abandoning their ideals.

With role models like that, it’s impossible to even entertain the possibility of selling out.

My idols would never forgive me.

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)

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

guitarjpeg.jpg

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.