Category: private detective

My first professional submission

True story:

When I was around twelve years old, there was a program on CBC Television called “Pencil Box”. The show wasn’t very good (even for kids’ fare) but it did feature one interesting wrinkle: young viewers could send in a skit or playlet and, if it passed muster, a cast of  “professional” actors would stage and perform it.

I watched an episode or two and, as has happened with many writers since time immemorial, decided I could write just as well as some of the material being selected. At the time, I was obsessed with World War II, immersed in William Shirer’s The Rise & Fall of the Third Reich, religiously watching episodes of “The World at War” (narrated by Laurence Olivier) every Sunday afternoon. I decided my piece was going to be an historical mystery and it didn’t take me long to come up with a concept. I scribbled out a draft in a couple of hours, sealed it in an envelope and sent that handwritten version to the show’s producers.

I wish I’d kept a copy.

And I would’ve loved to have seen the look on some poor, underpaid story editor’s face as he scanned the 3-4 page skit.

Good God…”

The plot involved a series of suspicious deaths that seemed connected in some way to a particular field somewhere in central Europe. The inexplicable and unsettling incidents baffle authorities, so they summon a master detective and this Holmes/Dupin type paces about, scrutinizing the ground until he is struck by a notion, does his research and sure enough—

He calls everyone together and announces his brilliant solution. Years before, after the defeat of the Nazis, the area had been used as a dump for some of the waste of war, including (wait for it), numerous canisters of Zyklon-B gas. The canisters were leaking, seaping up through the topsoil, and, voilá, it was those noxious vapors that were sickening and killing the local populace.

Everyone applauds the detective’s extraordinary powers of deductive reasoning, he takes his bows and…Fade Out.

Well.

My dramatized detective story wasn’t accepted.

My first submission and my first rejection.

But the note (typed on official “Pencil Box” stationery) was kind, encouraging to send more ideas and stories and perhaps, some day, one of them would make it on to the show. They also enclosed a free pin, which I’ve kept to this day.

Proof!

pencil box

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.

“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.

Reading at McNally-Robinson (Saskatoon)

I’ll be reading from my two supernatural thrillers,  So Dark the Night and Of the Night, at an upcoming event at the McNally-Robinson Bookstore in Saskatoon.

The date:  Wednesday, October 12th
The time:  7:30 p.m.

Alicia Horner, the affable and hard-working Events Coordinator at McNally Robinson, has put together a promo page which provides all the relevant details.

Copies of both books will be available for purchase and, natch, I’ll be happy to sign them for you.

Don’t get to do stuff like this often enough and I miss it.  My readings are very performance oriented (so to speak); I hate a boring author/reader and feel a genuine sense of accomplishment when I’ve entertained a live crowd and won over some new fans.  Always seem to find a receptive audience whenever I read in Saskatoon—yet another reason why that city figures prominently on the list of my favorite places on Earth.

Jot “October 12th” down on your calendar (see how much advance notice I’m giving you?) and, if you’re in the neighborhood, drop by and hang out with us for awhile. And, afterward, browse the store, buy some books, keep the sputtering flame of literacy alive.

Hope to see you in October and I look forward to introducing you to a couple of terrific page-turners.

“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.

“So Dark the Night” is here…and ready for ordering

All right, readers, it’s official.

So Dark the Night is now available and ready to be added to your bookshelves.  Maybe you’ll take Stefan Dziemianowicz’s advice and slot me in between Jorge Luis Borges and William S. Burroughs.  I think that would make a very nice fit, frankly.

There are a number of ordering options open to you.  You can purchase my novel through Amazon.com and a number of affiliates there or you can pick up the e-book OR you can buy the Kindle version.  However, if you’d like signed, personally inscribed copies, I’m afraid zipping your orders my way is the only way to manage it.  If that’s your choice, click on this link and it will take you to my bookstore where you’ll find So Dark the Night and several of my other titles (though most of them are available in very limited quantities).

You’ll find all the necessary info there, including shipping rates.

What can I tell you, folks?

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, exciting read, a thriller in every sense of the word, So Dark the Night is for you.

Imagine a combination of “The X Files”, H.P. Lovecraft and Raymond Chandler and you’ll get at least some idea of what I’m talking about.  It’s the perfect “summer reading” adventure, featuring the most likable and endearing tandem of sleuths since Holmes and Watson.  Plus the book will scare the living crap out of you.

What more could you ask for?

So…check out So Dark the Night, buy it, request it from your local bookstore (tell them it’s distributed by Ingram and, likely, Baker and Taylor) or your public library.  Spread the word, tell your friends, Facebook about it, text each other your favorite quotes…or just kick back and indulge yourself with a powerful, literate offering, “a spook show that delivers everything it promises”.

And, needless to say, drop me a line here or at blackdogpress@yahoo.com with your thoughts and impressions.

I guess you can tell:  I…am…pumped.  Who wouldn’t be?  This book cost me 3+ years of my life and now that I’ve got it in my hands, I can honestly tell you it was worth every moment I devoted to it.

But don’t take my word for it:  pick up a copy and see for yourself.   Or, if you like, here’s an excerpt you can browse, a sneak peak at the best supernatural thriller since Linda Blair puked pea soup all over Max von Sydow:  

So Dark-excerpt

“So Dark the Night”–cover art!

Yes, my friends, this is the new look for the front and back cover, courtesy our pal Chris Kent.  Ado Ceric’s gorgeous cover art is still predominant, but Chris has given us a different font and overall design.  My only instruction to him was “make it look like a fun read because that’s what it is”.  And Chris came through for us—hoo, boy, did he ever!

You can click on the individual pictures to view them full-sized.

We’ll soon be loading these illos on to Lightning Source’s templates, along with the complete text of So Dark the Night and awaaayyyy it goes.  But this is our first crack at this here new-fangled print-on-demand process so there are bound to be complications and glitches.  Thank God I’ll have Sherron to do all the dirty work while I pace back and forth behind her, cursing a blue streak.

But even with the foul-ups—the folks at Lightning Source have been very patient with my questions thus far—we should still have a proof within two weeks and the book ready for publication by the end of April (as previously announced).  Cover price $17.95.  You will also be able to download half the book (.pdf)  here at Beautiful Desolation (or over at Scribd) and read that excerpt for free, download the complete e-book for $10…or (at some point) listen to an MP3 of me reading the book for nuthin’.  Your choice.

The book has been polished since the earlier version I posted, tightened and pared down.  I’ll be purging that previous draft in the coming days/weeks (it has served its purpose and can now be deleted).

Don’t have much else to add—let me know what you think of the cover and please spread the word near and far that So Dark the Night is on its way…and there’s some great spring/summer reading ahead.