Tagged: e-books

In case you’ve only just arrived

The name is Burns. Cliff Burns.

Indie author and publisher. Creator of weird music and even weirder short films.

You’ll find all the relevant biographical info about me here.

I offer a sizable batch of my stories for free reading and downloading, you’ll find them here.

A number of my books are available for purchase and you can find ordering info here.

I know some of you (many of you? most of you?) view indie/self-published writers with a great deal of misgivings. I don’t blame you. The advent of blogging, print on demand and e-books has led to an explosion of self-published novels and volumes of poetry and the vast majority of them are unbelievably horrible. So bad, I wouldn’t wrap fish in them (real or virtual). In my view, when it comes to self-published offerings, Sturgeon’s Law is too kind—at least 98% of the self-published efforts I’ve tried to read are embarrassingly juvenile and inept. Derivative, tuneless, execrable drek.

I acknowledge that.

Now I want you to pop back to my roster of professional credits, scroll down until you get to the blurbs appearing below them.  I think it’s pretty clear I’m no dabbler.  For the past twenty-five (+) years, day in and day out, I have been putting words on paper.  Writing is my obsession, an essential article of my faith, the activity that keeps me from absolutely losing my mind. Have a glance at one of my stories, a tale like “Daughter”.  If that one doesn’t have you hooked within about ten lines, kid, you’re reading it upside down.

I became an independent author and publisher by choice.  Producing and releasing my own work allows me to present it in the manner I intended; every choice is left to my discretion, from the cover art to the layout. It’s time-consuming, frequently maddening but, in the end, worth it for the control it gives me over all aspects of book production, promotion & distribution.

My books are available through Amazon and can be purchased as e-books from Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, etc.

I hope you’ll take a chance on an author who has taken advantage of the new technologies to present an alternative to the rather dreadful crop of books the trads (traditional publishers) have been releasing since they went corporate and lost their souls. My stories and novels are thrilling, original and literate. They transcend easy genre classification; years ago, someone referred to my odd oeuvre as “Twilight Zone on acid stories” and I suppose there’s some truth to that. I draw inspiration from the surrealists and my work frequently displays more than a passing affection for the macabre.

If you’re feeling a bit flush this month, experiencing a craving for a much-needed mental goose, give some thought to picking up one of my books or downloading some of my stories.  It’s simple, just a matter of a few clicks of your mouse.  Remember how bored you were the last time you walked through a bookstore? Unable to find anything that spoke to your particular zeitgeist. Now’s your chance to veer off the beaten track and discover an author who makes no attempt to cater to the marketplace or kowtow to editors and agents.

But be warned: here there be tygers.  My writing takes a toll on readers who have been lulled into lazy modes of thinking. My fiction is a wake up call, a warning klaxon, a condemnation.  You can do a lot of damage with a steady hand and a sharp scalpel.

Time to check out some of my work. Go ahead. What are you waiting for?  You’re not scared, are you?

NaNoWriMo and the braying of wannabe writers

An old post of mine is causing a stir, some folks calling me out for my on-the-record dissing of wannabes and pretend writers.

I guess it’s November, the silly season as far as creative writing goes, everyone and his parakeet sitting with fingers poised over their keyboards, knowing they’ve only got one month (30 days!) to get started on the literary masterpiece they’ve been nurturing many a long year.  Their one shot a fame and fortune, the right to thrust out their chest and proudly proclaim:  “I…am…an…author.”

NaNoWriMo.  National Novel Writing Month.  Your chance to discover what the life of a real writer is like, a limited time offer whereby you can get an idea of the hardships and tribulations your literary heroes face without, y’know, having to work too hard at it.  And better yet, it’s free

As my pal Mike Cane has rightly pointed out, playing at being a writer for 30 days is bad enough but then some of these idjits actually seek to publish their wretched scribbling.  Excrete a malodorous e-book or, at the very least, dump long excerpts of it on their blogs or places like Scribd and Smashwords.  Their deftless whack at a romance novel or derivative vampire potboiler or, yes, yet another zombie apocalypse.

Look, kids, you wanna write, write.  Seriously.  Have at it.  Sit down and write your story/novella/book but then work on it, edit and grind away at it tirelessly, revise it with utter ruthlessness.  For months and months.  When you’re sick and tired of it, show it to someone whose opinion you trust, swallow deep, accept any criticisms they offer and then…back to work again.

DON’T post excerpts of your masterpiece in progress.  You might be tempted but please spare the rest of us your early drafts.  Save ’em for the archives.

DON’T rush it out as an e-book just because the process is quick, cheap and easy.  Invest the time, make your manuscript as flawless as a perfectly cut diamond.  Polish it until it sparkles.

DON’T take on airs of a professional, published author.  Laurels must be earned.

DO join forums where you can share unpublished work with other writers, get more feedback from peers.

DO read and I mean seek out the best authors, not hacks and their semi-literate drivel.

DO remember you’re part of a literary legacy extending back centuries.  You’re seeking to join a fellowship of authors who suffered pain, obscurity, poverty, despair, personal trauma, yet never once abdicated their responsibilities as artists and visionaries.  They refused to compromise or release sub-standard/unfinished work.  Anything they put their name on had their stamp of approval…and still retains its original relevance and power despite the passage of years.

The singer is gone, the song lives on.

* * * * * *

I’ll admit that I’ve been a fierce opponent of NaNoWriMo right from the moment I learned of its existence.  I approach the subject from the point of view of a professional writer with over 25 years in the harness.  Writing is a daily activity to me—I’ve made a lot of sacrifices, paid a big price (physically, mentally, spiritually) for my vocation/obsession.  I take the craft of writing very, very seriously.

And I retain all the respect in the world for colleagues, young and old, who pursue their literary calling with diligence and consistency, not just 30 days of the year but every day, year after year.  I don’t care how many books you’ve sold, where you live or what your field happens to be.  If you’re committed to the regular practice of writing, expend enormous time and energy (whatever you can spare) improving in your craft, showing unstinting reverence for the printed word, you are deserving of the honorific “author” and I’m delighted to make your acquaintance.

Now, let’s go out and stomp some wannabes…

Article on the future of books

Peter Darbyshire has just published an article in the Vancouver Province, discussing the future of books and publishing—you’ll find it here.  He was good enough to ask me about my experiences as a long-standing independent author and publisher (21 years and counting) and I was only too happy to oblige.

Smart man, Peter, a guy who knows what he’s talking about.  He’s had his own adventures in the publishing biz and is familiar with the new technologies that are allowing authors the chance to by-pass traditional gate-keepers and take their work directly to readers, via e-books and print on demand efforts.

As I wrote to Peter in a followup note, one of my fears is that while these technologies may empower good authors turned off by a corporate system that slots and niches books, producing dozens of copy-cat knockoffs of popular titles, it also accords terrible scribblers the opportunity to foist their mindless, adolescent crap on the world.  Thus, the marketplace is currently overwhelmed by dreadful vampire porn, brain-eating zombies and godawful tripe that wouldn’t pass muster in a high school yearbook.  Anyone can call themselves a writer these days and with a minimum investment can produce a decent-looking book with their name on the cover.   “Look at me!  Aren’t I great?  And you all thought I was a loser!”

I recently posted similar views on a couple of sites frequented by amateur writers and wannabes and was soundly taken to task for my arrogant insistence that there is a difference between good writing and bad writing.  One remark I’ve heard a number of times is that “we live in a post-literate society and the old standards no longer apply”.  You know, standards like good spelling, syntax that isn’t tortured beyond recognition, an ear for dialogue, an aversion to over-writing, etc. etc.

In the old days, these dingbats would be working in the rightly discredited sub-sub-genre of “fan fiction”, read by a few geeks with too much time on their hands and a roomful of Star Wars action figures.  Now they can inflict their offal on a far wider audience, pricing their e-books at 99 cents to draw the most possible readers and congratulating themselves for their genius.

It’s truly sickening.

I do not want to be lumped in with folks who have no respect for the printed word, who wish to emulate literary idols like Stephenie Meyer, James Patterson…the very worst of the worst.  I revere great writing and devote enormous time and effort to producing the finest, most literate work I can; to hear these people crowing about how many e-books they’ve sold, how much money they’ve made, goes against everything I believe in, as an author and an artist.  Their attitudes revolt me, their “writing” makes me shudder, their success impresses me not one whit.  They are bottom-feeders and pornographers and if that’s what sells these days, the literary world is in more trouble than I ever imagined.

Mediabistro, Redroom and Ominous Rumbles From Publishing Central

Okay, here’s the situation:

You know I don’t like publishers, I’ve pulled no punches on that front. You’ve read the blog, maybe zipped over to my Redroom author site, seen what I have to say there. A lot of it isn’t nice but all of it is true.

Every…goddamned…word.

Some people don’t like that. One publisher has gone so far as to have their legal beagles contact the Redroom administrators and threaten them into removing one of my posts. They didn’t like it when I quoted one of their editors; they thought the quote made her look bad.

They’re right.

What did she say exactly?

About eight years ago, I was shopping around a novel of mine called Lost. I sent out copies of the manuscript to a couple of dozen publishers and got nowhere. After holding on to Lost for more than a year, this editor finally took it upon herself to call (guilty conscience?) and give me the bad news. I held the phone out so my wife could listen in on the conversation and we both heard this editor quip, right after saying thanks but no thanks:

“It’s too bad you’re not an East Indian writer, they’re really hot right now.” Those exact words. Sherron said I turned pale when I heard that.

“You mean that would make a difference if you were considering my novel?” I inquired, trying to stay calm and measured, despite the fact I was seething.

She quickly realized what a ridiculous statement she had uttered and tried to backtrack. “Um, actually forget I said that.”

She hung up soon afterward.

I reported this conversation in a short blog entry on Redroom a couple of days ago, naming the editor and the publisher.

That’s when the shit hit the fan.

The publisher’s lawyer contacted Redroom, who immediately yanked the post. Redroom’s legal representative then e-mailed me, informing me what they’d done.

My response was: where’s the actionable offense? I related what she said, literally word for word and even if worst came to worst and the publisher did sue, it would be the editor’s word against me (and my wife). But clearly the Redroom folks were nervous.

I’m not blaming them; we live in litigious times. And sometimes the threat of litigation is used to stymie free expression and intimidate people from telling the truth. This is a perfect example. And because the publisher has far deeper pockets than either Redroom or I, they can get away with shitting on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in order to protect an editor who made a dumb and telling statement that, let’s face it, reveals attitudes that are endemic in Canadian publishing.

Let me ask you something: if those sentiments had been uttered toward a writer who happened to be a visible minority, what do you think would have been the result?

“It’s too bad you’re not a Caucasian writer, they’re really hot right now.”

Can you imagine the explosion of outrage, the howls of “Racism!” that would have bounced from coast to coast to coast?

But it’s okay to say such things to someone like me, Mister white, middle-aged male.

So if you pop by Redroom, looking for the original post, good luck–you won’t find it.

The publisher and their lawyers have closed ranks and they know neither Redroom nor I has the resources to fight them. The rich and powerful win again and anyone who steps out of line, anyone who calls them on their stupidity and dishonesty will pay the price.

It’s an object lesson in power.

One I won’t soon forget.

***********************************************************************************************************

A tip of the hat to Mediabistro for printing excerpts of my most inflammatory statements re: publishers (you think there was a connection between that and the arrival of the Men in Black?).

Their staff writer opined that thanks to such statements I was burning my bridges–unaware that those bridges had been burned long ago, thanks to conversations like the one I quoted above and nearly a quarter century of dealing with publishers, editors and agents on all levels.

One thing I do take issue with–I’ve had hundreds of downloads of my novel So Dark the Night and when I said that in Canada hundreds of downloads in a month represented a bestseller, she scoffed. Not the same thing as a book sold.

Why not? In order to read So Dark the Night someone has to go to the effort of finding my site, clicking on the novel and either saving it to their hard drive or printing almost 470 pages. That shows real interest and commitment on the part of those readers, just as much interest as if they’d walked into a physical store and bought the book.

She’s selling my novel short and casting aspersions on the credibility of e-books in general. Dead tree editions aren’t the sole criteria here. Hundreds of people around the world are reading So Dark the Night. Does it matter if it only exists in virtual form? Not to my readers.

And, in the end, they’re the ones who really count.