Yes, there are definite signs of spring in the air. Above zero temperatures, melting snow, slushy streets…and a rare sighting of yer author, out and about, taking tea at Cafe 4 U, our new downtown hot spot.
But hold on, folks, this is Saskatchewan. Winter isn’t done with us quite yet. Don’t put away your parka and Manitoba mukluks just because of a few balmy days. Surely you know this part of the world better than that.
A lot to report since my last post.
I’ve been grinding away on my poetry collection, The Algebra of Inequality, spending long hours going over each poem beat by beat, breath by breath, making sure, as Don Delillo puts it, I’m find not just finding the right word but the right sounding word. That distinction is so vitally important, the difference between good writers and those who merely string sentences together. I’ve trimmed five years’ worth of verse down to a hundred pages. For the first time I’m actually arranging the poems into groupings, rather than merely printing them chronologically. Trying to create a flow of thoughts and images, dramatic highs and lows. It’s been something of a slog but the end is now in sight.
I should have the manuscript of Algebra of Inequality finalized by the end of this month and then I’ll get our longtime designer, Chris Kent, slapping together some ideas for the cover. Hoping for an end-of-April release date and, naturally, there will be more info as we move the process along.
I’m over the moon about this collection. I’m improving as a poet and have an ability to cram the most complex and mind-bending notions into a four or five-line poem. There’s a concision and sharpness to my verse that’s hard to find elsewhere. I think the brevity of my poems often works against them, folks thinking you have to write something the length of The Wasteland (complete with helpful footnotes) in order to be taken seriously.
I think only two of the poems in Algebra of Inequality were published elsewhere. About a year ago, I subscribed to a service that sends me weekly market updates, letting me know what publications are looking for poetry, fiction, personal essays, whatever. But I noticed many of these markets demand reading fees, even for three or four short poems, and that made me bristle. The point, as someone like Harlan Ellison has been saying for decades, is to pay the writer. Authors shouldn’t have to pony up hard-earned shekels in order to have their work considered for publication. That’s a rip-off and a scam and if we all refuse to have anything to do with it, editors would stop trying to flimflam us.
Some of these places are making quite a score. Charging $3.00 or $5.00 per submission, getting a thousand or more suckers—er, writers—to respond each and every issue. Do the math. And many of these places can’t even claim the expense of a print component, they are purely digital editions, a format which is dirt cheap to maintain.
Editors should be paying writers, not the other way around. Trust me.
Ah, yes, Hollywood North has come calling. Longtime friends of this blog will know I’ve had less than cheery experiences with people wishing to adapt my work for films. I had a particularly ugly episode with those idiots at—ah, never mind. Time to let bygones be bygones.
Honestly, I have high hopes for the company who picked up the rights to my novella “Living With the Foleys”. My son Sam is a budding film-maker and when he heard who was interested in “Foleys”, he immediately emailed me with the information: “Dad, these guys work with Guy Maddin!”.
Well, say no more. We’re big fans of ol’ Guy’s, love the originality and utter madness of his oeuvre. The man’s a certifiable genius—or should that read certifiable and a genius?
So, yes, I signed the contract and now they have a couple of years to see if they can make something out of my novella.
Finally, I’m abashed to note that I recently put more money into the pockets of Tim Cook and the corporate scum at Apple Computer.
I bought an iPad.
I needed a portable device, something I could have with me when I’m away from home, a word processor slash reading device slash music player. And then there are podcasts. It hasn’t taken me long to get addicted to them. “S-Town” was amazing and I’ve been tuning in regularly to “Invisibilia”, “WTF”, “Risk!” and numerous others. Hat’s off to NPR, they seem to produce or collaborate on some of the best stuff out there.
Since picking my iPad up a month ago, we’ve become just about inseparable. It’s constantly playing something—this morning while I was shaving I listened to “The Daily”, a program produced by The New Yorker.
I’m sure the habit will taper off eventually, but between my editing and tooling around on the iPad, the cold days of February zipped past.
Well, it’s much cheaper than flying to Cozumel, catching dysentery and spending a week in intensive care, pinned to an I.V. bag of antibiotics. Less invasive too.
I shall endeavor to update this blog more often. Kind of a weird beginning to the year and it’s taken me awhile to retool and get back on the bicycle (so to speak).
The days are brighter and longer, the chill lifting from my bones.
Better times ahead. New life and new hope just around the corner.
I’ll raise a glass to that…
Bless Judge Denise Cote and the U.S. Department of Justice for giving a colossal slough-foot to Apple.
By finding the mega-corp guilty of price-fixing their e-books, a small dent has been made in the culture of impregnability and arrogance that has surrounded the company since the halcyon days of Steve Jobs. Responding to the ruling, Apple CEO Tim Cook and official spokesman Tom Neumayr displayed the usual “see you in court” mentality one would expect from a company with the bank balance to fight judgements like this ’til the end of time. No thought of ‘fessing up or doing the right thing. Not from these guys. “Responsibility” is just another word in the dictionary, stuck somewhere between “rectum” and “robbery”.
Let me remind you: everyone else affiliated with this episode has, at least tacitly, admitted wrong-doing and made efforts to settle up. The five major publishers swept up in the case paid tens of millions for their evil, gouging ways. If there was any real justice, they’d have their right hands lopped off as befitting thieves and greedheads but never mind.
Folks, I publish books and e-books and let me tell you, straight up, if you’re paying more than four or five bucks for downloading the latest piece of shit Dan Brown novel or some other crime against literature, you’re being hosed. No kidding. The most I charge for an e-book version of one of my tomes is $3.99. And I manage to make a small profit from it. Enough to make it worth my while.
The major publishers are screwing you when you pay ten bucks for an electronic file that takes a few hundred dollars to create. That’s right, a few hundred dollars. Stop enabling these pigs and find other ways to beg, borrow or, yes, pirate the pieces of crap publishers are foisting on us these days (and over-charging for the privilege). You owe no loyalty to these people and as long as they continue their mercenary, cash-grabbing ways, feel free to boycott them…and seek your reading further afield.
Like the indie (independent) publishing world. We love our readers and fans.
And wouldn’t think of stealing from their pocketbooks or betraying their trust.
Fuck the corporations and their stooges!
A good day of work yesterday:
I think I nailed down the final version re: the jacket copy for Of the Night. That’s one of the great things about being an indie writer and publisher, I have complete control over every aspect of my book, from the title and cover art to the selection of layout, fonts, even the composition of promo copy. Some authors may not want the responsibility, the expenditure of time and effort, but I sure as hell do. I have final say over the content and how it’s presented to readers. I love it.
I’d decided to add an Afterword to Of the Night but for some days had been stymied as to what I wanted to say. Yesterday the dam broke and the Afterword came in a rush. Spent most of the day editing and cleaning it up and last night, just before bed, read it to my wife and sons. They had some suggestions for revisions, small corrections, but for the most part they loved it. So I’ll be adding the short essay to the end of the manuscript in the next day or two.
The book itself is close to completion, really just little niggling things that need to be touched up and smoothed over. 98% of it is finished, in the can, and I pronounce myself delighted with the end result. Of the Night is a stand-alone effort but it’s set in the Great Lake city of Ilium, just like So Dark the Night, so it’s a short and sturdy companion piece to that longer tome. It is not a sequel; it features a new cast of characters and an entirely different storyline. Perhaps not as ambitious or immediately endearing as its predecessor, but Of the Night possesses a special charm of its own and readers are going to fall in love with it. Take my word for it.
And since I mentioned So Dark the Night, let me say that it’s doing quite well, sales-wise, though it seems to be selling better in the e-book and Kindle editions than as a physical book. The times they are a-changing. The new technologies (e-readers et all) leave me cold and, candidly, I’ll keep buying books until the last forest is felled and converted to pulp. Sorry, but it’s the truth. When you buy my book, the actual “dead tree edition”, you can hold it in your hands, ogle that gorgeous cover, feel the rasp of the pages with your fingertips.
Sorry, techno geeks, your gadgets just can’t compete with that sensation.
But I’ve said my piece, given you an update so I’ll leave it there. Gadgets/technology (pro and con) is a discussion for another time, another place.
The important thing for you to know is that Of the Night is on schedule and it looks very much like I’ll meet my self-imposed deadline and will be holding a proof of the book in my arthritic hands by my 47th birthday (end of October). A short time later, it will be ready for ordering and reading.
Thrilling times ahead.
Watch this space…
I’ve met some smart, funny, terrific people, thanks to “Beautiful Desolation”, and it’s always a particular thrill to read a comment or receive an e-mail from one of you. Writing is a lonely business and those missives, brief as they are, remind me why I keep putting pen to paper, year after year after year. And let’s have a rousing cheer for the internet, without which none of this would be possible. I mean, jeez, from halfway around the world you can wave or send regards or blow a kiss…or a raspberry (whatever floats your boat).
I spent perhaps an unhealthy amount of time trying to come up with ways to say “thanks” for your support and patronage for the past three years. There are a good number of you who take great pains to keep in touch and pass the word to other folks out there who are fed up with the tepid fare offered by traditional publishing sources: the books and magazines we buy and yawn our way through.
For the past six months or so the e-Reader crowd have been coming by in droves. Welcome, welcome. Dive right in and enjoy my stories, poems and radio dramas. There are dozens of offerings on this site, hundreds of thousands of words. Works that will astonish, amaze or, at least, entertain. And it’s all FREE. Download it, peruse it on your Kindles and iPads and Sonys (what the hell, a book is a book) and God bless ya.
I have to say there are certain, ah, special circumstances that give this anniversary more significance.
The impending release of my novel So Dark the Night is a super-big deal around Casa Burns. The cover nears completion and then it’s a case of loading the book onto Lightning Source’s template, crossing our fingers…and zipping it off. Looks like a late-April release. Will give you a peek at the cover soon–it’s a beauty. Wait’ll you see it, kids, it’ll knock your socks off. Christ, I love this book. It’s the best thing I’ve ever written and I’m practically vibrating in anticipation.
2010 marks my 25th year as a professional writer. That’s a helluva long time, a helluva lot of words on paper. Too many to ponder without suffering some kind of brain seizure. So we’ve got the third anniversary of the blog, my silver anniversary as an author and a new book coming out. That’s gotta call for something a little something extra, a bonus item or two…
How about an hour of free music? This is music I recorded with my iMac’s Garageband software. Space tunes, all instrumentals, totally trippy and out there. Some of my friends have downloaded these oddities on to their iPods or their computer hard drives. Go for it. Knock yourselves out. And above all else, enjoy the music. With my compliments and thanks.
I call my project Soundtrack For a Science Fiction Film Never Made and if you’d like to give it a listen, pop over to my “Audio” page, scroll down, past the spoken word section and you’re sure to find it.
Ah, but I’m not done.
I also want to unveil my new blog, Cinema Arrete. After literature, film is my great passion and for ages I’ve wanted a site where I could talk about some of my favorites and steer people toward flicks that aren’t on prominent display at their neighborhood movie store. I think that with places like YouTube now renting movies, there might be an increased demand and a wider assortment of movies to choose from–after all, cyberspace is like an endless virtual store and titles are always in stock. It might be the perfect time to re-introduce film fans to the work of auteurs like Henri-Georges Clouzot and Carl Theodor Dreyer.
But it’s not just a one-way street. I want cinephiles to steer me toward works and creative individuals that I’ve missed or neglected for some reason. I want to re-watch classic movies, research them and write essays based on my impressions and speculations. Sometimes I’ll re-examine a work and discover I’ve been dead wrong and will be forced to backtrack. The downside of being an honest critic is that you have to learn to like the taste of crow.
My refusal to bestow any respect on CGI fests like “Avatar” and the latest comic book adaptation will enrage those of you who (shudder) go to movies purely for fun, for the eye candy and escapist fluff. Sorry, if that’s the sum total of your aesthetic, Cinema Arete likely isn’t for you.
Pop over, give it a look-see and let me know what you think.
Okay, that’s enough for now. I’m feeling kind of misty-eyed at the moment and it might be that extra shot or two of scotch I’ve had. Or it could be an indication of emotions lurking closer to the surface than usual as I ponder this blog and what it has meant for my writing. Most importantly, it’s given me access to you, o wise and discerning readers, a venue to display my odd wares.
Thanks so much for spending some of your precious time here. Visiting and browsing this…repository of my poor words.