Tagged: occult

Beautiful Desolation: The Writings of Cliff Burns

eye-cliffWelcome to a blog that celebrates the spirit, power and passion of independent writing.

My name is Cliff Burns and I chose the path of “indie” writer after enduring more than two decades of stupidity and folly at the hands of editors, publishers and agents.  I gritted my teeth and pounded my fists as my work was tampered with by inept, second rate minds, dolts offering all sorts of career advice that often amounted to selling out, prostituting my talent and imagination.  Despite these obstacles I still managed to accumulate a body of work that drew readers from around the world and praise from authors like Kim Newman and Timothy Findley.  My tales appeared in some pretty high profile anthologies, including The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, City Dreams and The 20 All-Time Best Science Fiction Stories.  Both novellas from my book Righteous Blood were optioned for adaptation into films–“Kept” is currently in pre-production at Twisted Pictures/LightTower, slated for release sometime in 2009.

Creative control is my obsession.  I have not the slightest interest in collaborating with editors and agents to make my work more commercial and palatable, watering down my vision, creating derivative, saccharine prose. I’ll say it again:  I’d rather be a bum, living on the street, than a whore in a mansion.

diy1Thanks to new technologies, writers can now bypass the gate-keepers of traditional publishing, the agents and editors who for too long have imposed their pathetic, brain-dead aesthetic on the reading public. This blog enables me to present my work without altering it any way to conform to some real or manufactured “niche” market; the internet allows me to disseminate my writing to a worldwide audience; podcasts help me promote it; print-on-demand will put actual published books in your hands. I can do this without any of the organs of corporate publishing or catering to the lackeys who serve that impersonal machine.

On this site you’ll find more than a quarter million (250,000) words of prose.  That includes two full-length novels, numerous short stories, several volumes of prose poems and two complete poetry collections.

My writing frequently features the macabre and surreal; I once referred to my oeuvre as “Twilight Zone on acid stories” and I don’t think I’ve come up with a better description since. My influences range from Richard Matheson, Paul Auster, Jonathan Carroll to the sublimely weird visions of Terry Gilliam, Rene Magritte and Roman Polanski.

this-is-the-one1I labor long and hard on my efforts–in the case of my novel So Dark the Night that meant three years of writing and revising.  Don’t confuse “indie” with “amateur”.  I could have continued on the course that gained me scores of anthology appearances and professional publications…but I made the determination that to maintain that path would have meant on-going frustration from having to deal with those aforementioned gate-keepers, who were, in my view, butchering my writing and destroying my artistic spirit.  I place enormous demands and expectations on my work and will not release anything that doesn’t have my complete confidence.  The novels and various efforts on this site are of the highest literary quality, as good as (or better than) anything you’ll buy in a bookstore–that is my personal pledge to you.  You might not like everything you read but I will never waste your time or insult your intelligence.

A quick overview of what you’ll find here on Beautiful Desolation:

The “Home” page features news and updates, as well as short essays and rants on subjects near and dear to my heart. That includes everything from the contemporary publishing scene, indie writing, the idiocy of National Novel Writing Month, etc. etc.

About” gives some background and biographical information on yours truly; you’ll also find reviews of my various publications and a partial bibliography stretching back more than two decades.

Bookstore” is where I offer some of my books and collections for sale–these are limited edition offerings and supplies are scarce. Most of my books sell out within months of being published and some have, to my delight, become collector’s items (with the inflated prices to prove it).

Non-Fiction“–lots of book reviews and essays on literature and the writing life.  You’ll also find pieces on film and music, two other great passions of mine.

Novels“–should be your first stop. You can read and/or download two complete novels at no cost. So Dark the Night and Of the Night are supernatural thrillers, employing aspects of noir, mystery and horror. Terrific reads:  I dare you to read the first ten pages of either and then try to quit. Good luck…

Rarities” is a recent page I’ve added. This is where you’ll find out-of-print and older editions of my work, prose poems and verse. Also some of my monologues and the writing I’ve done for the stage.  Material that hasn’t seen the light of day, in some cases, for more than fifteen years (if at all).

Stories“–the best of my tales, some of them previously published, many of them composed after I started this blog. I no longer submit my work for publication so if you’re looking for fiction by Cliff Burns, this is the only venue where you’ll find it.

Tired of the same old crap, looking for writing that (to quote one review) is “a breath of fresh air”?

Beautiful Desolation is a site for those who treasure finely crafted prose and uncompromising and original visions. It is compelling evidence that there are authors out there who eschew (and revile) the contemporary publishing scene and are capable of producing ground-breaking, genre-bending and (above all else) entertaining literary endeavors.

And it’s a beacon of hope for those who feel, as I do, that writers and readers are poorly served by monolithic, impersonal, arrogant publishing houses that expend enormous efforts and revenues on mediocre “talents”, whose main claim to fame is that they are capable of delivering the exact same novel over and over again.

I offer you an alternative.

Come in, have a look around.

You’re in for a very pleasant surprise…

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“Of the Night” (Cover Art)

Here’s a preliminary mockup of the cover we’ve selected for Of the Night.  Click on it to view a larger version–the font isn’t right yet but that will be taken care of in the next couple of weeks.

The artist is an Australian chap, Adrian Donoghue, and here’s a link to his RedBubble page.  He’s young, he’s talented and I’m fortunate that he saw fit to allow us to use “Gotham City” for my book. This kid’s going places.  And I can’t believe how perfectly the piece matches the mood of the novel.

Check out the picture, then click on my Novels page to download and read Of the Night.  It’s FREE. You heard right.  A fast, scary as hell, full-length book, yours for the asking.

To quote from my jacket copy:

Of the Night is a  thriller set in the same universe as So Dark the Night, but taking place two years later, with a different cast of characters.

A series of events lead to a breach in the continuum, allowing fearsome creatures to break through and terrorize the citizens of Ilium.  Police detective Gus Novak soon realizes that the mutilated bodies popping up all over the city are not the handiwork of your garden variety psychopath and he enlists the aid of fellow denizens of the night in order to thwart a cruel and inhuman foe.

Intrigued?  Well, for God’s sake, what are you waiting for: go have a look.  The price is right, what do you have to lose?

R & R Apparently Doesn’t Mean “Ranting & Raving”

I’ve been put on notice: it’s time to relax, ease off on the workload for awhile.

No argument.  The hours I was putting in, working for weeks on end without a break, shut away in my office, tapping and scribbling like a maniac, was incredibly stupid and detrimental to my health. I was definitely feeling the strain by the time I wrapped up rewrites on Of the Night.  Lots of shoulder and back pain but also a sense of being artistically and spiritually drained. The tank right on “E”.

The only problem is, what does an anal retentive obsessive compulsive workaholic do when he has time off?

Answer:  he doesn’t take time off.

Oh, I know it’s ridiculous, completely irresponsible but I can’t stop myself. I promised Sherron, swore high and low that I would start thinking of my health first.  I’m forty-five years old in October and my family has a long history of heart disease. Not a lot of 90-year olds on either side, if ya know what I mean.  It’s time to start devoting more thought to maintaining a healthier lifestyle, a better mindset.

Stress is a killer and I’ve got it bad.  Always trying so fucking hard to meet the high standards and expectations I place on myself, pushing myself to get better, improve as a craftsman and artist. I don’t want to write like everybody else, I want my own, unique take on reality, unfiltered and with the bark on.  No compromises, no pandering…no exceptions.

My promise to Sherron was honestly made but I think it will be hard to observe “in the breech”, as it were. Habit draws me to my office first thing every morning.  It’s directly across from our bedroom and as soon as I’m awake and mobile, I wander in, check out the state of my desk, shuffle papers about…or just stand in the middle of the room, revving up for the day.

I’ve tried to take it easy but over the last couple of weeks I’ve reorganized my office, caught up on paperwork, starting planning my next major project and spent long hours on-line, promoting this blog and flogging my novels So Dark the Night and Of the Night to whoever might be interested. I’ve sent notices to horror sites, science fiction sites, occult sites, paranormal romance sites—if I’ve missed anybody, I dunno who it might be.

And I’ve also somehow managed to find the time to write a twenty minute radio play, “The First Room”. Very intense and personal. Kelley Jo Burke, producer at CBC Radio, dubbed it “Portrait of the Artist as an Abused Young Man” and I think she’s bang on.

What’s wrong with me, why can’t I take a week, a solid week and do nothing more than lounge about in my bathrobe, watching old Bunuel movies and reading fat science fiction tomes?

Well…like Graham Green I am afflicted by boredom.  Bedevilled is more like it.  He claimed it sometimes reduced him to suicidal thoughts and I can empathize. My brain can’t stand being idle.  Even when I’m watching movies I keep a notepad close at hand so I can scribble down good lines or salient plot points, often writing up a short review of the film later on.  Why?  To what purpose?  Because I must analyze, dissect, critically assess. Same with books.  I’m on my third book journal, hundreds of reviews no one will ever read.  I take great pains with my critiques, have developed a strict rating system…again, why?

Because unlike Sherlock Holmes I don’t have a 7% solution of cocaine to ease me through fallow periods.  There’s only my work.  It is my purpose, the reason I was put here on earth; it is an essential, irreducible part of my identity:

“Most of us develop and mature primarily through interaction with others.  Our passage through life is defined by our roles relative to others; as child, adolescent, spouse, parent and grandparent. The artist or philosopher is able to mature primarily on his own. His passage through life is defined by the changing nature and increasing maturity of his work, rather than by his relations with others.”

-Anthony Storr

* * * * * * *

Thanks to one and all for reading and/or downloading my novels over the past few months. I’m encouraged by the number of people popping in, a steady growth in visits as word spreads throughout cyberspace.

And of course the occasional person still uses search terms like “Cliff Burns is an asshole” to get here but that’s all right too. As the Ramones say: “Hey, ho, let’s go!

This blog has been a godsend to yers truly and has finally granted me the direct connection to readers I’ve been seeking for ages. Back in 1990 I self-published my first book, Sex & Other Acts of the Imagination.  It was the product of desperation, a Hail Mary pass that somehow resulted in a game-winning score.  The print run sold out in less than five months and the book went on to garner good reviews and excellent word of mouth. Readers loved it and cling tenaciously to their copies—just try to find one available for sale anywhere.  It is well-nigh impossible to lay your hands on a copy (believe me, I’ve looked on behalf of friends and a treasured relative who lost hers in a house fire).

The success of Sex convinced my that my future lay outside of corporate publishing and marketing and nothing I’ve experienced in the nearly two decades that have elapsed since has convinced me otherwise. Thanks to the internet, I now have the ability to get my work out there and anyone, regardless of their physical location, has access to it. I’ve got readers in the Philipines, India, Vietnam, Australia…

That still takes my breath away.

The indie musicians showed me the way.  I watched people like Ani Defranco seize control of their careers and message and I was inspired…if somewhat slow off the take.  Writers, as a rule, are a lot more conservative and stodgy than their colleagues in other disciplines.  I don’t know how many aspiring scribblers have responded to postings I’ve made on LibraryThing forums and elsewhere, pooh-poohing the notion of publishing their work on-line because they need the reassurance of an actual physical book, it gives them some kind of affirmation or some fucking thing. This past week we were in Saskatoon shopping for back-to-school stuff and we stopped by a gaming place my kids like to frequent.  Its shelves are overflowing with Forgotten Realms books and all kinds of novelizations based on Dungeons and Dragons and what have you.  The most dreadful, awful, amateurish tripe you can imagine. 

Those are real books:  does the fact that they exist as “dead tree editions” give those writers, as execrable as they are,  more credibility than me? Are hacks like Margaret Weis, T.H. Lain and D.J. Heinrich superior to me because TSR et all churn out their shite by the truckload to gamers with the reading skills and mental age of an elementary school child?

I dunno, what do you think…

* * * * * * *

And finally:

* We’re still working on the podcast of excerpts from So Dark the Night. Figuring out the technology has been a real learning experience for Sherron.  I won’t go near the stuff, I’d fly into a rage and boot the computer desk across the room. We’ve tried loading it on iTunes a couple of times but apparently we need an RSS feed and…aaaaaugghh!

* On a sad note, my son Liam lost his second (and last) hedgehog to an apparent stroke.  Nebbin was buried with full honours.  Weird little creature.

* This summer I have gone to a spa and endured a massage at the hands of someone other than my wife.  I know.  I’m having a hard time believing it myself.  What next?  Crystals?  Scientology? Membership in Opus Dei?

* No news re: the movie version of my novel “Kept”.  I’ve heard rumbles of a summer/fall, 2009 release but that’s only speculation.  Stay tuned.

* Lots of good music playing lately…until the much-beloved Yamaha stereo in my office conked out. I’ve been bopping through the latter part of summer with Bob Mould’s “Body of Song” album, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s “Baby 81”, Interpol’s “Antics”, Elbow’s “Leaders of the Free World”…as well as Trent Reznor’s double ambient album and a wonderful instrumental disk titled “The Last Drive-In” by Jo Gabriel. Fantastic to write to—thanks for sending it, Jo, and get well soon!