Saturday, May 24, 2014

Lessons from Amazon

Amazon can teach you a lot about selling books. I've been plugging away with my books for years and never had a runaway. I publish Jack Mackenzie's Military SF novel Debt's Pledge and I get a front seat view to what a runaway seller looks like. I'm not going to talk numbers because that's private but let's just say Jack's novel has been out for a month and sold more copies than all the books I've ever sold. Am I jealous? A little bit but mostly I'm happy. Why? Because I'm learning every day about the biz from the rider's seat. If Jack can do it ... so can I (I hope). 

What have I learned? That would be telling but one tid-bit I will share is that there are different kinds of buyers. Debt's is a great read and lots of people are enjoying it. Other times I see a buyer (I assume it's the same buyer - assumptions are dangerous though) purchase three of my books in a bunch. That's heart-warming. Not just the fact that they spent $12-15 but that they like my work, they trust me as a writer, enough to buy more than one at a time. Jack's starting to see this too, as Debt's readers come back to buy his first book, The Mask of Eternity as well. The experiment is over and they now know that Jack is a fun read. (Of course I already knew that because I edited the books.)

Anyway, enough about selling books. If you want to know where to buy them: keeps an up-to-date catalogue of both Jack's and my books.  Have fun reading good books this Spring. Good luck with selling some too.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Book of the Black Sun II: The Book Collector

Well, I finally did it. The second Book of the Black Sun with all the Book Collector stories. You may have heard "Goon Job" or "Merlin's Bane" at Pseudopod. Well, they're here along with 9 others, two of which are novellas. So far only on Amazon but soon a print version at Lulu and more ebooks at other vendors.





Sunday, April 6, 2014

Check out these eBay Auctions - Stones of Doom

I went to the Harry Potter Exhibition in Edmonton at Telus World of Science and saw all the props and costumes from the movies. They also had How To Build a Monster which was very inspiring. So I've been spending some of my break working on some new Mythos related items. I have four auctions on eBay until April 12. These include two very rare Mythos chapbooks from 1997 as well as a poetry chapbook. I also put together a one-of-kind deluxe set of The Stones of Doom.

Check them out here:

Night Visions - horror flash fiction and a precursor to The Book of the Black Sun

Sundown - vampire anthology with a Mythos novel segment

Triskaideaphobia and Other Mythos Poems - signed and numbered - limited to 25 copies

The Stones of Doom scenario generator for Call of Cthulhu - deluxe set - unique item

Friday, March 14, 2014

Details, eh?

I was reading Loren D. Estleman's White Desert (2000), a Western partly set in Canada. I came to screeching halt when I got to Page 67. His Northwest Mounted Police office has "The maple-leaf flag hanging from a standard in one corner..." They must keep the time machine in the other corner. Canada's maple leaf flag was first presented on February 15, 1965. The Canadian flag, when it wasn't simple a British flag, was red with a Brit flag in the upper, left-hand corner. I'm surprised Estleman missed this.  (Estleman isn't alone. The film Pennies From Heaven (1981) set during the Great Depression has a school in it with a poster of flags of the world. You guessed it. Maple leaf flag.)

Estleman should have watched these videos:


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Otis Adelbert Kline and Edgar Rice Burroughs

I have to admit as a kid I never read Otis Adelbert Kline. Or Michael Moorcock's Burroughs knock-off or really anybody's except perhaps Lin Carter's. Though not the Callisto series. I tried the first one and found it too ... unnecessary.

Edgar Rice Burroughs always pooh-poohed his ability to write, not to entertain but to write. I'm beginning to think he sold himself short.

Right now I'm reading Otis Adelbert Kline's Planet of Peril (1929). It reads like any Burroughs clone would.. there are weird monsters, sword fights when missile weapons would make sword-fighting unnecessary, princesses and kingdoms to be won. Burroughs did it over and over and I never held it against him. I read it here and I sigh -- with boredom. Kline, like all the other imitators are just so unnecessary. Burroughs was a prolific writer and his 69 books are enough for me.

Burroughs never thought himself much of a stylist but Kline seems miles below even Burroughs. His fight scenes are short, unexciting. His romance is stilted and laughable. The transitions he leaps through at times without proper building. I have to believe this book only sold because Argosy couldn't get the real ERB. I ask myself: if there had been no ERB only Otis Adelbert Kline, would the Scientific Romance have exploded as it did after 1912? It might have but someone who was a better writer would have had to take the torch from OAK. As Dashiell Hammett took the private detective from Carrol John Daly and made it more, as Raymond Chandler took it from Hammett and made it more... Edgar Rice Burroughs never needed to pass the torch. He carried it for 38 years and no one did it better. People today still try their hand at writing a Burroughs book ... and fail. Even Joe R.Lansdale, Fritz Leiber and Philip Jose Farmer, all writers I respect, never held a candle to ERB at his own game. The only writer I have ever read who had the same magic is Joel Jenkins in his Dire Planet series.Why Joel can do it I don't know but he can...

Now in OAK's defense, this is his first novel. But compare it to A Princess of Mars and I fail to see how being a first book matters.  Burroughs had it coming out of the gate. I can only hope they get better as I read on. Kline was the first ERB clone, writing while Burroughs still worked. The two never really corresponded or took much notice of each other. There is no evidence of the ERB-OAK feud that some fanzine editor cooked up. Kline did not like to be told he was a second-rate Burroughs imitator, but if the shoe fits...

I will keep an eye out for anything original in the Venus books as I work my way through them. Here's hoping...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Romance: Dwelling in the Genre Ghetto

The word Romance has changed in the last 500 years. Its original meaning was a tale from the Roman, being tales of love and intrigue told in the Romance languages. These date back to Medieval times when French troubadours spun fantastic stories of King Arthur, Amadis of Gaul, Charlemagne and Roland. Then the Renaissance came along and ruined everything.

During the Age of Enlightenment (that the Renaissance put in motion), Romance became associated with anything fanciful, unrealistic, unscientific, as those tales of old certainly were. A Romantic notion was anything unsupported by Science. The Fantastic had fallen on hard times. One had to look to parodies of the fantastic for any kind of fancy.

But you can't keep a good Romance down. All that logic and reason had to give and it did in 1765 when Horace Walpole got Gothic literature under way with The Castle of Otranto. But it didn't stop with spooky tales of castles and Scooby-Doo endings. Inspired by Walpole and German writers like E. T. A. Hoffman, the Romantic Movement gave us Coleridge, Byron, Shelley and Keats and a new love of everything old, mystical and fantastic. Art movements followed with the Pre-Raphaelites and the modern Romances of William Morris.

By the 1800s Romance was anything that ran counter to the accepted scientific norm, so a tale like H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines was considered a Romance. Any story that involved ideas like "True love wins out", "You can't keep an honest man down", "Crime does not pay", "Honesty is rewarded", all were seen as unrealistic and only suited for tales of Romance. If you didn't want that kind of thing there was the Realist school that shunned all such ideas and sought a journalistic, fatalistic, and largely bummer-ness some like to call "The Human Condition".

So now fiction had been split into realistic fiction (following Sir Walter Scott, then Henry James and on to modern writers like Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce.) and genre fiction bursting with lovely loads of "Romance". But Romance was still pretty general. Consider that the novels The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson and A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsey were all considered "mainstream reading" in their day but today such books would be classified as Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy and would not be read by "Mainstream" readers. Genrification was starting in the 1800s but it had not yet arrived.

The magazine explosion of the late 1800s largely drove the creations of genres. Magazines like Dickens' All the Year Round and Household Words promoted ghost stories. The Strand created the vogue for "detective stories" with Sherlock Holmes, Pearsons ran most of H. G. Wells novels, along with many other general magazines using all kinds of fiction and non-fiction. By the turn of the century, magazines were still general audience with titles but things were changing. With the creation of Argosy by the Munsey Co. in 1882, fiction magazines took two tracks, the Pulps and the Slicks. The Slicks were expensive magazines published on 'slick' paper thus their name. The stories they promoted were largely of the realist school or a very watered down Romance, while their pulp paper poor cousin, the Pulps, were dedicated entirely to genre fiction in bold, garish varieties. Romance had at last found its home.

By the 1920s, all those general audience magazines such as All-Story (that published Zane Grey and Edgar Rice Burroughs side-by-side) were under attack by specialized genre magazines. In a matter of a few years every genre had its own special magazines. There were Air, Railway, Boxing and Sport Stories, secret agents, super hero, jungle stories, Science Fiction, horror tales, Westerns as specific as Ranch Romances. The modern meaning of that word "Romance" had finally arrived. The meaning that equated it with a later Radio term "Soap Opera", a tale of the emotional travails of individuals. No longer did it mean traveling across unknown Africa to find a lost city as it did in 1885.

This splintering of genres into their own little ghettos has been applauded by some genre critics like Lester Del Rey, who sees the ghettoizing of Science Fiction after 1926 as a necessary incubation period, where SF could grow without influence from other kinds of fiction, to establish its own rules and its own aesthetic (rules by which it is judged), and now it can emerge like a butterfly from its cocoon. I'm not so sure. This might be true for SF but it certainly isn't for horror. The same silly ideas about horror that critics of the Gothics had (that they promote idolizing bandits, killers and madmen that will only end with you becoming a Satanist) in the 1790s remain today. Are we truly at the point when the genre is just a label that booksellers put on the spins so minimum wagers will know where to place the books at Chapters?

Genre has had its bestsellers. In Science Fiction Frank Herbert's Dune series, in Fantasy, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, in horror the novels of Stephen King, in Mystery and Suspense Thomas Harris's The Silence of the Lambs, in Westerns, Larry McMurty's Lonesome Dove, in Romance, Diana Galboldon's Outlander series, to name some specific titles. This isn't even to mention those odder hits like Richard Adams' animal fable Watership Down or the vampire romances of Stephanie Meyer. Ranch Romances, well, you can't win them all. The Romance spirit of H. Rider Haggard lives on in popular writers like Michael Crichton and James Rollins.

I don't see the old meaning of Romance ever returning but it truly is the spirit which fuels all my own writing. I'm a genre guy. I know that's the kiss of death in publishing. But I'm also a horror guy and "the kiss of death" is not unfamiliar to me. Romance on, my friends.