A Face for Radio, a Voice for Silent Film

Despite my better judgement, I’ll be a guest on CJLO’s chit-chat show, Cinema Smackdown, today (Tuesday) at 7:00 pm EST. Mostly I’ll be there because it’s an opportunity to plug my book, Filmography, to a receptive audience of movie geeks. Unfortunately, they’re not going to let me scream “Buy my book!” into the microphone for the whole hour, so I’m going to have to perform like a monkey and show off my vast, self-indulgent knowledge of film like the obnoxious smarty-pants I turn into whenever somebody lets me out of my cage.

If you’d like to listen to me make an utter fool of myself, you can tune in 1690 AM if you’re in Montreal (and within brick-throwing distance of the radio station itself). Or, if you have one of those new-fangled computer things with an interwebs connection, you can go to CJLO.com at showtime and hit the “listen online!” button.

That’s when the magic will happen. And by magic, I mean crushing humiliation and lifelong embarrassment. Maybe. I’ve done radio several times before, but only twice live. Once was an interview that went fine. The other was a news broadcast that was an unmitigated disaster.

So, I figure, 50/50.

Proof of Life

Filmography is entering the final stretch as I continue to tinker with the formatting. It currently only exists as an eBook on my Kindle, but it will be available through Amazon before the month is out. Preview copies will go out to those who expressed an interest in the coming week. You can still get on that list by dropping me a note through the contact page.

kindlefilmographyMeanwhile, my next novel, twice the length of Filmography, is undergoing final proofing before facing the same process.

anniemanuscriptAs you can see, my proofreader’s cat, Annie, is enjoying my manuscript to the full, and I can’t think of a more ringing endorsement. If only such a sentiment could be expressed in an Amazon or Goodreads review.

In other news, Rich Johnston has dropped another Longshot Comics reference on Bleeding Cool, leading to the latest round of queries: Where can I get a copy? When will it be back in print?



Really, I’m going to get to it right after I’m done with shoving these novels out the door.

I need a staff.

Independence Day

I’m writing this to the deafening sound of no fireworks at all.

Sure, it’s the fourth of July, but I’m not in America. I’m in Canada. Worse, I’m in Quebec. That means we already burned through our fireworks budget last week for Canada Day and St. Jean Baptiste. We’re not allowed to blow anything else up this year unless there’s some major hockey-related victory – in which case, cop cars and storefronts are fair game.

Nevertheless, I’m celebrating my own personal Independence Day. The clock on my contract for Filmography has run out, which means I have the option to bail on my publisher. So I’m bailing. Communication has been sparse and the book was supposed to be out in May. That doesn’t make it too overdue, but there are two more books on the schedule before mine, dating back to February, neither of which is out yet either. I figure that pushes my spunky little novella back to sometime in 2017 or later. And I’m not willing to wait that long – not since my experimental publishing ventures have shown me that there’s not much in the process I can’t handle alone.

A novella the size of Filmography will provide me with a good entry point for book publishing. I’ve learned a lot of the ropes this year, but there are still some strands that need figuring out before I venture forward with full-sized novels and at least one epic.

So here’s the giveaway I mentioned in the last blog post. Drop a note to orders (at) eyestrainproductions.com and let me know if you’d like to receive a free eBook copy of Filmography in advance of publication. I’ll email you an edition in your choice of format (MOBI or EPUB) when it’s ready, with the understanding that you’re on the guilt-induced hook to leave some sort of honest review on sites like Amazon or Goodreads. A simple star-rating is good, a brief written review is better, an essay about the novella’s cultural impact on the literary scene of post-modern western civilization in the 21st century is better. Small-time publications like this live or die based on the number of reviews they receive – not necessarily the acclaim, but the quantity. It lends legitimacy, even if most of the people who read it think it’s a piece of shit. Validated shit sells better than ignored brilliance. It’s how our dysfunctional book market works. Probably most other markets, too.

If you’re still wondering if this is a book that might tickle your fancy, the blub reads:

A trio of obsessive film buffs are dismayed to learn their favourite movie star, Basil Hendrich, has died after a long, storied career in the business. Embarking on a road trip to visit the grave, a combination of grief and moral bankruptcy leads them to kidnap the famous corpse for the purpose of making one final movie with the late celebrity. Things spiral out of control when extortion, blackmail and multiple law enforcement agencies become involved in the morbid shoot.

So, yeah, it’s about what you’d expect when that Shane Simmons guy strings together 30k words in a row: sick, twisted, but funny. Free for the asking, for a limited time only.

Canada Day Giveaway

For Canada Day Weekend (and for the hell of it), the three Eyestrain Productions mini eBooks are available for free again on Amazon.

Check them out, mixed in with other titles on my Amazon Author Page.

Reviews, even if they’re just a couple of words or a star-rating, are welcome and encouraged. Each bit of feedback posted to places like Amazon and Goodreads lends legitimacy to independent small-press publications and accomplishes good and happy things in algorithm-land.

Today also marks an important day for one of my publishing contracts. There will be more on that once this weekend sale is over. So be sure to come back then for another, much more substantial announcement…and giveaway.

Nesting the Egg

Last year I wrote three books.

Which isn’t as impressive as it sounds. Actually, if I’m being honest, last year I finished three books. It’s not like I started any of them in January and wrapped them up before New Years rolled around again. I’d worked on a couple on and off for ages, even though they’re not particularly long. And one of them is only a novella.

Number three, the big one, the first to actually be completed, had me steadily busy for several years straight. It took longer than it should have. My only excuse is that it ended up being over 130,000 words and is, by a good stretch, the most complex thing I’ve ever done. It’s more complex than any screenplay I’ve ever written and optioned off, more complex than Longshot Comics (both of them combined), more complex than that four-hour dramatic international co-production miniseries that died on the vine after dozens of months of development. And yet, through all the complexity, I had to make the novel a light, entertaining, fun read. That doesn’t come easy.

All three of them are done now, and they’re all, more or less, ready for public consumption. I’ve nagged a handful of people I know (the literate ones) into giving them a read in an effort to bug-hunt any remaining typos or fuck-ups that might make me look bad. Soon they’ll be the cleanest copy I can produce in-house.

I should be pleased. But I’m not. Mostly I’m anxious and frustrated.

The publishing business has changed enormously since my first printed stories back in the late 1980s. All the rules got broken somewhere along the way, and now nobody really fully understands how anything works anymore. Computer technology screwed up the model for everyone. It’s a shockingly simple thing now to throw together your own eBook and toss it onto the web for the international market. Amazon, among others, has cleared the way and redefined the business. But this has resulted in a glut of sub-par self-published nonsense masquerading as professional publications. They look good, they sound promising, but you’ll probably figure out they’re a dud by the end of the first chapter, if not the very first page.

And as the glut grows bigger and bigger, the competition for attention seems insurmountable. Astute marketers can accomplish great things on the self-promotion front, even if what they’re promoting ultimately doesn’t deliver the goods. I’ve always hated talking myself up. I can barely muster the energy to maintain a blog, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page. And when I do, I spend most of my time talking about anything other than my own work. Self-promotion feels crass. I hate doing it, and I’m not fond of other people elevator-pitching themselves at me.

I once had a meeting with an agent who hit me with one of those elevator pitches. It took him about fifteen seconds to tell me all about himself, his hopes, his dreams, his ambitions. It was very smooth, well-rehearsed, and highly efficient. It also made me want to puke. Then he looked at me and waited for me to reciprocate. And I had nothing.

Oh, I have plenty of hopes and dreams and ambitions. But I can’t cram all that into the time it would take to share an elevator ride with someone. I’ve spent my whole life trying to figure out who I am and what I want. I can’t reduce it to a logline or a catchy jingle. And I knew, in that moment, that however highly I’d come recommended to him, we were not going to strike a deal. He was a salesman, and once I’d displayed how shit I was at selling myself, I was dead to him.

The accepted function of traditional publishing these days is promotion. Promotion was always a key ingredient of publishers, even when they were the gatekeepers, the sole means for authors to get their work out there. If you couldn’t land a publisher, nobody would ever see your book. Now, writers can merrily skip right past the gatekeepers and do most of the grunt work themselves. If they’re willing to shell out the cash, they can hire their own editors, their own cover artists, their own layout designers. Or, with the right software, they might be able to pull it off themselves. But publishers, particularly the heavy hitters, still have that promotional card to play. They have the distribution, they have the infrastructure, they have the business relationships.

And one of the most important things they offer – the best promotion of all – is legitimacy.

If you’re thinking of reading a book – any book – the imprint of a major publisher goes a long way to assure you it will be time and money well spent. It guarantees the product in those pages has been properly vetted. The slush-pile junk was filtered out, and THIS book written by THIS author was worthy of their time, their efforts, their money, and all the dead trees it took to put copies on display in those dinosaur book-store chains that stubbornly refuse to go swimming in the extinction tar pits that already ate the video industry.

So, yeah, the traditionalist in me – the kid who grew up perusing bookstore shelves and libraries and reading copies of physical books because there was no other kind – wants to go with a legit publisher. The bigger the better. Oh sure, there are some very nice small presses out there I’d be perfectly happy with, too. But let’s face it, the more boutique they get, the closer they are to being the sort of one-man home-office press I can manage by myself.

Despite my impatience, I’ve been submitting. It hasn’t been a vast canvassing. I’ve limited myself to pitching my novels to places I feel I would be happy with, featuring imprints I would be proud to have appear on the corner of one of my books. I haven’t been going through my agent (the one that didn’t judge me by my inability to chat her up in an elevator). Our relationship has always been about screenwriting, and I don’t want to involve her in this process unless or until there’s an actual contract that needs negotiation. Much like my spike in anthology appearances, and my Eyestrain Productions eBook shorts, this too has been an experiment.

But fuck me if the pace of it isn’t glacial.

It’s been nearly a year since the first pitch went out. That one is still being “processed.” Other publishers tell you up front it will be six months or more to hear back anything. Some even insist they have an exclusive look at your work, meaning they don’t want to see it unless it’s before or after one of those other houses have sat on it for the better part of a year. And while they’re considering, don’t you dare think of showing it to anyone else.

We’re not even talking the full manuscript here. These are sample chapters – about 10,000 words worth – and a one-page synopsis. If they ever get around to requesting to see the entire thing, they’ll have to sit on that for another unspecified length of time. You can very easily piss away years of your career trying to place one novel. And when you finally sign with that publisher, it’s no sure thing they’ll want your next book. You might have to start the whole process over again.

That’s when the self-publishing options start to appear mighty fine. When the idea of shouting for attention from the bottom of a pile of other eBooks and print-on-demand manuscripts doesn’t seem so daunting after all. When plugging yourself and your own work on social media doesn’t quite feel like the hellish humiliation you always dreaded.

Incidentally, the trio of books, Filmography, Sex Tape and Necropolis by Shane Simmons, will be available from Amazon sometime in the near future, from some publisher or other, even if I have to hire unemployed monks to transcribe individual copies by hand.

Yes, that was a plug. And now I feel dirty and must shower.


Like pretty much every writer ever, I take a lot of notes. Ideas occur and they must be jotted down before they’re forgotten. I have proper notebooks I’m supposed to use for that sort of thing, but instead I end up writing everything down on scraps of paper. And those scraps of paper pile up.

It’s a delight for me to get rid of some of them – that delicious moment when I incorporate the last tidbit of data or a final fleeting notion into a larger story I’m working on. Then I can feed another one of those damn scraps to the paper shredder and be done with it. One more note off my desk, ten thousand more to go.

A while back, I found one from 2012 I’d like to get rid of. It’s not the sort of note I can plug into a short story or novel. This one is an unused acceptance speech. Unused because I lost.

At the time, I spoke about my latest nomination for a Writers Guild of Canada Award for my work on Kid vs. Kat. I also predicted the pending loss because I’d won the same award only a few years previously and therefore, as awards often go, it wasn’t my turn to get another one.

Nevertheless, as I stood at the ceremony, pounding pilsners before the open bar closed, I decided to cover my ass and jot down an acceptance speech, just in case. I’m not fond of public speaking, so it’s always a good idea to have something short and cute prepped.

For the record, and in the name of clearing my desk just that tiny bit more, here’s what I would have said in the face of victory.

“When it comes to my scripts for Kid vs. Kat, there’s a very select group I need to thank.

My cats.

I want to thank them for being such superb examples of pure feline evil.

This makes all the claw marks worth it.

I also want to thank my dear wife for driving all the way from Montreal to be my date for tonight.

Oh, and for being such a superb example of pure feline evil. This makes all the claw marks worth it.”

I thank you for indulging me as I file that away and remove it from my to-do list once and for all. The shredder slot yawns open in anticipation.

No Better Price Than Free

My three mini-eBooks are free this weekend on Amazon. Grab “The Red Baron: An Aces for the Ages,” “Choke the Chicken” and “Carrion Luggage” for nuthin’ while you can. Honest reviews posted to Amazon, no matter how short, are enormously helpful when it comes to sales and recognition for any title. Bear that in mind when reading my stuff, or anything else that comes from smaller presses.

An Ace for the AgesFree!

Choke the ChickenFree!

Carrion Luggage_smallFree!

The Angel of Celebrity Death

Selections for what to watch at my curated Movie Night have always been informed by celebrity deaths. Whenever someone famous kicks off, I like to send them out with a film to show the ignorant masses who they were and what they were famous for. Lately, I’ve been a tad too on the ball when it comes to who’s about to push up a daisy or two.

Three months ago, I anticipated the long-delayed death of Abe Vigoda so close to the event, I went out of my way to grab a screenshot from abevigoda.com less than 24 hours before the site had to finally tick over as to his live vs. dead status.

Well, it’s happened again.

Last Movie Night, a mere 18 hours ago, I forced the class to watch the 1982 Agatha Christie whodunit, Evil Under the Sun. It was directed by the fairly legendary Guy Hamilton. In case you’re not familiar with the name, he’s mostly remembered for being one of the early James Bond directors who helped define the series and turn it into the endless formulaic juggernaut is it today. It endures because it’s a formula that works, but it didn’t come to fruition until the third Bond film (Hamilton’s first), Goldfinger. That was the one that introduced such James Bond staples as: an unrelated opening action sequence, spy cars, Q’s contentious relationship with Bond, the definitive henchman, the definitive non-SPECTRE villain, multi Bond girls who get killed off before he gets to the real leading lady, and, of course, the winning over of a lesbian for the forces of hetrosexuality.

Guy Hamilton, 1922 - The Moment I Thought Too Hard About Him

Guy Hamilton, 1922 – 2016 (The Moment I Thought Too Hard About Him)

Obviously, Hamilton directed a whole bunch of other films. And they include the Hercule Poirot mystery, Evil Under the Sun, which was shot on the island of Majorca. Well, guess who just died on Majorca right after we watched that movie – possibly WHILE we were watching it.

I’ll admit, this is starting to freak me out. It’s like I’ve been imbued with some horrible superpower. I feel I might need to be put down like Tetsuo in Akira before it grows out of control. Already, I’m thinking about which celebrity I should will dead with the eerie force of my brain next. The thought has crossed other sinister minds as well.

“Next week: a Michael Bay film starring Adam Sandler,” is the first official request I’ve received.

And it’s tempting. I’ll kid myself that I’m using my power for good at first, but eventually I’ll start wiping out perfectly innocent celebrities who appear in terrible franchise films to help pay for their latest divorce. And if it comes to that, Hollywood will be a smouldering ruin by the time I’m done.

Tremble before me.

In related news, my dead-celebrity novella, Filmography, is due out soon. Rest assured, I invented a celebrity to kill off in that one. Perhaps I needn’t have bothered. You can’t libel the dead, and anyone still alive won’t stay that way long if I put my mind to it.

Don’t Choke

It’s been over a year since my short story “Choke the Chicken” appeared in the pages of The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir. That means all rights have reverted to me. So, rather than let it languish forever as a memory in an increasingly distant collection, I’ve decided to toss it up on Amazon as its own mini eBook. This can be considered as part of my trial-balloon series that began with “The Red Baron: An Ace for the Ages” and “Carrion Luggage.” These trials are leading to bigger and better things I need to ramp up to – announcements and cover art pending. Soon!

Choke the ChickenBut for now, the released material is coming in convenient bite-sized chunks. For a mere 99 cents, you can snag a copy of one of my recent favourites that embraces some of my favourite themes, such as dark humour, troubled children, not-so-cuddly animals and, of course, carnies. Yes, “Choke the Chicken” has a degenerate carnival con man in it. I’ve written about them here before. Part of me wishes I’d run away to join a circus sideshow years ago and become one. It would make for steadier work than screenwriting. And I’d get to hang out every day in a hideous, tacky world of unsafe rides, cacophonous bells and whistles, and unwinnable games of chance and questionable skill.

Come to think of it, that sounds exactly like the film and television industry. I guess I already got my wish.

Things That Go Bump in the Road

Bumps in the Road, the new horror anthology from Black Bed Sheet Books, is out on Kindle as of today. Physical copies will be available to order shortly. Leading off the series of stories about terrible things happening on the road is my ditty, “The Last Seven Miles and Home.” Like my recent work on Betty Fedora Issue Two, I have the opening story. Unlike “Heads Will Roll” for Betty, you can actually read the entirety of “The Last Seven Miles and Home” by clicking on the Amazon preview.bumpscover

I would encourage you, however, to go ahead and buy the book so you can read the whole thing. Because royalties! And other authors! And horror stories! Plus it’s my fault that “The Experience” by Michael Brodie gets to close the book. He’s an old pal who sent me that story to read months ago, and I was the one who said, “Hey, there’s this horror anthology coming out with a road theme. This might fit.”