Hit the Ground Crawling

My desire to begin 2017 with a bang fizzled into a whimper and a pathetic plea for more chicken soup. Just when I thought I was one of only a handful of people to survive 2016, that cursed year’s attempt to murder me lingered well into January. For the first time in years, I came down with a major cold—the same one that absolutely everybody seemed to get and might have put a new royal on the throne and all over our money had it been a touch more virulent.

My New Year’s Eve party amounted to sitting, sniffling, in front of the television, watching CNN implode in a live on-air drunken orgy of stupidity that’s only gotten worse since everyone sobered up and resumed reporting fake news with a straight face. Admittedly, that was way more fun than any party I might have attended, but is was still a sad showing. My illness only got worse from there, and all the ambitious plans I had for Eyestrain had to be put on hold while I recovered.

In the thick of it, I did manage to finish “The Adventure of the Cat’s Claws” for the next MX volume of Sherlock Holmes stories. Even then, I was such a mess, I only managed to cross the finish line five days past deadline, which is unheard of for me. Asking for an extension—even one happily offered well before the deadline—was a bitter pill to swallow. Back in my school days, I was the kid who always had the class projects and term papers ready on time. I used to resent the slackers who got extensions, but I resented the teachers who offered extensions even more. To this day, I consider it an awful lesson for any teacher to give to their students. Getting a zero on a term paper because it was handed in late would have taught tardy teens so much more about life and succeeding in the work place than anything they were studying or writing about at the time. It’s something they would remember. An essay on milling wheat, chosen by pulling a topic randomly out of a hat, not so much.

This is why I never became a teacher. Not because I’d be too much of a hard-ass with students. But because of all those obnoxious parent-teacher meetings with helicopter moms and dads who think their eighth grader’s pop-quiz D-minus will scuttle their chances of getting into Harvard.

I guess this is my roundabout way of thanking editor David Marcum for not being a hard-ass. I promise, I really was sick. And my dog really did eat my first draft.

It’s the first promotion of the year.

Sex Tape is back down to $0.99 this weekend. It’s part of Renée Pawlish’s latest bundle of mysteries and thrillers on sale at Amazon. Check out the pile of bargain books for your Kindle device or software while supplies last.

Actually, they’re eBooks, so supplies can’t run out. But the sale price will be over come Monday morning, so peruse now while you have the chance, and let your fingers do a one-click purchase whenever your brain thinks “That might be fun.” Everything is only a buck.

The Plagueis Dogs

“Damn you, 2016!” shouted the mountain range of cocaine and the ocean of alcohol ingested in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Snickering between themselves, they slunk away to the back of the gathered mournful crowd, who were again lamenting how the cursed year had robbed them of another celebrated celebrity.

Remember when Groucho Marx died within a few days of Elvis Presley? Everybody was so upset about the bloated icon, destroyed at a young age by an overindulgence in drugs and fatty foods, they paid no attention to the passing of a true master of the language and a writer of extraordinary wit and intelligence. Thankfully the internet allows us to act as our own media filter now and we can focus on the stories that matter most to us, if nobody else.

Richard Adams, it was announced today, died on Christmas Eve at the age of 96. Hardly unexpected so late in the game, it’s still a blow to fans of his classic novels such as Watership Down and The Plague Dogs. I was thinking of him only a couple of days ago, noting his advanced age on his Wikipedia entry, not realizing he was already dead. Like a lot of celebrities who are less in the public eye—writers in particular—word of their passing often comes days after the fact, once the family or representation issue a statement.

Watership Down remains one of my all-time favourite novels. I haven’t actually read The Plague Dogs because I saw the movie (adapted by the same animation studio that made the brutal film version of Watership) and it kicked the shit out of me. In my 40s. I recommend exposing your children to Adams’s animal-centric stories as early as you can. They’ll be traumatized in all the important ways children should be traumatized while preparing themselves for a vicious, merciless world.

But, of course, stealing all the headlines is a competing celebrity death that eclipses all others. Because she was in Star Wars.

I like Carrie Fisher. I’ve read a couple of her books. She was a reliable Hollywood script doctor and occasional actor, who showed up for mostly small roles in a variety of non-Star Wars related films. But let’s be honest. We’re mostly surprised she lasted this long.

Back when it was popular to do so, Carrie Fisher snorted ALL the coke. Drank ALL the booze. Did ALL the rehab. It’s astonishing she survived the 20th century at all. And even though she was the picture of health in Rogue One (it’s like she hadn’t aged at all), the fact that her body finally gave out in the wake of all her old bad habits should shock absolutely no one.

Callously, my greatest concern is how much rewriting this is going to inflict on the current trilogy. Not that there was much story to The Force Awakens, but if the writers have been doing their job and stepping up their game for episodes VIII and IX, Leia may have actually been part of a real character arc, now cut short. It’s a bad blow to the franchise in general and, I expect, Fisher in particular.

Here’s my fix:

Because Star Wars is all about fan service (and Richard Adams and The Plague Dogs is fresh in my mind), cast Fisher’s pet Gary the Dog as Darth Plagueis. Seriously. Gary is beloved, he’s creepy looking, and we haven’t seen Darth Plagueis on screen in a Star Wars movie yet, so they can cast ANYBODY. Disney, I’m talking to you. You want to protect your four billion dollar investment, you need to do shit like this. Or at least cast Gary in a Yoda prequel. He’s a natural. He’s a STAR. Much more so than whatshisface and whatshername or whosthatguy you’ve got filling in the slots of the next generation. Run with him.

People will love you for it, you’ll be doing Carrie a solid, and Gary will have the cash he needs to feed his Milkbone habit. I’m nothing if not a problem solver. You’re welcome.

In other news, Harrison Ford is still alive. He was in a plane crash, the Millennium Falcon tried to eat him, he was trampled by elephants, shot by John Hinkley Jr., blown up in the Hindenburg, stripped to the bone by ravenous piranhas…and that was just today. The man is accident prone, but nothing can kill him. Except maybe his role choices since the ‘80s.

One final note. A word of warning in these closing days.

You have not yet survived 2016.

2016 is still out there. Prowling. Waiting. Hungry.

Watch yourself.

Sex Tape Tenth Anniversary Already?

My novel, Sex Tape, is purposely ambiguous about when it takes place. There are hints, suggestions, and conflicting clues throughout. Mostly it can only be pinpointed to “somewhere in the first decade of the 21st century.”

Since then, I’ve been working on other stories from the same criminal timeline, including the subsequent cases of shabby detective, Sid Volke. The next novel in his personal history specifically happens the following year, and loosely ties in with events from my novella, Filmography. As a result, I’ve had to admit to myself that, all cute games aside, Sex Tape now unfolds throughout a very precise set of dates at the end of 2007. Hockey-match and unseasonable-weather specifics notwithstanding (such historical facts are now officially fudged for the sake of my narrative) I’ve come to realize that Alexandra Middleton’s plane touched down in Montreal exactly ten years ago today. By this time tonight, she would have already witnessed the murder that set her on her path of holiday mystery-thriller-comedy-romance-high jinx that climaxed less than a week later, on New Years Eve.

All this to say that now would be an appropriate time to crack open your own copy of Sex Tape and give it a read. Amazon and Goodreads reviews are encouraged and welcomed. A grand total of 1762 eBook editions were downloaded during last month’s Christmas giveaway, so I know there are a lot of copies floating around out there. It’s a no-brainer to grab an eBook while it’s free, but it’s quite another thing to actually sit down and take the time to read it. So far I’ve been contacted by a few freebie fans who were delighted with their $0.00 purchase and want more more more (that they’ll be willing to pay for this time).

More is in the works. Sid Volke will return. I don’t like to make promises, but 2017 is set to be awash with new material from Eyestrain Productions, including at least three novels. One of them will almost certainly be Corpus Christi Catwalk: The Sid Volke Casebook Volume 2. FOLLOW the blog to get the news as it becomes available.

Christmas Balls

The Christmas free eBook giveaway from The Self-Publishing Roundtable is underway, along with a contest to win a Kindle Fire and Amazon gift cards. Thirty-seven Christmas-themed books (including my own Sex Tape—now officially launched) are up for grabs for nothing at all. And the contest entry is as simple as signing up to be on some author mailing lists, which you can bail on at any time.

christmasgiveawayWhy brave the madhouse Black Friday sales when we’re giving away so much stuff for free? There’s everything you could want here from sparkling-clean cute romance, to utterly vulgar sleaze (that last one would be mine).

Have I mentioned recently how very proud I’ve made my family by managing to use the word “cumshot” in my first two books?

I’ve been running a few other promos in conjunction with the Roundtable group-author one, this being the first real push for my novel. As of this writing, Sex Tape has climbed to number seven on Amazon’s free mystery/private investigator list, number eight on their free thriller/crime list, and number 348 on the overall free eBook list (up many thousands of spots from where it was a couple of days ago). Snatch a copy now and let’s see how much higher we can push it. The higher it goes, the more browsing eyes get to see it.

Three Missing Years

holmesawayfromhome1We’re down to the final few days of the Kickstarter for Holmes Away from Home: Adventures from the Great Hiatus. I’m excited for this two-volume collection, and wanted to take this last opportunity to suggest, if you’re interested in reading all about what Sherlock Holmes got up to during his faked-death episode, that you back the project now. Funding has been met, but you’ll benefit from getting the books first and cheaper than anyone else.holmesawayfromhome2

The most recent Kickstarter update features a mini interview with me about The Adventure of the Melting Man, my second Wiggins story to date (with more pending). So far, each of these short stories has proved to be a fun diversion and research project away from my usual topics of morbidity and gallows humour. Running around Victorian London with some of the most famous characters in detective-fiction history is a mini holiday for me, before I get back to the grind of writing about my own original creations.

Speaking of which…

The official launch of Sex Tape, starring Sid Volke, the shabbiest of all slob private detectives, is almost upon us. I’m setting up some final promotions that will coincide with the next big Self Publishing Roundtable multi-author giveaway. This one is Christmas themed, and since Sex Tape is a mystery/thriller that specifically takes place over the holidays, my new tawdry crime-comedy is wedged into the middle of the pack of holly and jolly romance, erotica and shifter-bear novels. There are other genres sticking out of the scrum like sore thumbs as well, so check the list. You’ll find something up your alley, or down your chimney.

It will all be free this weekend, starting Friday. If you can’t possibly wait that long, Sex Tape is currently on Amazon for the reduced launch price of $0.99. Or you can read it for free right now if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

Hat Trick

I’m back on CJLO’s Cinema Smackdown at 7:00 pm EST again tonight. This will be my third appearance at the film-nerd Thunderdome, where I’ll attempt to crush all who oppose me once more and maintain my short but unbroken winning streak. Unlike the last show, I’ve had more than 30 minutes to prepare, so my answers will be carefully considered and cultivated. Two weeks ago, I won by throwing out the first things that came to mind. This week, find out if my over-prepared change of strategy will trip me up. Tune in online or at 1690AM in the Montreal area.

Silent Screams: An Anthology of Socially Conscious Dark Fiction is now available, not only as an eBook, but as a paperback as well. Twenty-six stories, each with an illustration by Emory Watts, awaits. And the dark fiction does indeed get dark. My own story, Raw, stands among the darkest things I’ve ever written. Grab a copy in your format of choice if you’re brave enough.

The Kickstarter for Holmes Away from Home: Adventures from the Great Hiatus marches on past the halfway mark. This terrific two-volume Sherlock Holmes anthology will be available in time for Christmas, with my story, The Adventure of the Melting Man, capping off the collection. Funding goals may have been met, but I urge you to support the Kickstarter, if only to get your copies sooner and cheaper than everybody else.

A Thrilling Weekend

This weekend (November 12 & 13), Sex Tape is part of a collection of 54 mystery novels and thrillers on sale for only $0.99 each. Check out the complete list of titles here.

Inconvenient dead bodies, mysterious circumstances, spies, detectives and…witches? Again? I have to look into this cozy witch mystery thing, now that I know it’s a thing. The genres you discover in these joint promotions…mysterythriller

Anyway, it’s a lot of fun stuff to be had at a great price. Not quite free like last time—but at a buck, it’s a price that can’t be beat. At least on Amazon, where they won’t let us set the cost at anything lower.

Post Mortem

The Halloweeny event is over and Hot Pennies (which did an extra free day tacked on the end) is back to the exorbitant price of $0.99. For those who are interested in numbers and data, I managed to hand out 1352 copies over a five-day stretch, with over half of those going out on the first official day of the group giveaway.

Reports from other authors who participated show numbers that dwarf mine—sometimes by multiples. But considering Hot Pennies was a brand new publication with no reviews to assure downloaders that it wasn’t a piece of crap, it did very well. It’s also an uncommercial short story. As such, I just can’t compete with the juggernaut that is shifter romance novels. There’s a huge market of readers who want to curl up with stories of hunky men who turn into hairy beasts and protect their chosen mates from any and all threats outside their cuddle-den. I’d try to write one to make a buck, but I know I’d fuck it up. I’d get a chapter or two in, and then my leading lady would come home to the manbearpig cave and discover her werewolf lover licking his balls in autoerotic fashion to a copy of Best in Show magazine. Then the rest of the book would descend into bitter arguments and accusations, and any hint of romance would shrivel up and die faster than if they’d been married for the last six books of the series.

Best to stick to morbid comedy, morbid horror, and morbid crime.

Speaking of which, Sex Tape has been released for Kindle. I’ll get around to designing the paperback sometime in the coming weeks, and arranging a proper launch for the eBook in the coming days. But for now, it’s yours for the low low (pathetically low) early-look price of $0.99. Reviews on Amazon.com are welcomed and encouraged.

In other news, I’m trying to participate in NaNoWriMo for no other reason than it’s November and I need to be working on the next book. It’s a sequel to one that isn’t even out yet—but apparently the market dictates that if you want to launch a series, you need to hit those readers with multiple installments early on.

Day One was mostly a bust. Already. I was about 600 words in when I got an emergency call, asking me to fill in as a guest on Cinema Smackdown. Since my first appearance went well, and this episode was all about horror movies, I agreed to get Shanghaied away in the back of an Uber. With only half an hour to consider what I was going to talk about before air time, I didn’t have time to tell anybody about it, mention it on social media, or otherwise tip off the world at large. Pity, as I crushed the opposition again.

The backlog of Cinema Smackdown episodes still hasn’t been updated on the CJLO website since April, so I don’t expect you’ll be able to listen to a rerun anytime soon. I’ll just mention that I successfully explained why being digested by The Blob is the worst horror-movie death, argued that the zombie virus counts as a character, and pitched a movie standoff between Dracula and Der Golem. I also chose to argue the indefensible position that Uwe Boll is the greatest horror director of all time—just to make things challenging for myself. I got zero points for that one, and demanded I receive no more than that. I would also have gladly accepted negative points. That’s how purposely wrongheaded my answer was.

Next time—and there may well be a next time—I’ll try to plug it in time.

Happy Halloweeny with a “Y”

So many things to promote, so little time. In the interest of focusing on the most pressing, time-sensitive item, this blog post is all about the huge Halloweeny free-eBook giveway spectacular explosion of digital-candy goodness. With monsters and sexy shape-shifters and shit.

This is my first joint promotion for my work, and on Day One we’re off to a rocking start. More copies of my novelette (there’s that damn word again) Hot Pennies have been given away in the opening hours than what I managed with Filmography during its entire five-day promo (and I was pretty happy with those results). It’s incredible what we lonely writers can accomplish, when we clump together for something resembling social interaction, and collectively organize ourselves. It almost makes me want to break into song with a verse or two from “Look for the Union Label.” But I won’t. One writers guild is enough for me, thanks. At any rate, this advertising blitz has done right by Hot Pennies, and I’m pleased. But enough about my darkly humorous Halloween-themed story that’s free through to the end of this most pagany of pagan celebrations. I want to talk about all the other amazing stuff you can get, also for free!

14560020_1139109222844955_5588342688062981172_oThe Halloweeny promotion, organized by Erica Conroy of the Self-Publishing Roundtable, has gathered together an astounding collection of 57 (59 if you count the box-set individually) Halloween-related eBooks by a broad spectrum of horror, supernatural, occult and otherwise weirdo authors. All of it is available from Amazon for free through to October 31. Whether you like hard horror or gooey paranormal romance, there’s bound to be something to scratch your itch here. From sexy manly men who turn into sexy bearly bears, to cozy witchy mysterious mysteries, to vampires who both suck and swallow, to deeply fucked up shit of questionable taste (y’know, what I write), there’s a lot to explore. And since it can all be downloaded without charge, there’s nothing to stop you from experimenting. You might awaken fetishes you never knew you had.

And isn’t that what Halloween is all about? Crawling out of bed with a hangover on November 1st, wearing strange and suggestive clothes you don’t remember putting on, and praying nobody took any pictures of you at whatever party you attended last night. And then, before the coffee has even had time to brew, discovering you’re trending on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and that there’s an angry email from work advising you that your desk has been cleaned out and your final paycheque is in the mail. Don’t worry. It’ll all be worth it. Because what’s important is that you’ve discovered something about yourself—something unexpected, special, unique, and only slightly mortifyingly embarrassing. And though those pictures of you in the sexy rubber chicken costume will never ever go away so long as the internet persists, those same photographs are getting a shocking number of swipe-rights on Tinder. Congratulations. Halloween has broadened your horizons yet again. And we all can’t wait to see what stupid pervy costume you drink yourself under the table in next year.

Why Everybody Suddenly Hates The Walking Dead

There are really no spoilers at all ahead, except in the broadest general terms. I wouldn’t screw you like that. All you need to know, going forward, is that season seven began this week. And many long-time fans weren’t happy. It wasn’t just what went down this episode, though. It was more about tone.

The Walking Dead has been accused of jumping the shark several times now, but that’s not what happened on Sunday night. Nobody jumped the shark. Nobody nuked the fridge. What the show did was hop the track. No, it didn’t derail, it jumped onto a whole other track. Hard.

For six seasons, The Walking Dead coasted along as everybody’s favourite example of a particular sub-genre. It was a horror show and, specifically, it was a zombie-apocalypse horror show. And we got what was advertised, exceptionally well done – thus the popularity. In a zombie apocalypse, you expect to see some of your favourite characters get munched on, or die in battle against rival survivors who have turned into marauding maniacs since the collapse of civilization and all the rules and laws that go along with it. That’s been a staple since the genesis of the genre, under its originator and master, George Romero.

But this season premiere wasn’t zombie-apocalypse horror. Sure, there were zombies in a dangerous-scenery sense, but they were window dressing. This episode was a different sub-genre of horror entirely. It was torture porn.

Now, I like torture porn just fine when it’s done well. I like the Saw series, I think Martyrs is something of a horror masterpiece. But a lot of people are not cool with the oeuvre at all, thus the derisive name. “Torture Porn,” a moniker initially slapped onto this not-really-so-new wave of horror by displeased critics, has since been adopted as an official title of dubious honour. Like the term “Spaghetti Western” fifty years ago, similarly meant as an insult, it has now become its own thing, with its own fans.

There is not a lot of crossover between zombie-apocalypse fans and torture-porn fans, even if they’re both horror sub-genres.

What we saw last episode was a bunch of beloved characters being mercilessly terrorized and brutalized with no recourse. They were victims being victimized for a whole hour. They couldn’t fight back. They couldn’t help themselves. Rescue was not forthcoming. And it was hard to watch. By the end of it, even I felt a little ill, and I’m damn near unflappable when it comes to these sorts of things.

A lot of fans did not care for it. They didn’t necessarily know why. Surely we’ve seen awful things happen on the show before. Perfectly nice people have been torn to shreds right in front of us on many occasions. But this was different. Our heroes were helpless, and we were helplessly watching them suffer.

And that’s going to be an emotional deal-breaker for a lot of viewers. You can’t swap out genres like that. Sure, you can do a single fantasy episode of your sci-fi show, or a film-noir episode of your teen-comedy show. But you can’t drop torture porn on unsuspecting viewers and expect it to sit well with them. It’s too harsh – even for people who like their zombies with extra guts and arterial sprays.

“But it’s just following the comics,” is what I’ve heard in response to the shocking number of fans who have announced, “I’m never watching another episode.”

Yeah, fine. There have been developments to bring the TV show more in line with the comic-book story arc, but they have always been two entirely different entities with the same brand name. The comics are many many many times more brutal and horrific and uncompromising than the show. The comic books are like hell, the TV show is like the Disney-resort re-creation of hell. It’s just not the same. A lot of the people who love the show probably couldn’t stomach what goes on in the comics. And there are probably people who read the comics who think the show is for pussies.

This last episode left me feeling depressed and gut-punched, even though I had predicted much of what would happen months in advance and was prepared for a deeply uncomfortable hour. I thought it was well done, and it certainly established Negan as the new, improved, worst-threat-they’ve-ever-faced villain. But the show’s producers were playing with fire, and they may have been burned. In an effort to demonstrate how hardcore they’re willing to go (on a show where you’re still not permitted to say “fuck” mind you), they may well have cut down their viewership by numbers they won’t ever be able to recover.

Season seven, still in its infancy, hasn’t jumped the shark. Not yet. But did I just spot Fonzie strapping on a pair of water skis?

On a side (and more spoilery) note: I’m still spot-on with my call from nearly three years ago, marking The Five Most Unkillable Characters on The Walking Dead. I always know something bad has happened on the show whenever that post gets a spike in clicks. Don’t read it unless you want to know some of the names of who survived this season’s opener.