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.”

Following Filmography

My unhealthy obsession with dead celebrities has come to fruition. Filmography is a novella I wrote about a trio of film nerds who end up kidnapping the corpse of their favourite movie star in order to shoot one final opus with the deceased actor. It’s a sick and twisted comedy. If you’ve ever read more than three words here at Eyestrain Productions, you might have already anticipated the tone.

The book got picked up by Dark Passages Publishing for a May release in physical and e-formats. The listing and bio are up on their site, and have been for weeks, but this is my official homepage announcement.

FilmographyI’ve been meaning to get around to it for a while, but was finally inspired by the timely events of yesterday. What was so special about yesterday? It was Jerry Lewis’s 90th birthday of course. And it was Wednesday Movie Night. So therefore it was time to force everybody to watch The King of Comedy.

Martin Scorsese hasn’t made many comedies in his career – though, let’s face it, Taxi Driver is HILARIOUS. Jerry Lewis, on the other hand, has made boatloads. Most of them terrible. Combine these two entities and it was inevitable something truly fucked up would emerge. Such was The King of Comedy, the single most prescient satire of the film and television industry to come crawling out of the 1980s. Like Network from the decade before, it was off-putting and extreme in its day. Watch it now and you’ll realize, with a shiver, that not only have we arrived at that moment in time, we’ve gone a good deal past it. Much as Network anticipated Fox, Glenn Beck, and the nightly news spun as tawdry entertainment in the name of higher ratings, The King of Comedy anticipated stalker culture. At this point, if you’re a celebrity and you don’t have at least one or two stalkers slapped with a restraining order, you ain’t nobody. The King of Comedy asks you to identify with Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro), an outgoing, ambitious sociopath who doesn’t only want to chum around with his idol, he wants to replace him. In many ways, he’s creepier than Travis Bickle (also Robert De Niro), who merely wants to assassinate a celebrity

The fame phenomenon is a theme I keep coming back to in my work. I come from a city that notoriously doesn’t give much of a shit about celebrities. They come here to shoot movies, often with an over-compensating amount of security, and we (perhaps disappointingly) don’t mob them, don’t hassle them on the street, and don’t pester them for autographs and photos. Not unless they’re at an event arranged for just such a meet-and-greet. A certain respectful distance can be relied upon. Not so in many other places in the world, where famous faces have to hide under wigs and sunglasses, or stay indoors.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t fans here. And fans – serious fans – are odd animals. They can feel so close to people they’ve never met, remember more details about their lives and careers than the celebrities themselves do, and will mourn them like a loved one when they die. As the plot of Filmography points out: fans digging up dead celebrities has happened before. How long will it be before a group of idiots attempts exactly why my group of idiots do in this book? I’m a little shocked it hasn’t happened yet. In another decade, I may be just as shocked at how many times it has happened.

More major projects are on the way as the year progresses. Filmography may well prove to be only the first of three books I have coming out. Plus another four confirmed anthology short stories so far. Details, as always, will appear here. Hit the FOLLOW button on your right for email notices. Or follow me on Facebook. Or follow me on Twitter. Or follow me home and hide in the bushes while you peer through my window and watch me change into something more comfortable.

Everybody Out of the (Dead)Pool!

I went to see a movie called Deadpool last night. Maybe you’ve heard about it. Despite the title, it’s not about callous assholes predicting celebrity deaths. Imagine, instead, if Bugs Bunny were an insane, mass-murdering, sex-obsessed superhero who knows he’s in a movie and breaks the fourth wall constantly. That’s pretty much it. Plus it’s a Marvel movie that seems intent on bridging multiple studio continuities. And why the hell not? It’s not like they’re paying all that much attention to their own continuities these days. Once you start recasting and throwing around time-travel plots willy-nilly, it all comes crashing down sooner or later.

Ryan Reynolds returns as Deadpool. Yes, returns. You may remember the character from the poorly received X-Men Origins: Wolverine, or the better liked proof-of-concept short that helped sell the studio suits on the idea of producing an R-rated Marvel movie again. The last one attempted was the universally ignored Punisher: War Zone which, because of its pitch-black sense of humour and excessive violence, has since become a cult film in certain circles. Well, Patton Oswalt seems to really like it at any rate.

Being that this was a premiere, we were instructed not to text, Twitter, Facebook or blog about the movie before its actual release date. To which I say: fuck that. What’s the point of freebie advanced screenings if not to generate buzz? Somebody failed their Marketing 101 course.

But this wasn’t the only silly draconian rule we were subjected to.

“No phones!” we were instructed as we entered. “Phones off!”

As the last holdout on Earth who refuses to get a phone, cell or smart, even I thought this was ridiculous. Concerns about piracy abound (though the joys of watching a movie shot from a phone escape me) and phones during a movie are obnoxious, but it was an hour before the screening. Of course people are going to pass the time diddling around with their phones. These demands were flatly ignored, everybody got their texting and browsing done and, for the first screening I can remember in a long time, I didn’t see anybody’s devices on once the film began.

Had I the option, I might have thrown a couple of my own rules into the mix. Ones like: DO NOT READ THE CREDITS ALOUD.

It’s a funny, irreverent movie. So there were funny, irreverent credits at the start. The guy behind me read EVERY – SINGLE – ONE out loud, punctuating each with a hearty laugh. Dude, the audience was full of comic-book geeks. They can all read. We’re happy you’re a big boy now who knows his A-B-Cs, but kindly shut the fuck up.

Here’s another rule for people who apparently don’t know how cinema works: STAY UNTIL THE END.

“Do these people really think there’s not going to be anything after the end credits?” I said as I saw the first hundred people streaming out of the theatre the moment the movie “ended.”

I’ve never understood people who lack the patience to sit through credits – especially in this day and age when half the genre movies include some extra scene at the very end. It’s like they’re at a sporting event and want to beat the departing crowds if the game is a foregone conclusion. I have seen people walk out of a film in the last few minutes BEFORE the credits roll because, I guess, there’s nothing but boring resolution stuff left. INCIDENTAL NOTE:  I remember seeing people do that during Aliens in 1986 when the survivors made it back to the ship. Because, hey, they made it off the planet. It’s all over, right? Idiots.

Anyway, yes, if you see it, there are more jokes during the credits. There are more jokes after the credits. Stick around, or do you really need to feed the parking metre that bad?

Oh right. A review. I guess you want some early-preview critical assessment.

It was okay. I was amused. I laughed a few times. And I wasn’t too creeped out by the cosplayers in the audience. None of them tried to shoot or stab me, which was nice. You can’t always expect that level of civility at the movies these days.

Because of the R-rated content, there wasn’t much studio support for this film. It almost didn’t get made, and when it did, it was for a relatively low budget. By relatively low, I mean for a Hollywood-studio superhero movie. That still means it was shot for more money than the ten most expensive Canadian films ever made combined. So, uh, yeah – go support this tiny little indie film that makes funny at the expense of its own inexpensiveness, because we need to support more ultraviolent mainstream blockbusters.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say.

THE END

Wait! I have one more joke to tell!

What do you call Batman when he skips church? Christian Bale!

See, you would have missed that hunk of gold if you’d already left. Aren’t you so glad you stuck around to the bitter (real) end? Lesson learned.

Second Balloon

The first time “Carrion Luggage” saw print was back in 2003 in Island Dreams: Montreal Writers of the Fantastic. It was a short story I wrote concerning a voodoo curse making its way through airport security. As such, it was already a nostalgic look back at the kinder, gentler days of airport security when there was still some small measure of dignity in flying. As early as 2003, the act was already turning into a body-scanning, cavity-searching, beverage-free zone of bodily violations by grabby rubber-gloved “agents” with less training than your average grocery store checkout bagger and worse judgement than a mall cop chasing after teenagers for harassing an anchor-store Santa on Black Friday.

Despite a certain dated quality, the story sold again in 2014 to Black Chaos: Tales of the Zombie. My thinking there was that the announced anthology would be inundated by contemporary flesh-eating zombie stories and that there would be no love for the ironically underexploited voodoo zombies of old. I was quite right and they agreed to the reprint. Additional publishing details and links can be had on the Anthologies page.

As those of you who have bought and/or read my recent collection of Red Baron articles will know, I’m doing a slow roll-out of some of my material, new and old, for Amazon Kindle. Publishing “Carrion Luggage” as an eBook is my second official trial balloon. It’s now available online for $0.99 – or whatever weird one-cent incremental variation Amazon seems to randomly apply to these things. Carrion Luggage_small

When I say “second trial balloon,” that’s a bit of a lie. There have been others, but this is only the second publicly announced one. I’ve been busy learning all sorts of new and mind-expanding things about digital publishing as I gear up for bigger and loftier projects. The handful of fiction I’ll be making available in the coming month(s) is my way of cautiously learning the ropes as I weigh the dubious returns and glacial pace of traditional publishing versus the dubious returns and fast pace of do-it-yourself eBook publishing. Investing a buck per story would be a fairly token but much appreciated way for you to show me my time is not being spent in vain. Think of me as a sort of literary busker – except I’m not getting in your way in the subway and assaulting your ears with terrible covers of Simon and Garfunkel songs on my Casio keyboard.

Related to all things publishing, this article about the often terrible terms writers are expected to sign their name to is worth a look for those interested. I mostly include the link here as a means of bookmarking it for myself. At some point down the line, I should create a blog post about the most egregious things I’ve seen recently in various terms and conditions clauses – often from little- to no-pay small presses that are already asking writers to bend over for free.

The web has levelled the publishing playing field in recent years. It’s the wild west out there, and just like the wild west, few people panning for gold are finding any nuggets. I am (along with everybody else) trying to figure out what the new business model is going forward. The more I learn, the more I’m concerned there is no more business model. Or worse, there is a business model, but it’s broken and dead – just like the prospector’s horse that keeled over and died rather than carry all that mining equipment up the mountain one more time.

Inevitable

In one of the most profound tick overs since the date change on January 1st, 2000 and when an extra digit had to be added to the official U.S. debt clock, the websites, abevigoda.com and isabevigodadead.com, have had to change their status. After standing vigil for venerable character actor Abe Vigoda for years, watching over his current state of being so diligently, he has transitioned from a living state to a dead state. He died today at age 94.

But, like Baron von Munchausen, that was only one of his many deaths. Abe Vigoda was first declared dead by People Magazine in 1982. It was just a misprint, but it got the ball rolling. Since then, he has been declared dead more often than any other celebrity. Rumours of his demise, and shock that he was, in fact, still alive, abounded for decades until it became a widespread joke.avevigodaisdead

Vigoda was in on the joke. Although his film and television rolls diminished over the years, he made regular appearances on comedy shows to poke fun at the fact that, yes, he was alive and well, and yes, he was really really old.

I knew about his pending (real) death a few days ago, when I happened to read an update to his Wikipedia page. I was having one of my “How’s Abe doing?” moments and had to check. A member of his family had made a statement on Friday that he was dying – and dying soon.

It’s hard not to feel a certain morbid excitement about the event. I grew up watching Barney Miller, and The Godfather is among my favourite films. Abe Vigoda, with his alarmingly regular pronouncements of death, seemed to thumb his nose at mortality. He was the crown jewel of deadpools everywhere.

I’m fascinated by celebrity deaths – how so many people who know them, but don’t actually know them, come to mourn the loss of these famous strangers. Hell, I wrote an entire book on the subject (coming out later this year, announcement pending) and it’s not out of my system yet. I’ll be writing about this topic again, I know it. Because no matter how many beloved actors and musicians and politicians and artists and writers and reality-show narcissists snuff it, there are always legions more clinging to life.

In related news, Zsa Zsa Gabor is still alive.

References

Just when I was announcing my Red Baron book on Amazon, I got hit by some other social media news I needed to link to. Rather than confuse the issue, I waited until today to add them to the blog. In brief:

My interview about “When the Trains Run on Time,” my story for Playground of Lost Toys, is up on Colleen Anderson’s blog. She made a nice introduction which enlightened me to the fact that my submission had an uphill battle getting into the book. She’s not normally drawn to time-travel stories, so it’s always good to know you won somebody over despite working against their tastes.

Rich Johnston created a spike in traffic by referring to Longshot Comics as one of his favourite comics of all time on Bleeding Cool. Rich and I endured the Eisner Awards together in San Diego over twenty years ago, and his occasional Longshot reference keeps drawing attention back to my venerable dot-comic. Yes, I need to get it back in print. I know, I know. I beat myself up about it regularly.

I’ll also take this moment to mention that last year Steve Requin posted an old comic page of his on Requin Roll. It referenced my Couch Potatoes strip from Angry Comics. That’s me and Dave making a cameo in panel two. I’ve had this bookmarked for a long time, and this is as good a time as any to point it out.

Now that those links are preserved for posterity (or until they become broken), I’m getting back to work.

Wet Feet

In an effort to better understand the eBook biz, I’ve gone and published my first book to Kindle Direct Publishing. It’s a test-balloon collection of all the articles I wrote about the Red Baron back in 1995 when I was doing a lot of research for a feature film I had in development. I’ll refrain from name-dropping the movie stars who were involved because, like so many projects that spend years in development, it never happened. All that really materialized in the end were these articles I pitched to a few magazines to make some extra coin. Selling options on screenplays isn’t much of a living. Neither is writing magazine articles, but I got a lot of mileage from that cover article for Aviation History. It was reprinted multiple times and paid a hell of a lot better than any comparably sized fiction story I’ve written for actual books. It seems facts and figures are worth more to the marketplace than imagination and story structure.

An Ace for the AgesThe plan is to roll out more short material in eBook form in the coming months in order to make some worthwhile out-of-print and brand-new stories and essays available for token sums of money. Right now, you can get “The Red Baron: An Ace for the Ages,” “The Baron’s Most Famous Mount,” “Dogs of War,” and “Laying a Legend to Rest: The Death of the Red Baron” on Amazon for your Kindle or Kindle software, all for mere $0.99.

I’ll be netting a whopping $0.35 U.S. per unit. With the Canadian dollar where it is these days, if I sell just a few copies, I should be able to pay off my house and maybe buy an entire Canadian province with the spare change. Not a good province, but a decent-sized crappy one like Saskatchewan (flat and boring) or Quebec (broken and French).

So if you have any interest in a 22-page overview of some German dude who’s been dead for nearly a century (or, pitched better, the most enigmatic and famous air ace of World War I – or any other war for that matter) shell out a buck and show me that all this fiddly HTML formatting I’ve been doing was worth the effort.