The Game Is Apaw

“The Adventure of the Cat’s Claws,” my latest Sherlockian mystery, has been published in The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part VI: 2017 Annual. It’s now available on Amazon for Kindle, with hardcover and paperback editions coming next Tuesday. This is the biggest collection in the series yet, brimming with new tales of Holmes, Watson, and other famed and infamous associates. Once again, I write from the point of view of Baker Street Irregular, Wiggins, as he reveals the tawdry truth behind “The Veiled Lodger”—one of the final stories of the original Conan Doyle canon.

With the seal of approval from the Conan Doyle estate, all proceeds will go towards the restoration of Undershaw, for the benefit of the Stepping Stones school that is now set up in the grand house that was home to Sir Arthur back when he was writing such famed tales as The Hound of the Baskervilles. As revealed in “The Veiling Lodger” and “The Cat’s Claws,” Holmes didn’t face off against gigantic dogs alone—there was at least one gigantic cat in the mix.

Followers of The MX Books of New Sherlock Holmes Stories will be dropping by the blog for a visit, so let me take a moment to offer them a handy checklist of my other mystery and crime books for sale through Amazon, and available to read for free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

Necropolis is a supernatural thriller full of intrigue, murder mysteries, and comedy for those who like their detective stories to come with a touch of magic and horror.
Raw and Other Stories features twenty tales of crimes, major and minor, petty and vindictive. It’s a single-author collection that prints many of my shorts that have previously been published in anthologies and magazines, as well as new material appearing for the first time.
Sex Tape is a soft-boiled detective thriller about the sleazy side of Hollywood, and the underbelly of the Montreal skin-flick industry. Join ex-paparazzo Sid Volke and publicist Alexandra Middleton as they race against time to solve a murder and keep a stolen celebrity sex tape from going public over the Christmas holidays.
Filmography tells the story of three obsessive film fans who decide to make one final motion picture feature with their favourite deceased horror-movie star by kidnapping his corpse and putting him in front of the camera again. Extortion plots and international felonies snowball out of control, until everyone is in danger of ending up just as dead as their headlining thespian.

My thanks go out to all the newcomers making this visit. I hope you enjoy the new Holmes story and that you’ll want to read more material in my solo books. If you like what you see, stick around, follow the blog and/or subscribe to the newsletter.

2 + 8 Days Later

Ten days into release, Necropolis has already sold as many copies as my last two books combined. Raw and Other Stories still dominates on the Kindle Unlimited pages-read front. And sex may have sold Sex Tape, but not as much as urban fantasy sold Necropolis. I hope to see Necropolis, at twice the length of my collection of short stories, topple Raw in the pages-read category in the near future—not least because I ultimately make more money with the Kindle Unlimited program. Damn you, Amazon, and your tempting promotional programs that further establish you as a monopoly thanks to my willing complicity!

Last night I attended the launch part for ToonMarty, which is a new cartoon series that will air on Teletoon starting May 1st. I haven’t talked about screenwriting on this blog in a long time, but this is one of the shows I worked on recently, scripting three episodes of the first season. I’ll probably get around to linking them just as soon as someone records and illegally posts them to YouTube. Checking out my television-credits page, I notice there have been a number of episodes yanked since last time I looked. Getting called on copyright violations, no doubt. That’s unfortunate, considering YouTube has been the most convenient venue for me to see my own material for years now.

I was also informed that work continues on Chop Chop Ninja. This is the other series I worked on last year. I completed my contract on it in 2016, but if there are still unfinished scripts on the production line, I don’t expect to see that air until this fall at the very earliest.

Right now, it’s back to work on Epitaph, which is currently sitting at 66,000 words and counting. And another project that may involve just as many dots.

King of the Hill

Here’s a screenshot trophy for me to wave around like a semaphore flag for anyone who will look my way. It was an uphill battle to topple Stephen King’s It because I don’t have a movie adaptation coming out. Plus my novel doesn’t end with a pre-teen gangbang in a sewer and a universe-creating turtle-god. Can’t wait to see how those elements are not handled in the new film version of It this time around!

Okay, fine, this phenomenon only happened for a day on Amazon.ca, not over with the big boys at Amazon.com. Honestly, it took a shockingly low number of sales to climb to the top of the horror chart in Canada. Meanwhile, in the same category on dotcom, Necropolis has been picking at the fringes of the top 500.

Here’s hoping today’s promo can push it just a little higher. Download All the eBooks is doing a multi-author promo for science-fiction, fantasy, and horror novels. Necropolis is in the mix, along with box sets, series starters, and other fun stuff. Check it out and enter the contest for a chance to win a Kindle Fire or Amazon gift certificate.

The DATE multi-author promo is here.

Meanwhile Necropolis remains priced at $0.99 for a little while longer, or free to read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

Get your copy now.

And if that epic tale isn’t enough Necropolis material for you, there’s more to be had in advance of the eventual sequel coming later this year. Clever readers have signed up for the Eyestrain Productions newsletter in order to get exclusives, like “Crocodile Tears.” This is an all-new short story about one of the cast of Necropolis—a standalone adventure featuring grief, greed, and gallows humour. Subscribers already have their free copies. Would you like a link to read or download it for yourself when the next issue goes out in a week? Just sign up.

Subscribe to the newsletter now.

Fly or Die

It’s out.

I had a hard time letting Necropolis go. This is the first thing I’ve published through Amazon that has never existed elsewhere in any other form. Most of the stories in Raw saw print earlier in other books and magazines. As did Carrion Luggage, Hot Pennies, and Choke the Chicken. The Red Baron articles also go way back to the pages of Aviation History and Dog World among others. Even Sex Tape and Filmography spent time in development as film projects first. Necropolis, however, is completely new, entirely original, and has never been seen before. It was my little secret for years, becoming a bigger and bigger secret as time went on and chapters were added. Now it’s been pushed out of the nest and onto virtual bookshelves.

Necropolis is priced at only $0.99 for its initial launch/promotion period. It’s also available through Kindle Unlimited if you’re a subscriber. Reads and reviews on Amazon.com are encouraged and welcome.

One Week to Live

It’s been a long journey for Necropolis. And for me.

The first four thousand words of the adventures of Rip Eulogy, necromancer-for-hire, have been copied and pasted and saved too many times to track the timecode. I worry that if I ever found the original file, it would be in WordPerfect 5.1 format. Yeah, as old as that.

Or maybe not quite. I don’t really remember. But let’s say the origin of the story dates back at least a decade, when I started writing some fun, crazy material for the hell of it. And just as I thought I was really onto something, I got stuck. It was my typical modus operandi. A lot of crackling banter and thrilling moments, but I didn’t know what the story was yet. I didn’t know where all these intriguing pieces fit into the puzzle. I didn’t even know what puzzle I was working on.

So it got shelved. For years.

Four years ago, I started over. I didn’t throw away the original material, although none of it appears in the final novel. My epiphany was that what I had started to write occurred much farther down the plotline of a series. Book three or four maybe.

Moving forward, the only thing I kept was a vague plot idea about Rip being hired to use his talents to bring justice to a long-dead war criminal. It was a starting point. That, plus my extensive research on the art of performance regurgitation—because that’s my idea of recreational reading.

No, it shouldn’t take four years to write a novel. But then, this was the single longest and most complex project I’d ever tackled. It made Longshot Comics look like a trifle. It made that four-hour TV miniseries look like a single short evening of binge watching. Mapping it all out on a piece of paper looked like pages of physics equations. Then, of course, there was my misguided attempt to approach the legacy-publishing biz before I came to realize how much the industry had changed when I wasn’t looking.

There were publishers who didn’t want to look at any manuscript over 120,000 words. Publishers who were in the process of going bankrupt and stiffing the authors they already had. Publishers who still wanted authors to send them a printed-out physical copy in the 21st century (overseas no less). Publishers who took 16 months to respond to an initial pitch.

Incidentally, when it takes you 16 months to get back to me with a “Yeah, sure, send us the whole manuscript, we’d love to take a look,” my response is, “No. That ship has sailed.” It sailed, hit a rock, and sank. The survivors were plucked out of the sea, put on another boat to their destination, and have been ashore for over a year now. They’ve received counselling for post-traumatic stress and have gotten on with their lives. Some have even had enough time to get over their fear of the water. That’s how much can happen 16 months.

So yeah, when I say I started writing the novel in earnest four years ago, it’s actually been finished for nearly two. The rest of the time has been spent editing, proofreading, and getting jerked off by agents and publishers who don’t understand that the industry is changing all around them, and that their role in it is getting killed off—largely by their own hand. It was also time spent learning the ropes of the new independent press that has arisen through outlets like Amazon. Over the last year and a bit, I published all this stuff, largely as a dry run for Necropolis.

I’ll evangelize the independent press again at a later date. And share more stories about publishing woes and my distaste for unprofessionalism at all levels of the industry. Right now, though, it’s time to reveal the cover.

Covers are a gamble. You know the old saying: you can’t judge a book by its cover. Absolutely true. But you can sell a book by its cover. You can also NOT sell a book by its cover.

I’ve looked at a lot of urban-fantasy/supernatural-suspense/mystery-horror covers in my market research. I’ve seen what sells. And I can honestly say, I don’t really care for them. It’s hard to argue with sales figures, but I’ve long been an opinionated elitist when it comes to things like book covers and movie posters. And I’ve had a lot of viciously critical things to say about some of the marketing trends I’ve seen and come to loathe.

Floating-head DVD covers were the bane of my movie-collecting days. Badly Photoshopped heads of celebrity stars pasted over elements of the original theatrical poster was the norm for years. It wasn’t about aesthetics, it was about telling consumers, “Look who’s in this one!” Awful, awful stuff. At the other end of the spectrum, I was always a fan of the Criterion Edition covers. Yeah, the artsy fartsy ones. They were probably all terrible from a marketing point of view, but they had mood and atmosphere. Rather than being too literal about the content of a film, they suggested tone, and I found that much more personally appealing.

These days it’s all about the orange/cyan colour-contrast posters and covers. Every second movie resorts to this supposedly appealing colour scheme to help sell their movie, and it’s bled into book covers as well. This trend, too, shall pass. Eventually everyone will see it for the painful cliché it is, and it will become repellent rather than attractive. In time, it will go away, and when people see one of those orange/cyan one-sheets, they’re not going to subconsciously think, “Oh, how appealing.” They’re going to consciously think, “Oh, how dated.”

So after a lot of thought and image searches and one major redesign, this is what I came up with.

It’s sombre, it’s moody, it hints at content and themes, but doesn’t depict anything that literally takes place in the book.

I like it, I’m going with it, and I know I may well be shooting myself in the foot. Current marketing tropes suggest I should be going in a very different direction. But I wrote a book that I would like to read, so I figure I should slap on a cover that would draw my eye.

It’s a gamble. It always is. The stakes are high on this one. Necropolis stands on its own as a self-contained story, but I’m over 60,000 words into the sequel. It’s a lot of commitment to something I don’t know will fly with readers. The first handful of reactions have been stellar. We’ll see if that carries through.

Necropolis will be available for Kindle next week. It will debut at a painfully (for me at least) low price of $0.99 to help it scale that all-important algorithm ladder and tie in with various promotions. It’s a whole lotta book for a buck, and a whole lotta performance anxiety for me. This is the seventh time I’ll be hitting the “publish” button on Amazon, and it’s going to be the hardest one to let go of.

I’m nervous.

On a side note: The cover reveal is old news for subscribers to the Eyestrain Productions newsletter. If you want first-looks, exclusives, special deals, and the occasional free book, sign up now.