Preferential Treatment

I’ve made a number of references to my upcoming urban fantasy/supernatural suspense novel Necropolis, but have offered few details. That’s probably because this is the single largest project I’ve ever undertaken, and it’s only the first part of a new series that will keep me occupied for years to come. It’s hard to summarize all I’ve poured into it, and everything it’s about—especially without giving away spoilers.

I can only hope it’s enough to say: if you’ve ever given a shit about my work, this is the big one.

A five-chapter preview will be posted for newsletter subscribers starting tomorrow, and free advanced review copies will shortly be made available to any of those subscribers who express interest in reading the rest before everyone else…and, of course, leaving a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads on or about release day. That’s the important bit. Not only do reviews raise the profile of any book in algorithm land, they also open up additional promotional options with websites that have minimum-review requirements.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say and announce in the coming weeks. Right now, I’m operating on about two hours of sleep, I’ve been up and working since 1:00 am, and I still have a long workday ahead of me. It’s probably not the best frame of mind to be in when trying to pitch a novel that’s been years in the making. I’ll try to do better once I’m over this current editing/designing/promotion hump.

In the meantime, if you’re at all intrigued, Necropolis, the epic horror/mystery/fantasy/comedy, will finally be published next month—while the thirty-thousand-word preview is only hours away. If you want in, become a newsletter subscriber, and receive an exclusive bounty of bells and whistles and free stuff*.

 

*Bells and whistles sold separately.

Oscar Afterburn or: Hollywood Can’t Read

The Academy Awards gets it wrong all the time, but never so obviously, stupidly wrong.

In a clusterfuck that threatened to turn Warren Beatty into this year’s Jack Palance and host Jimmy Kimmel into the Oscar’s own version of Steve Harvey, the wrong movie won Best Picture. For about a minute. Then it was corrected, to everybody’s shame and embarrassment.

Apparently a second copy of the Best Actress envelope was handed off to Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway instead of Best Picture. During a long moment that looked like late-stage dementia, the two were left to interpret the surprising contents of the envelope that told them the Best Picture was, in fact, Emma Stone. In the spotlight, under the gun, they leapt to a reasonably logical conclusion that since Emma Stone starred in La La Land, the Best Picture they were trying to decipher must be La La Land. Only it wasn’t. And this was amended, to everyone’s mortification, mid-acceptance speech.

How could such a thing happen for the first time in nearly a century of Oscar awards, you ask? Simple. Nobody in Hollywood reads. Not the treatments, not the screenplays, and not even what’s printed in plain English on a damn envelope (check out “Underwriter” in Raw and Other Stories for more of my take on this phenomenon). Illiteracy in Hollywood is a terrible thing. It gets all sorts of awful movies made, and now it’s screwed up the climax of the great film-industry circle jerk, just when they were trying to reward the one or two half decent movies they accidentally made last year.

It’s a pity. It’s also pretty damn funny.

For more of my Oscar coverage (before it’s rendered utterly irrelevant by the passage of time, and nobody remembers who won what a day or two from now), read my epic live-tweet of the event where I burned through 70 snarky comments over the course of the evening. Or you can listen to my three-hour Cinema Smackdown appearance on their Oscar show, which has just been posted to their website.

Oscar in My Hand, Gun to My Head

God help me, I’ll be live-tweeting the Oscars again this year. Watching the #etalkRedCarpet pre-pre-opening blather is making me deeply regret this decision already.

Good thing I have plans to get drunk off my ass. Doing inventory of my home booze-stash I have…

Oh shit.

I have a bottle of champaign, a mini bottle of apple cider, and a quarter bottle of gin.

That’s all.

I. Am. Fucked.

Watch me comment on this train wreck at @Shane_Eyestrain, and join in my despair for the floundering film industry. Please. I don’t want to face this horror alone.

It’s Just An Honour to be Not-Quite Nominated

It was fun while it lasted, and I squeezed it for all it was worth.

The final nominees for this year’s Bram Stoker Awards were announced a few hours ago and “Raw” is not on the list. My story has been banished to the preliminary-ballot wasteland, where all the other also-ran stories wander aimlessly and, from time to time, kill and eat each other. It’s what horror stories do when left to fend for themselves.

Which doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t read “Raw.” After all, it was one of 11 semi-finalists in its category for the most prestigious literary horror award out there. Go get it, along with 19 other twisted tales I’ve concocted over the years. The number of sales and Kindle Unlimited page-reads have been heartening, making this my biggest eBook publication yet.

I can’t say the news isn’t disappointing. Plans to stalk the Stokers again next year are already afoot. Tonight, however, I will have to curl up with my Writers Guild Award, my Max-und-Moritz prize, and my sixth-grade public-speaking trophy, and cry myself to sleep.

The marathon episode of Cinema Smackdown went well last night. Despite being a guest short, we managed to blather on about the Oscars, cinema, and the state of the film industry for three solid hours with barely a break. I also got to make my argument that Boo! A Madea Halloween was snubbed by the Academy this year. I haven’t seen the film. I will never see the film. Regardless, I think it should be given a special Oscar for Best Financial Model.

Tentpoles running 200 to 300 million dollars are killing Hollywood. Budgets like that could very well wipe out even the most venerable studios if they suffer just one summer of flops. Gambling on 100k shoestring indies they snatch at Sundance won’t save them. There needs to be a return to mid-level budget cinema, and Tyler Perry is paving the way. Heed his example. The latest Madea film cost 20 million to make. It was marketed for about 30 cents (that’s rounded up) and took in over 70 million. That’s not a home run by Hollywood standards, but it’s a solid base hit. Enough of those keep studios afloat. The majors used to understand that, but now they’re swinging for the franchise fences with every remake, reboot, and regurgitated release—and it’s unsustainable.

Give unemployed filmmakers (especially John Waters) the 20 to 40 million they need to make their boutique films that are geared towards specific demographics. Fuck the international market. Not every film can appeal to everyone. Boo! A Madea Halloween barely cracked one million in non-domestic release, but it didn’t matter. It knew its audience, they showed up, and they loved it, even as every critic panned it.

Listen to reason Hollywood, and be saved.

Spoiler alert: they won’t.

Dead Air

This will be brief because I still have a lot of prep to do for tonight.

I’m back on Cinema Smackdown for a special three-hour Oscar episode this evening at 6:00 pm EST. Yes, three bloody hours. A few more hours and the show will be as long as an actual Oscar Awards ceremony.

Spoiler alert: There may be filler.

Tune in to CJLO to listen live as I struggle to help fill hour upon hour of dead air with inane movie-related babble. Apparently this is seen as preferable to clogging the airwaves with more electro-funk Muzak, which seems to be the station’s usual broadcasting mandate.

Admittedly, I may be judging them based on what often airs after or instead of the show.

Table of Contents

There’s less than a week to go before the final nominees for the Bram Stoker Awards are announced and I find out if “Raw”—currently on the preliminary ballot—made the final cut. And also whether I’m going to have to drag my ass out to Los Angeles for the first time in years to attend the ceremony.

The Table of Contents for Raw and Other Stories can be viewed in the Amazon preview page, but I thought I’d go over the twenty stories in more detail here—and include links to where you can read some of them for free right now.

Wrangler

The closest I’ve come to writing a genuinely cozy crime story, I was fond enough of this tale to start off the entire collection with it. Fond enough, in fact, to withdraw it from submission somewhere else in order to include it here. Pity it didn’t get more of a kick at the can in the open market. I’m sure I might have placed it in some anthology, but one high-profile magazine decided to sit on it for an insane 341 days before getting back to me. Fresh off the keyboard and lost in limbo for nearly a year, it got pressed into service here to bookend the collection between something fairly light, and the extreme darkness of the titular story. If you click on the “Look inside” feature on the store page, you’ll get enough of a preview of the book to be able to read the entire thing.

Heads Will Roll

Based on a real girl who actually did this job for a university one summer, this story was first printed in Betty Fedora Issue Two. Being the lead, you can again check out the “Look inside” feature on the page to get a preview—but you’ll get cut short about halfway through.

Bayonet Baby

Originally slated for the Weird War anthology, it became homeless once that book was cancelled without notice at the 11th hour. A satire about war propaganda, it was hard to place again, but eventually found a home in Illuminati at My Door, where it was expanded by about 300 words.

The Last Seven Miles and Home

A quick little horror/crime jaunt I came up with for the Bumps in the Road anthology, it was chosen to lead off the book. Yet again, the “Look inside” on the Amazon page will give you a look-see—enough to read the whole thing. At this point, with so many free previews, you might be wondering why you would even bother by buy my collection at all. Hint: it’s only a buck right now.

rawandotherstories600It’s the Thought That Counts

This is one of my all-time favourites. Cruel, funny, and dark. It came close to selling a number of times, and then spent a year earmarked to appear in an anthology alongside such luminaries as Margaret Atwood. Yes, Margaret Fucking Atwood. And then the whole book got cancelled for reasons that remain shrouded in mystery. It was time to give up and include it in this collection because readers who follow my work should really have access to this one.

Just One of the Lads

One of the oldest stories in the book, this dates back to a time when I was finding my legs as a writer, before the film business swept me off my feet and plugged me into the screenwriting mill for twenty years. There’s a number of pieces I wrote back then that will never see the light of day. Most, like this one, were never even submitted anywhere, but made the cut as one of the few oldies worth collecting.

Black Ink

A piece of flash fiction I quite enjoy. This one was too dark for some of my usual outlets, but Out of the Gutter Online snatched it up immediately once they had a look. It can still be read on their site. I got the idea while I was sitting in a Toronto production company, waiting to have a meeting about yet another kiddie cartoon. They had a number of books in the waiting area lying on the coffee table, including a rare edition about Russian Mafia tattoos. It was a weird thing to find in a place that worked exclusively in children’s animation.

Anatomy of a Riot

I wrote this one for a very specifically themed anthology. It was perfect for them, exactly what they were looking for. And then they turned it down. I was left with a strange, morbid, docudrama period-piece that was an unlikely fit anywhere else. Indeed, my sporadic attempts to place it elsewhere proved futile, but I remain pleased enough with the results to include it here.

Hot Pennies

Another one of my favourites, it took me years to finally finish it, followed by more years of shopping it around. It became my all-time most rejected story, to the point that it became a running joke. Odd, because it’s among my very best short stories, provided your sensibilities are really troublingly dark. Last year, largely as a lark, I published it as a standalone story to take advantage of a Halloween-themed promotion. It immediately became my most downloaded and highest rated book to date.

Table d’hôte

The first of three pieces of criminal flash fiction I published with Shotgun Honey, you can still read it on their site.

One Last Time

“Foul” is how one friend recently describe this story. Then he went on to tell me how he delighted in relaying its odious contents to his wife. This is another oldie I sat on for many years without submitting anywhere. My initial readers were so appalled a quarter of a century ago, I decided to bury it. I only dug it out of mothballs last year when I placed it with Morpheus Tales for their Taboo Special Issue. Now it has returned to sicken and horrify again.

The Spare

Piece number two with Shotgun Honey remains on their site. This bit of polite violence is possibly my favourite of the flashes.

Choke the Chicken

Originally appearing in New Canadian Noir, I later published this as a standalone once the rights reverted to me. Call it a director’s cut of the story. Like “Hot Pennies” before it, this one also has some basis in my happy but sinister childhood memories.

The Appeal

This short piece hints at a larger story, then purposely refuses to give it to you. I considered it a thematic choice, but it frustrated editors. It will probably irritate you too.

Meridian Response

This one barely got sent out before I stuck it in here. It’s an extreme (but consensual) piece of horror about ASMR culture, and I didn’t feel like waiting around for the next rare anthology into this sort of material to crop up.

Young Turks and Old Wives

From Locked and Loaded: Both Barrels Vol. 3 comes this crime story within a crime story. One reviewer called it “Hitchcockian,” but Hitchcock tended to make stories about a better class of criminal than these scumbags.

It’s All on You

Recently published by Out of the Gutter Online, it came out within 24 hours of the collection.

Underwriter

Likely the most autobiographical story I’ll ever write, it’s still a grotesque distortion of real life. It might give you some idea of what it’s like working in the screenwriting trenches. This isn’t a transcript of any meetings I’ve ever had, but some have come damn close.

The Wash

Another recent crime story. Reading it back-to-back with the climactic tale, you’ll see some hints that many of these stories may be taking place in some shared criminal universe. This will come up again in future work.

Raw

And finally, the biggest bad boy of the group. Originally appearing in Silent Screams, now in line for a Bram Stoker Award nomination, this is a crime story that crosses the line into horror, and then likely crosses another line into what’s often labelled “extreme horror”—whatever that means. Uncompromising, no-shit horror, I guess. It remains the only story I’ve ever written with material disturbing enough that my wife had to skip parts when she was proofreading it. I had to point to a spot on the printed page where it would be safe to resume, but really, it only gets nastier.

Raw and Other Stories remains priced at $0.99 until the nominations, and can also be borrowed and read for free by Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

837610f8-3c4d-493f-9079-7de45a53ba0cAfter a brief intermission being a pay book, Filmography has dropped down to freebie status again for the second promotion of the week. I expect most people reading this have long-since grabbed their own copy, but check out the rest of the Mystery and Thriller Book Promotion for more genre eBooks that are free this weekend.

Apocalypse Guy and the 10,000 Covers

As ubiquitous in publishing as the Wilhelm Scream is in film, Apocalypse Guy is on a hell of a lot of book covers. Not just books out there for sale right now, but books yet to be born, books yet to even be conceived.

There are a number of websites where authors can licence pre-made book covers that have been cobbled together by many talented (and some untalented) Photoshop wizards from stock photo sites that are brimming with hundreds of thousands of images. So far, I’ve only ever bought one cover like this, because the odds of finding a pre-made that sufficiently matches the contents of one of my books are pretty low. It’s not that I’m super-picky, but usually when I see one that could work, it’s either shitty from a design perspective, or too generic to get me excited about adding it to my author shelf. Nevertheless, I like to browse, hoping to one day stumble across something perfect.

Over the weekend, I binged and ended up looking at nearly 10,000 different covers. That’s right, 10k. I did the math. Of all those, I bookmarked 27 for future consideration. I’ll probably end up pulling the trigger on zero of them. Still, compared to how many images I’ve looked at on the various stock sights, that’s a drop in the ocean.

After a while, you come to recognize certain key images that get used or incorporated over and over again. Photo shoots with specific models leap out, and you’ll know exactly where that image came from. You’ll feel intimately acquainted with Brunette-Chick-With-Sword, even while you’re cheating on her with Blonde-Chick-With-Sword. Some photo shoots are so overused, I wouldn’t touch a single element from any of them. They’ve been around, they’ve been loose with their evocative imagery and, worst of all, they’ve become sad, used-up clichés in the book-cover biz.

bigstock_42159622The biggest tramp on the block has to be Apocalypse Guy. This one is from an instantly-recognizable photo shoot of an unrecognizable model in full-body gear and a gas mask. Sometimes he’s carrying a gun. Sometimes he’s sitting in a chair. Always he seems to be looking at you through his dark lenses, indifferent or accusatory, as though asking, “How could you let the world come to this?” Insert various backgrounds of ruins and decay and there’s your generic cover for your dystopian-future novel. Sixty bucks, please.

I can’t even calculate how many covers I’ve seen him on at this point, both published and proposed. I’ve stumbled upon the original photo shoot many times as well—plain, modified, mangled, but always that same guy.

Now that you know his face—or lack thereof—you’ll never fail to notice him if you browse enough virtual bookshops. Like the survivalist he represents, he’ll outlive us all.

Speaking of apocalypses, how was your Valentine’s Day? Are you sick of that shit yet?

If so, check out the Anti-Valentine’s eBook giveaway for a bunch of novels, novellas and short stories that aren’t about all that icky romance stuff. You can grab a free copy of my book, Filmography, which does have some romance stuff in the mix, but not of the usual icky variety. This is the kind of romance that will make you feel dirty, and not in the good sexy sort of way. More in the used and abused sort of way. Like real relationships.fb-antival-thrillerhorror-xpromo

If you’re paying attention to the minutia of the website (and I know you aren’t—I barely do), you’ll see that there’s a newsletter you can now subscribe to on the right-hand sidebar. Two issues in, it’s still early days for regular readers here to climb aboard. Subscribers will receive additional news about discounts and giveaways, and will also have unique opportunities to get previews, exclusive content, advanced copies, and other goodies. Fill out the short form, and you’ll get irregular emails from me. I swear to never, ever send you offers for boner pills, or account notices that pretend to be from your bank. But no promises about soliciting you for fake funeral insurance.

Half-Baked, Under-Done, or Raw

With the Bram Stoker Awards pending, and “Raw” on the preliminary ballot for a long-fiction nomination, I decided it was time to put out a collection of stories for people who might be interested in checking out the titular horror/crime opus, in addition to a pile of other material I’ve accumulated. Some of it has seen print in recent anthologies, some of it is making its first appearance here (often after being scheduled for publication, only to have an unexpected book cancellation pull the rug out from under it, leaving the rights tied up for a year). Many of the never-before-seens are among my A-list short stories, but for various reasons never found the right niche market, or got dicked around so long, I grew impatient to show them to readers. Thus their inclusion.

“Wrangler,” leading off the bunch, is one of those. Probably the most commercial short I’ve tried to flog in recent years, I only ever sent it to one major publication. They sat on it for a whopping 341 days before saying “no” and, in the process, made me miss out on a lot of other potential venues. Sad considering that, as far as my writing goes, this one is charmingly whimsical. Y’know, in a gallows-humour sort of way.

rawandotherstories600I’ve had an uneven year, where some publishers have come through as solid and reliable, with quality products and occasionally even fair pay rates (so rare in proseland). Others—particularly some of the more major players—have made me wonder where all the professionals have gone. I expect I’ll want to bitch about this further in an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned for some bridge-burning anecdotes about the writing/publishing business. For now, though, this should be a day of celebration. A twenty-story collection is nothing to toss off without some fanfare.

I think the most surprising thing about this single-author collection—to me at least—is how much more is yet to be collected. I could have kept going, but decided to hold off on a bunch of stories for a variety of reasons. Some are still under contract and awaiting publication. The Sherlock Holmes material will one day be assembled in its own book. And then there are others that fall into the realm of science fiction and the supernatural, which wasn’t a good thematic fit with the rest of what’s in Raw and Other Stories.

All the stories in Raw are grounded in some semblance of reality, even at their most horrific. A few spin off into the realm of outlandish satire, but are at least based on real events—semi-autobiographical in cases. It’s dark stuff, to be sure, but always delivered with a wink. Picture a nihilist who makes a living as a stand-up comic. That’s pretty much my writing career.

Aside from the Amazon preview page (yet to be generated as of this writing) which will give you a look at most of “Wrangler,” you can get another preview of the collection over at Out of the Gutter Online. As of this very same day, they’re hosting my flash-fiction story, “It’s All on You.”

And if that doesn’t sell you, maybe a limited-time offer will seal the deal. Raw and Other Stories will be available on Kindle at only $0.99 for the next two weeks, right up until the final nominations for the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards are announced. After that, regardless of whether the news is good or bad, it will get bumped up to a more regular eBook price. A paperback edition is pending, if physical is still your thing.

Arthur Conan Doyle Versus Bram Stoker

They were pals back in the day, now they’re competing for my attention.

The Kickstarter for the next volume of MX Sherlock Holmes stories has begun. Volume Six will feature my new Sherlock & Wiggins story “The Adventure of the Cat’s Claws” and will be out in May. The funding goal has already been achieved, but don’t let that stop you from making a pledge and getting your copy earlier and cheaper than everybody else. Higher pledge levels can also nab you all the other entries in the series, which together amount to heaping piles of Holmes mysteries—more than Conan Doyle himself ever got around to writing. My earlier Wiggins story, “The Song of the Mudlark” can be found in Volume One. As always, all profits go towards the restoration of Undershaw.mxsherlock6

On the Stoker front, my story “Raw” which appeared in Silent Screams: An Anthology of Socially Conscious Dark Fiction has made the preliminary ballot for the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards in the long fiction category. It’s not a nomination, but it places me among the eleven possible nominees. There will be an announcement in February. I’ll try not to get my hopes up, but the trophy is a friggin’ haunted house with Cthulhu gargoyles and tentacles poking out the windows. Who wouldn’t want one of those? I would totally lord it over the Oscar winners I know and tell them how much my award kicks the shit out of their boring-ass statuette.

Because being a sore winner is all the rage.bramstoker

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.