Sunday, April 05, 2020

Creating Income and Connecting with Readers Using Short Fiction

On Wednesday April 22, 2020, I'll be presenting in one of Jane Friedman's online classes.

Jane is a consistently reliable authoritative source of solid information about the writing and publishing industry. Her blog and The Hotsheet are two amazing resources I regularly consume. I'm honored that I get to participate in one of her online workshops.

Creating Income & Connecting with Readers Using Short Fiction
The course is $20 USD and will be a video chat where I'll be talking through several of the examples that Matty Dalrymple and I wrote about in our February 2020 book, Taking the Short Tack.

I will share many of the examples that we write about in the book as well several other options and examples with the goal of informing and inspiring authors on how they can leverage their short fiction IP in multiple ways.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Importance of Laughter

I recently added an extra episode to my normally weekly podcast.

It was a Thanks for the Inspiration episode. These are an attempt to acknowledge and say thanks to the people, places, and things that have helped to either feed the muse, or perhaps just to feed the very soul and makeup of the writer behind that writing.

Link to Episode 126 - Thanks for the Inspiration and the Laughs

In this bonus episode of the podcast, I thanked the creative spirits who have produced musical parodies about Covid-19 and the current global situation. Because laughter is important.

As I said in the episode . . .

Yes, these are dark times, but laughter is important.

It connects people. And laughter has been shown to actually stimulate positive activity in a person's immune system.

I know we're all scared, we're uncertain, we aren't sure what's coming, for us, and for those we know and love. Things seem to be spinning out of control. But we can always control where we focus and how we respond.

I choose love, compassion, and humor.

And I choose to thank all of these amazing creative people who took the time to spread their own passion, through humor, to help others find smiles and laughs in these trying times.

You can click here to check out the show notes, with the audio as well as links to the original YouTube videos, or you can listen to the episode using the built-in media player above.

Below are the original YouTube videos

Covid-19 - The Taylor's - Parody of "Come On, Eileen" by Dexys Midnight Runners
JJ Mason Taylor (The Taylor Family)

My Corona - Parody of "My Sharona by The Knac
Kevin Brandow, Lyrics by Chelsea Brandow

Quarantine - Parody of "Let It Be" by The Beatles
Joe Cron

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (with new lyrics!) Parody of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke from the movie Mary Poppins
Daniel Matarazzo

One Week of COVID 19 - Parody of "One Week" by Barenaked Ladies
Pepper Coyote, Adapted original lyrics by @daniAwesome  

My Corona Home - Parody of "Kokomo" by The Beach Boys from the movie Cocktail
Jon Pumper

Coronavirus Rhapsody - Parody of "Bohemian Rhapsody by Quee
Adrian Grimes, lyrics by Dana Jay Bein

I have always loved musical parodies, and I am grateful for the fact that these awesome folks, and so many others, are continuing to create brilliant parodies to help us with smiling and laughing in these most challenging and trying times.

Hats off to them.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Such a Rebel

I was honored to be a guest on a recent episode of The Rebel Author Podcast with Sacha Black.

I've had the pleasure of interacting with Sacha over the years, particularly in her active role within the Alliance of Independent Authors, as one of the organizers for their series of virtual Self-Publishing Advice Conferences.

Self Pub Advice Con

Sacha is a writer, a developmental editor, a speaker, and a rebel podcaster. She is the author of a number of fiction and non-fiction titles. I am looking forward to having her on the Stark Reflections Podcast in the near future to talk about her writing and a few of her latest books.

Sacha's Books

But, in the meantime, I was an honored guest to be on her podcast in Episode 21 - How to Get Your Books into Libraries.

Episode 21 - How to Get Your Books into Libraries

You'd be wise to click the link above and subscribe to the podcast, but you can also listen to the episode online either following the link or using the online player below.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Haunted Canada Road Trip (Virtual)

If you have young ones in the home looking for something fun (and a little creepy) to do, why not check out this great series of videos from my friend and fellow horror author, Joel A. Sutherland.

(In all honesty, you don't have to be a kid to enjoy them - you can be, like me, a kid at heart. Because I've been loving this series)

Click here to see the Playlist of YouTube Videos

Joel is the Silver Birch Award-winning author of the Haunted Canada series and has been called Canada's answer to R. L. Stine by Quill & Quire.

To top it off, he's a great guy, and a librarian. C'mon, how COULDN'T you love the guy?

Joel, who was born in Ottawa, kindly wrote the introduction to my adult non-fiction book Creepy Capital: Ghost Stories of Ottawa and the National Capital Region.

As of today (March 26, 2020), there are 9 segments of Joel's daily Haunted Canada Road Trip.

Definitely worth checking out.

Here's the first one in the series about a haunted hospital in BC.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Infectious Fun: Viral Video of Dancing To I Will Walk 500 Miles

There is a hilarious tweet with a video that I just have to share, and to talk about.

It's from a Twitter user named Liz from March 20, 2020, and it reads:

My mom has really enjoyed being quarantined with me since classes went online.

Click the image above to see the original Tweet and Video. Or below to see it on YouTube.

It starts off with a woman sitting quietly in a living room and reading.

Less than a second in, a younger woman, her daughter, comes stomping into the room to the music of I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers.

A montage then begins of the young woman dancing, following, and invading the personal space of her mother. The tension builds as the persistent dancing becomes annoying as the matriarch tries to continue going about reading or other household chores while her daughter dances up a storm.

It's funny, and, at one point you suspect it might become one of those occasional Saturday Night Live sketches that starts off funny, and then gets less funny as it goes on, and you regret losing those 2 or 3 minutes of your life to it, or how that sketch made the weekly cut.

But instead, it gets better.

Because of the confrontation that happens.

And the resolution.

As Twitter user lonliness points out, the "infliction point" or the "inflection point" - basically where the conflict happens, or there is a moment of dramatic change, the mother has two choices. (Writers take note of this critical element that happens in a story)

The mother makes the decision that turns this video from cute and amusing to brilliant.

And it's also a story about the beautiful infectious nature of smiling, laughing, and dancing together.

To a great song that immediately inspires dance.

And we all need a little bit of that sort of infectious fun.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Free Author Reading for Children

It can be extremely challenging when people are quarantined or self-isolating and are looking for something different to do other than sitting on the couch and watching television or binging online streaming services.

I've enjoyed seeing authors and celebrities reading stories, either adult reads, or even children's picture books, in order to provide something unique and entertaining for people to enjoy for free.

To that end, even though most of my writing isn't all that family friendly (a side-effect of writing horror and speculative tales from the darkness of the shadows), I thought I would share a couple of recent readings I did, specifically with the goal of providing some family-friendly content that could be enjoyed by middle-grade aged folks.

Adults, of course, might also enjoy these tales.

The first, That Old Silk Hat They Found is a dark-humor look at what might actually happen if a snowman were to come to life. Would he really be happy and jolly, and be able to dance around and march in a parade? Or would his life be significantly different?

That Old Silk Hat They Found appears in both my mini story collection Snowman Shivers which is available in eBook, print, and audiobook. (BTW, you can download the eBook for free on most eBook retail platforms).

The second story, Looking Through Glass was published in an anthology edited by Julie E. Czerneda called Stardust. This was part of the Tales from the Wonderzone series of books that were science fiction tales drawing upon the Ontario curriculum of science for grades 3 through 6.

My story was inspired by a combination of states of matter and properties of light from the Grade four curriculum, and the bit of a science fiction mystery story about a boy and his uncle Zak, an inventor.

Here is hoping that you enjoy these family-friendly and child-safe stories.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Wait! Did You Hear That? Anthropomorphic Snow Sculptures

Have you ever wondered what might actually happen if a magic hat were able to bring a snowman to life?

Have you ever cast an uncomfortable glance over your shoulder when passing the silent snowy sentinels that stand so eerily quiet as you pass by on the icy sidewalk?

Have you ever marveled at the secret life of anthropomorphic snow sculptures?

Then you might enjoy Snowman Shivers: Two Dark Humor Tales About Snowmen.

Free Audiobook Download

Since today is March 15th, the Ides of March, I thought it might be fun to share the audio version of this mini story collection. Click the link above to download the audio file.

The eBook is also free on most eBook retail platforms.

The collection includes the tales Ides of March and That Old Silk Hat They Found. It also includes a "behind the stories" section as well as a short history of snowmen in popular culture.

You can also ask for the book in print, audiobook or eBook at most public libraries. Here is the OverDrive link to the eBook and Audiobook version.

In addition, here's a reading I did of That Old Silk Hat They Found back in April 2018.


Saturday, January 11, 2020

There's Something Here As Strong As Life

"Suddenly you were gone
From all the lives you left your mark upon
- I remember."

-Neil Peart, Afterimage, Grace Under Pressure (RUSH)

Earlier this week the world lost legendary drummer and author Neil Peart. Peart, who was born on Sept 12, 1952 in Hamilton, Ontario died in Santa Monica on Jan 7, 2020. RUSH and Peart's family made the announcement late on Friday Jan 10th.

“It is with broken hearts and the deepest sadness that we must share the terrible news that on Tuesday our friend, soul brother and band mate of over 45 years, Neil, has lost his incredibly brave three and a half year battle with brain cancer,” began a statement from Rush. He was 67.

I first learned about Peart when my dear friend Pete Mihajic insisted that I listen to the 1984 album, Grace Under Pressure.

I had been spending a lot of time thinking and reading about anxieties over potential nuclear war and gotten involved in some nuclear disarmament groups. Pete said that this RUSH album had themes that were reminiscent. Certainly, the album's first track "Distant Early Warning" brought that to mind, as did many of the other tracks, such as "The Enemy Within" and "Red Sector A" - although I later learned of Peart's inspiration for the song of a prison camp being inspired by fellow bandmate Geddy Lee's mother's accounts of surviving the holocaust.

I listened to Grace Under Pressure over and over and over on the cassette tape that Pete recorded for me. Then I went out and bought the album. Then the cassette.

I fell in love with the thoughtful and pensive lyrics, the musical styling, everything about this band.

As an interesting aside, earlier this month an anthology of science fiction stories, Galaxia was published which includes a short story called "Grace Under Pressure" which I'd originally wrote to try to sell to Kevin J. Anderson for an anthology he was editing. Because I knew he was a huge RUSH fan I titled it that as a nod to our favorite band. ;) I didn't sell the story to Kevin, but was able to get it into this other anthology.

Then I bought the album Signals which also resonated with me with songs such as "Subdivisions" and "The Analog Kid" which were stark reminders of growing up as a nerd who never felt like he fit in. I wrote articles for the high school newspaper about how the songs resonated with me.

RUSH became a centerpiece for my friendship with Pete and Steve Gaydos and John Ellis.


I actually can't count the number of RUSH concerts that we saw together over the years. And I would never be able to count the number of hours we listened to their music and talked about the meaning of the songs. We loved that the guys of RUSH seemed to be more like us (nerds) than they were larger than life rock stars. They were three best friends who thought of one another like brothers and enjoyed making music and playing together for forty years.

But I got a little ahead of myself there. After discovering how much I loved Grace Under Pressure and Signals I moved on to get more backlist albums like Fly By Night and their first album, Rush. That first album did not include Peart, and so many of the lyrics weren't as philosophical and pensive. But John and I used to play many tracks from it before heading to high school dances, in particular the song "In The Mood" because it was, as the song lyrics go, roughly "a quarter to eight" when we were listening to it and getting ready to head to the dance.

The title track off of "Fly By Night" has been a song that has been with me through virtually every single significant change in my life over the decades. I first showed up to play it for Steve when he moved away to college, then it became my "acknowledge" change song for so many things.

I, of course, worked my way through all of their albums, and so many of their songs have been the backdrop to the soundtrack of my life in so many ways.

"Hold your fire
Keep it burning bright
Hold the flame
'Til the dream ignites
A spirit with a vision
Is a dream with a mission

I hear their passionate music
Read the words
That touch my heart
I gaze at their feverish pictures
The secrets that set them apart

When I feel the powerful visions
Their fire has made alive
I wish I had that instinct
I wish I had that drive"

Neil Peart, Misson, Hold Your Fire (RUSH)

It's rare for me to get into any sort of meaningful conversation about something without likely bringing up something from a RUSH song lyric that pertains to the topic. From songs like "Entre Nous" or "Spirit of Radio" or "Cinderalla Man" or "Circumstances" or "Madrigal" or "Limelight" or "Marathon" or "Mystic Rhythms" or "Dreamline" or "Far Cry" or "Caravan" - oh, who am I kidding? There are too many songs so meaningful to me to mention.

RUSH's music has been an integral part of my life. And it will continue to be.

"Listen to my music
And hear what it can do
There's something here as strong as life
I know that it will reach you."

- Neil Peart, Presentation, 2112 (RUSH)

I met Liz in 2014, just as RUSH was beginning to near retirement. And, as I do, I shared many of the songs and meaning of the band, it's music, and it's trio of amazing people with her. We listened to plenty of their albums together, we watched Beyond the Lighted Stage together. Seeing the back story of this band helped her understand the depth of the importance they had to me. And we attended their final tour, the R40 tour, together, which was really special.

When I found out that Neil Peart also wrote fiction and non-fiction, I was beside myself with joy, gobbling up everything he wrote, from his first co-authored short story to his first non-fiction travel memoir, and all the way through his writing career.

I have loved all of his books, but if I had to pick a favorite, it might be Traveling Music: The Soundtrack to my Life and Times. One of my favorite pictures of me and my son when he was a baby, was of the two of us having an afternoon nap. On the nightstand there is a copy of Neil's book, which I was mid-way through reading at the time.

While I never had the pleasure of knowing Neil personally, I am good friends with Kevin J. Anderson, who has long been a close friend of Neil. Considering how private a person Peart was, and the fact that he enjoyed working hard as a drummer, lyricist and writer, but was never comfortable in the role of celebrity and the way that fans fawn over and place them on pedestals, I was perfectly fine never trying to push through that veil. Why make someone uncomfortable for no good reason. I could admire and respect the man and his phenomenal work without having to gush in person to him about the incredibly powerful and positive inspiration he had on my life.

"Living in a fisheye lens
Caught in the camera eye
I have no heart to lie
I can't pretend a stranger
Is a long awaited friend."

- Neil Peart, Limelight, Moving Pictures (RUSH)

The closest I suppose I ever got to him was when I re-published a short story that Neil Peart and Kevin J. Anderson wrote called "Drumbeats" in the 2012 anthology I edited, Tesseracts Sixteen: Parnassus Unbound. Tesseracts was an anthology to spotlight Canadian authors, and Anderson is the only American to make it into the series, because his co-author, Peart, was Canadian.

When my buddy Kevin was in town to launch the novel Clockwork Angels, he stayed at my place in Hamilton, and at the celebratory dinner of the book launch with Peart and ECW, Kevin brought a copy of the anthology so that Neil could sign a copy for me.

It was an honour to bring back into print a story that I have long adored. And, earlier this week, I had the privilege of bringing it to more readers, as I have included "Drumbeats" in the guest editor issue of Pulphouse magazine that I just turned in to Dean Wesley Smith and WMG Publishing. It'll be out later this year.

Several years back, Kevin and I were enjoying craft beers on a patio at The Winking Judge in Hamilton when he invited me to submit a story to an anthology he was co-editing that was going to be called 2113 and feature stories inspired by the music of RUSH. The title story would be written by Kevin J. Anderson, and be a sequel to the story told in the RUSH album 2112. He told me to pick a song that hadn't already been spoken for, and to send him something.

I chose one of my absolute favorite RUSH songs, "Losing It" and wrote a story entitled "Some Are Born to Save the World." The beautiful and haunting song, "Losing It" explores the lives of a writer who can no longer create, and a dancer who can no longer dance as they age and their mind and body begin to fail them.

"Some are born to move the world
To live their fantasies
Most of us just dream about
The things we'd like to be

Sadder still to watch it die
Than never to have known it
For you the blind who once could see
The bell tolls for thee"

- Neil Peart, Losing It, Signals, RUSH

My story was about a superhero who could no longer save people as he reaches old age and his own body and powers begin to fail him.

It was a significant honor to re-publish a story co-authored by Anderson and Peart. But it was another truly unique honor to be able to write a story inspired by one of my favorite RUSH songs of all time.

The book cover features the "Starman" from the album cover for 2112 standing up to his knees in water and facing away from the viewer. I can ALWAYS tell a RUSH fan when I have the book at a comic con or other show where I have an author table, because they recognize the font and styling of the cover as matching 2112 from across the room and often stop, turn, then make a bee-line to the table to pick up the book as if it were some magical oracle.

I know that look, because it's likely the look I get on my face every time a RUSH song starts to play.

Because I know I'm about to be transported into some special place.

"As the years went by, we drifted apart
When I heard that you were gone
I felt a shadow cross my heart"

- Neil Peart, Nobody's Hero, Counterparts

I have written and spoken about Neil Peart countless times over the years. The words and music and example that he set continue to inspire me, and will continue to inspire me.

Thank you, Neil Peart, for the amazing gifts that you shared with the world, for the inspiration in all of the truly remarkable work that you left behind.

You will be missed. But you will be remembered and honored.

[EDIT - On Jan 14 I recorded a special Thanks for the Inspiration: Neil Peart episode of my Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing Podcast, which includes a bit of this same info]