Tuesday, July 3, 2018

It's Really Late and I Just Ate a Bag of Skittles (#IWSG July 2018)

It's after midnight and I just finished writing a short story (the second one in two months!) but I'm not going to bed because I just realized that IWSG was bumped up a day because of you silly Americans and your independence. So here I am pounding out a few more words before I drag my weary carcass off to the blissful oblivion of sleep.

The story was, I think, pretty good. Much better than the last one. I might have to tweak the ending a little bit and it's a tad longer than I would have liked (I was aiming for under 5000 words and it came in at 5600) so I may have to do some trimming. I struggle with writing short stories sometimes because I try to jam too much in. You need to get the characters and plot established right away and jump into the action. And while I very purposefully established the plot and story in the very first line, I still take longer than I should building up to the climax. The journey's the fun part and all that, but I often indulge myself too much.

It's a story with a lot of humour, a little bit of a darkness, and (I hope) a nice gut-punch of a surprise toward the end, just the way I like them. We'll see if I'm as happy with it after a few hours of sleep.

July 3 question
What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

Maybe it's just because I'm exhausted, but I'm about to let you all in on my super-secret author goals that I don't usually tell anyone. I have three of them:

1. I want to buy my book from a remainder bin at a big book store chain. Ideally it should have multiple stickers on it, marking it down from $6 to $3 to $1.
2. I want to see a stranger reading my book on a bus/subway and ask them, "That thing's a piece of shit, isn't it?"
3. I want my book to be turned into a movie. Not a big budget Hollywood movie mind you, but a micro-budget, shitty independent movie, preferably filmed in Canada, like Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. Or Twilight.
Still a better love story than Twilight.

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.



Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Write Story, Place in Drawer (#IWSG June 2018)

I wrote a short story last month. It wasn't very good and it will probably never see the light of day, but it was the first one I've written in a long time (seven or eight months, for sure), so it was nice to finally get back into it.

Life has started to settle back into a routine. There's still plenty of bad stuff happening but we're learning to deal with it.

Oh and hey, in case you missed it, there was not one but TWO anthologies released in May featuring yours truly. I'm sure you've heard ad naseum about Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime from our very own IWSG, but I'm contractually obligated to mention it in every blog post or conversation I have for the next six months. :-P What you might have missed though is STRANGELY FUNNY V, a new collection of comic supernatural tales from Mystery & Horror. It was released quietly a couple of weeks ago, and while the paperback is still forthcoming you can get the Kindle version from Amazon RIGHT NOW. I haven't read through all of this year's edition yet, but last year's was delightfully bonkers, which prompted even my usually stoic father to ask: "What the f*ck is this?"

It's funny, that's what it is.

Oh, and in case you want to read even more of my weird ramblings, last week I posted an interview on the official Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime blog. It's the interview that was BANNED from a book review site earlier this year, so if you want to see for yourself what the fuss is about, be sure to check it out.

June 6 IWSG Question
What's harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

Book names, without a doubt. I actually mentioned in the interview from last week that I put about as much thought into character names as I do into what socks I should wear. Since I own fifty pairs of identical black socks, that amount of thought it exactly zero. It's how I end up with characters with names like Fistpunch, Thumb and Rat Bastard.

Book titles (and short story titles) on the other hand, provide me with no end of headaches. It took me weeks to come up with "Hell Comes to Hogtown," which in the end is joke that I find funny but probably only six people will get the references it comes from. Originally the title was supposed to be something along the line of "Come Into My Parlour" or "Spake the Spider to the Fly," but there are literally hundreds of other books out there with those titles, so I rightly chose to avoid it. I have a short story I've been shopping around for over a year and I think part of the problem is the name of it is stupid, but I can't think of anything better to call it.

To be fair, it's not THIS bad.

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.


Friday, May 25, 2018

Book Release: SOME VERY MESSY MEDIEVAL MAGIC by C. Lee McKenzie

Fellow Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime contributor C. Lee McKenzie has a new book available that I think everyone should check out. If you love intricately-plotted fantasy with a bend toward younger readers, then this is definitely for you.

THE BOOK!



Pete’s stuck in medieval England!

Pete and his friend Weasel thought they’d closed the Time Lock. But a young page from medieval times, Peter of Bramwell, goes missing. His absence during a critical moment will forever alter history unless he’s found.

There’s only one solution - fledgling wizard Pete must take the page’s place. Accompanied by Weasel and Fanon, Pete’s alligator familiar, they travel to 1173 England.

But what if the page remains lost - will Pete know what to do when the critical moment arrives? Toss in a grumpy Fanon, the duke’s curious niece, a talking horse, and the Circle of Stones and Pete realizes he’s in over his young wizard head yet again...


Release date – May 15, 2018
Juvenile Fiction - Fantasy & Magic/Boys & Men
$13.95 Print ISBN 9781939844460
$3.99 EBook ISBN 9781939844477

THE AUTHOR!



C. Lee McKenzie has a background in Linguistics and Inter-Cultural Communication, but these days her greatest passion is writing for young readers. When she’s not writing she’s hiking or traveling or practicing yoga or asking a lot questions about things she still doesn’t understand. http://cleemckenziebooks.com

THE LINKS! 



Wednesday, May 23, 2018

STRANGELY FUNNY V NOW AVAILABLE!

Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime is still chugging along strong, but I was surprised last night to discover that the other anthology featuring one of my stories, STRANGELY FUNNY V, is now available at Amazon!


I knew the publisher, Mystery & Horror, wanted to get it out before the end of May, but since I only saw the galleys last week I didn't think it was going to happen. But here they giving the people what they want and have clamoured for: More side-splitting stories of horror and weirdness!

The blurb: 

The sixth book in the Strangely Funny series. You have all heard tales of the phantom hitchhiker, but what about her parents? How do they feel after a few decades of boys showing up on their doorstep looking for their jackets? Take this journey with us and find out what club the Devil use for a short putt. Discover where werewolves retire when their muzzles turn gray.

Open the pages of Strangely Funny V and join authors Eldon Litchfield, Dan Foley, Juliet Boyd, and many more, as they explore the strange happenings that could be in your neighborhood.

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My contribution to the anthology is "The New Job," a story about an under-funded and under-staffed city department responsible for the extermination of "exotic supernatural pests." And by pests we of course mean ghosts. Hilarity and gore ensues.

Currently only the Kindle version is up on Amazon but the paperback should follow soon. Keep your eyes peeled!


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

STRANGELY FUNNY V COVER REVEAL!

I said I would have a story appearing in another anthology later this month, but I can't remember if I mentioned the name of it. Well, here I am now to reveal not only the title but also the cover of said anthology, and it's STRANGELY FUNNY V!


Strangely Funny is an annual anthology of comic supernatural and horror short stories published by Mystery and Horror, LLC. I actually had a story appear in last year's edition as well, and those who know my writing know it's a perfect fit - weird, creepy and funny fits my style exactly. 

Anyone who wants to check out last year's Volume 4, including my story, "Save or Die," about a fantasy adventure that goes terribly, terribly awry, can pick it up here.

I don't have a lot of details for Volume 5 except the cover and that it will be released in late May or early June. And it will be full of weird, funny stories! Previous volumes have included contributors such as Kevin J. Wetmore, DJ Tyrer, Edward Ahern and Jonathan Shipley. 

Not only do I have a story in this one, but you can also of course check me out in this one, too.

Friday, May 4, 2018

May the 4th Be With You (And Roll to Dodge)

NERD ALERT: This post is mostly about role-playing and table-top games, and features lots of stories of me playing with my friends when we were teenagers. Your interest in the topic may vary tremendously.

For those who don't care about RPG's, I throw in a few funny behind the scenes pictures from Star Wars. Those are always good for a laugh.


I wrote a long post last year on the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars so I won't bombard you with that again, nor will I get into a debate about whether The Last Jedi was good or not (I quite enjoyed it, and it's FAR from the worst Star Wars movie). I did want to at least recognize the passing of this most holy day on the Jedi calendar in some way, though.

Last year I mentioned that in my early teens my friends and I played a Star Wars role-playing game (think Dungeons & Dragons but with lasers and spaceships instead of swords and monsters) obsessively for about a year and a half. We were always playing something, but Star Wars was probably our favourite. We played at least 2 or 3 times a week after school, and any time I wasn't playing I was thinking of ideas for our next session. We played so hard I actually wore-out the hardcover rule book. I still have it, with a broken spine and a ripped cover and half the pages dog-eared and falling out.

This guy. Except my copy looks like something that was pulled out of a 1000-year-old urn at from the bottom of the Dead Sea.

There was a number of guys that cycled in an out of our group, and some memorable characters cycled in-and-out. The core gang was myself as game master and four players, who I think I mentioned in my last post. They started out as a gang of rough, travelling hobos and stoners who grew up to be famous heroes that changed the fate of the galaxy. The original characters were actually based on characters from The Stoned Age, a coming-of-age movie set in the 70s.

Our de-facto leader was Wookie Nookie, a 7-foot tall human who looked like Jim Morrison crossed with Jerry Garcia. He was a "Quixotic" Jedi, an old stoner who claimed he had learned the ways of the Force from Yoda back in the day but had been in hiding since the rise of the Empire. No one really believed him, but of course it turned out he actually was a Jedi and eventually became Luke Skywalker's right-hand-man in a new Jedi Academy decades later. Yes, he had a terrible name but remember, these characters all started out as stoner jokes.

This picture creeps me out for some reason.

His side-kick was a Jedi Apprentice named Kan Saga, who had learned a bit about the Force before losing his original teacher and being forced to follow Wookie's teaching. He was the young naive guy who was corrupted by Wookie in both the ways of the Force and lifestyle, but eventually both became powerful and respected Jedi Knights. But Kan was always itching to defeat a Dark Jedi in single combat, which leads us too...

Chris Bahn was our cocky but straight-laced pilot, a Rebel fighter ace who had such a broad story I don't even remember all the details. After helping the Rebellion win the war against the Empire he got married, had kids, ran a successful galaxy-wide shipping business and even found time to start training as a Jedi, too. He was never as powerful as Kan or Nookie, though, which ultimately led to him accidentally turning to the Dark Side. I say "accidentally" because it happened on a random, really unlucky roll (remember, this was actually a game with rules and dice). It could have been fixed but Kan Saga saw his chance to fight a Dark Jedi and immediately said "You're evil. I have to kill you!" and he did. It was an epic and heart-breaking conclusion to our years-long story arc and we pretty much stopped playing after that. I think Kan was actually probably the evil one in that situation, and perhaps the story warranted a sequel where Chris' daughter came looking for revenge, but we such resolution was never meant to be.

Little-known fact: Obi-Wan Kenobi was actually Luke Skywalker's babushka.

They flew around in Wookie's starship, The Blue Torpedo, which was a beat-up old shuttle that was only intended for one person, yet they regularly carried 4-8 people in it. It had a Blue Oyster Cult logo painted on the roof. They had a droid, a giant, obsolete repair droid they called Snot Rag that was completely useless and spoke in a Robbie-the-Robot voice. They gave it a blaster but it was so terrible with it there was a better chance of it shooting one of its allies than any stormtroopers. The players of course thought this was hilarious.

A few other players came and went through our adventures, including another Rebel pilot who kept a sex bot with him for those long, lonely, interstellar flights. Then there was an actual wookiee, who had an awesome and surprisingly mature story arc for a 15-year old where he disgraced himself in combat in order to save his friends and then had to go on a trial and a suicide quest on the wookiee homeworld to redeem himself. Of course he survived and everything was happy in the end, which was a hell of a lot better than Chris Bahn's fate. He recited the lyrics to Gowan's "A Criminal Mind" during the trial.

George Lucas is so pleased with himself.
She's not one of your special effect props, George!

We tried to go back and play Star Wars again last year, but it wasn't the same, even with a couple of the original players joining on Skype. Part of it is that the rules of the game felt clunky and weird (RPGs have evolved a lot in 25 years), but I could have adapted that, tweaking and fixing them over time. The bigger problem though was that we're not 14 anymore, and we don't have to play 10 or more hours a week, and live and dwell in our characters and stories all the time. We only played a handful of times, and the sessions were weeks or even months apart. And we were always distracted by other things. I really envy people who can still find time to have regular gaming sessions into their late 30s and beyond, because so far it hasn't worked for me.

Recently I started playing a very low-key "roleplaying game" with my 6 year old son. We use his LEGO Star Wars figures and roll dice to decide who wins fights. I even give him simple choices to let him decide how the story will go, or to make strategic choices about how his characters should handle problems. It's pretty primitive right now, but I hope as he gets a little older we can go even bigger. HE LOVES the idea of it, and has a fabulous imagination for making up characters and stories. He's been asking if his best friend from school can come over and play with us. One of his cousins is a little older and is way into fantasy and games, so I think we could recruit her as well. Maybe in the near future my gaming group will consist of me and a bunch of pre-teens. Is that weird?

They do not look impressed with the chaperons for their high school dance.

That post turned out to be way longer than I expected, and I don't even remember what my original point was. Something about Star Wars, and how it influenced my gaming (and story-telling) preferences, and continues to colour my life until this game.

Man, I put a lot of stock into that friggin' movie.

How would the story have been different if Luke accidentally hit the wrong button right here?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Like A Screaming Hippo in a Bobsled (#IWSG May)

Every month I talk about (or at least hint about) all the shitty stuff going on in my life. Today I'm not going to do that. I'm going to be positive for once, and celebrate the release of TICK TOCK: A STITCH IN CRIME.

If you're reading this you're probably members of the IWSG, so I won't go into detail on the backstory of the anthology. Instead I'll just add that I'm proud of the story I contributed and have received great feedback on it so far. I'm also proud to be included with so many talented writers, and I want to say thank you to the judges, the folks at Dancing Lemur Press, and to Alex for making it all possible.

And here's something I don't usually do: share an excerpt from the story. If you like what you read, check it out and pick up your own copy. There are ten more great stories in the book even better than this one:



GUSSY SAINT AND THE CASE OF THE MISSING COED
by C.D. Gallant-King


As I awaited the inevitable impact, my mind wandered back to the day this investigation went downhill like a screaming hippo in a bobsled. The moment when I seriously started reconsidering my decision to be a private dick.

Rain fell in Mount Vernon. It always rained in Mount Vernon. The rest of the country was suffering through sub-arctic temperatures and enough snow to make an Inuit pack up his dogsled and move south for the winter, but if you looked out the window in Mount Vernon you'd swear Noah was going to buzz by on a jet ski any moment.

The rain was cold and chewed down deep into your bones like a junkie trying to bite through a baggie of heroin. I hated a rain like that. It always portended something terrible on the horizon, like spilling a baggie of heroin all over the toilet of a bus station restroom.

It was a place I’d found myself more than once that I hoped not to visit again.

I was a long way from that bus station restroom and the lifestyle that had driven me to the stoniest of rock bottoms. In many ways,  you can’t get away from that place—not completely—but I made improvements. I had steered clear of hard drugs and bus stations for nearly six years, though I replaced that addiction with liquor, gambling, and women.

I was sitting in my office, which was only slightly less filthy than the aforementioned restroom, with my shiny wing tips up on the desk and my chair tilted back to the point of toppling, lost in my thoughts around the biggest case of my life. I heard my new secretary's heels clicking across the tile in the outer office and it snapped me back to reality so fast I nearly ended up on the floor. That woman was probably the biggest score of my life, and I hadn't even slept with her yet.

I found her in a club downtown, drunk out of her mind and looking for a fight and a lay, and not necessarily in that order. Usually that's just the way I like my lady friends, but before I could move in another broad knocked over her drink and sparked off the most beautiful cat fight I'd ever seen. I’ll dream about those two gorgeous women rolling around on the floor, tearing at each other,  until the day I die.

It had taken all my pull and connections down at the precinct to get her off. By that I mean I had to get the police captain off—twice—which was a moderate challenge but not really much of a hardship. The girl was so happy not be going to jail or deported that she threw herself at my offer of a job. And of course, by that I mean I had to beg and plead with her to work for me and had to offer way more money than I can afford. It was worth it, though. It's  It was a little piece of heaven to have a nice pair of legs around the office, and the new bird had legs to die for.

She called herself George. I had no idea if that was her real name, and frankly I didn't give a damn. With legs like that she could call herself whatever she wanted...

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TICK TOCK: A STITCH IN CRIME is available in paperback or eBook format at any of the fine retailers below. We're currently working on converting it to smoke signals, stay tuned.



iTUNES

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.
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