Wednesday, December 23, 2015

F*ck You, Santa! A Christmas Story written by Will Bly, narrated by C.D. Gallant-King

I'm sure you're all rushing around madly trying to finish your last-minute holiday shopping/decorating/cleaning (assuming you celebrate this Friday's holiday in some form or another). However, in between your errands (and watching The Force Awakens), take a moment to stop and remember what this season's all about: Enjoying some hilarious and inappropriate Christmas-themed stories, narrated by yours truly.

That's right, for the first time ever, I've lent my dulcet tones to a wild and crazy tale about Santa Claus that I really cannot explain. You'll just have to listen to it yourself. Just don't let your kids listen to it. It kind of paints Santa in a less-than-flattering light.

The story was written by Will Bly, author of the awesome dark fantasy novel Ravens in the Sky that came out earlier this year. The audio is hosted and produced by our friends at the Grim Tiding Podcast (also available on iTunes), an excellent show for all things grimdark and fantasy that you should absolutely check out.

Check it out:

If you want to follow along at home, the eBook version of F*ck You, Santa! is currently available for free at Amazon, but only until Christmas. So grab it while you can! And if you can figure out how to stuff an eBook into someone's stocking, please let me know.

Have a safe and happy holiday season, everyone. And whatever you do, don't piss in Santa's milk!

Monday, December 14, 2015

GUEST POST: Hot Chocolate and Self-Help 101 by L.G. Keltner

Today I'm turning the blog over the lovely L.G. Keltner to talk about her hilarious-looking new book Self-Help 101 or: How I Learned to Take Over the World Through Tolerating My Family. That and the finer points of hot chocolate. I trust you will all be as enraptured as I am, and will shortly run out to pick up her book.

*     *     *

I’d like to start by thanking C.D. Gallant-King for letting me stop by to promote my Christmas novella Self-Help 101 or: How I Learned to Take Over the World Through Tolerating My Family.

I’ve been celebrating things related to Christmas at each blog tour stop.  Today I’m celebrating hot chocolate/hot cocoa.  It may not be exclusive to Christmas, but it’s certainly an enjoyable part of the holiday for many people.  Those of us who have to trudge through tons of snow to get to our Christmas gatherings tend to appreciate the power it has to warm you up.

So why did I mention both hot cocoa and hot chocolate?  Haven’t we all heard them used interchangeably?  The truth of the matter is that there is a difference between the two, and it makes perfect sense.  Hot chocolate is made with melted chocolate, and hot cocoa is made with cocoa powder.  When I decide to forget about the premade mixes and put more effort into my hot beverages, I tend to make hot cocoa.  Why?  It’s simple.  Actual chocolate doesn’t last long enough around me to be made into a drink.  I have a problem.

The history of hot chocolate is an interesting one, though.  As I’m sure some of you have heard, it originated with the Aztecs.  If you want a holiday drink with a kick, look up a recipe for Aztec hot chocolate.  They use cinnamon and chile peppers.  If you don’t like spicy things, you should probably avoid that one.  I love spicy things, so I intend to try making some the second I can get a chocolate bar to last long enough around me to make it into the pan.  No promises on how far into the future that will be.

Do you prefer hot chocolate or hot cocoa?  Are there any interesting twists on either of these beverages that you enjoy?

Now I hope you’ll enjoy a little snippet from Self-Help 101 or: How I Learned to Take Over the World through Tolerating My Family.

*     *     *

After Mom walked away, Seth looked at me.  “Is that how it’s going to be from now on?  A mixture of ‘oh, you look so sweet together’ and ‘if you touch my daughter, I will end you’?”  It might have been a serious question, but there was a hint of amusement in the words.

I nodded.  “Absolutely.”


Title: Self-Help 101 or: How I Learned to Take Over the World Through Tolerating My Family
Author: L.G. Keltner
Genre: Holiday/Humor
Length: 27,000
Cover Art: L.G. Keltner
Release Date: December 1, 2015

Dani Finklemeier has decided to write a self-help book about how to take over the world, but she’s not sure where to start.  After all, she’s only seventeen and looking for a better way to make money than babysitting.  She buys a self-help book that promises to teach her how to write a self-help book in the hope of getting the job done.

Not that it’ll be easy to get any work done this holiday season.  Her family is staying at the house for Christmas, and fights break out almost immediately.  Dani also has to deal with the fallout from an unexpected kiss with her best friend Seth and the feelings that go along with it.  On edge around her family and unsure how to interact with the one person she’s trusted with everything in the past, she can only take what inspiration she can from the crazy circumstances surrounding her and see what happens.

One way or another, it should be an interesting holiday.



L.G. Keltner spends most of her time trying to write while also cleaning up after her crazy but wonderful kids and hanging out with her husband.  Her favorite genre of all time is science fiction, and she’s been trying to write novels since the age of six.  Needless to say, those earliest attempts weren’t all that good.

Her non-writing hobbies include astronomy and playing Trivial Pursuit.

You can typically find L.G. lurking around her blog, on Twitter, or on her Facebook page.


Want your very own copy of Self-Help 101? Sign up below!

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

IWSG December: Downswing

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 here.

Due to some personal stuff, the bottom completely fell out of my productivity in November.

Sometimes that just happens, I guess. Writing isn't my job, technically it's a (passionate) hobby. It's not the number one priority, so sometimes it needs to be put aside. It sucks, but that's what it has to be. The trick, I suppose, is not to get too hung up on it. It would be very easy to get caught up in the stagnant inertia and just give up for while. I've seen it happen to others. It's happened to me. I know this is a down time, and will accept that, and move on. I'll keep writing what I can, when I can, and eventually I will get to a place where I have something I'm ready to share again.

It's a cycle. All of this has happened before. And all of this will happen again.

This guy is waiting for me when I don't meet my word counts.
I'm not going to worry about it today. November was a write-off. December won't be a hugely productive month either I'm sure, but that's okay. We've got bigger things to worry about at the moment.

Let's go decorate a fucking tree.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

BLACK FRIDAY SALE: Ten Thousand Days 50% Off

Please don't trample anyone this holiday season.

Look, you don't even have to leave your house okay?  If you want a good deal, I can hook you up. I've got a couple of fun, funny stories you can download RIGHT NOW at a great price and you can even pick them up from the comfort of your toilet if you want.

First of all, my debut novella TEN THOUSAND DAYS is available on SMASHWORDS for 50% Off:

It's been described as "Alice in Wonderland with the dial turned up to 11." and "A fast-paced fun romp through a twisted imagination."  Ten Thousand Days is a fairy tale set in the modern day, a fantastic journey of desperate love and horror with a twisted sense of humour. It's a story of exactly how far a young man will go for love...

Make sure to use the following Coupon Code at check-out to get your 50% off:

Plus, I've got another bonus offer. I know I gave this story away for free just a month for Halloween, but in case you missed it, TENTACLES UNDER A FULL MOON is again available for FREE for today only:

TENTACLES UNDER A FULL MOON is a comic dark fantasy short story of hilarious misery. It's a tragic tale of terrestrial cephalopods, ursine lycanthropes and explosive volcano drake diarrhea. It's SUGGESTED FOR MATURE AUDIENCES as it contains coarse language, violence and candid descriptions of the genitalia of various fantasy races.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

GUEST POST: The Undead Road by David Powers King

Today I'm turning the blog over to Mr. David Powers King (no relation to yours truly) to reveal his awesome-looking new Zombie novel! I gotta say, I'm kinda disappointed this one won't be coming out until the New Year, cause I love me some flesh-devouring undead over the holidays.

So without further ado, take it away, David!

Nothing brings the family together like a zombie apocalypse …

Fifteen-year-old Jeremy Barnes would rather watch a zombie movie than shoot a real one, but he has no choice if his family wants to survive the end of the world. Their plan? Drive across the infected United States to a cabin in the Colorado Rockies without a scratch, but their trip takes a complicated detour in the middle of Nebraska when they find Kaylynn, a girl who can handle a baseball bat better than Jeremy can hold a .45 Berretta. And when they stumble into a sanctuary, Jeremy soon learns that Kaylynn is stronger than she looks—a deadly secret lies inside her.

After the radio picks up a distress call from Kansas City about a possible cure, Jeremy’s parents go with a team to investigate. They never return. The only way to find their parents is for Jeremy and his sister Jewel to rely on a dangerous girl who might just turn on them at any moment.

Title: The Undead Road: My Zombie Summer: Part 1
Publisher: CreateSpace / Dashboard Books
Ebook Release: January 1st, 2016
Paperback: January 26th, 2016
Cover by Steven Novak

Awesome! I'm already a god in one of Philip Overby's books. Now maybe I can
be a zombie in this one! - CDGK
A while ago, David invited the blogosphere to let him turn one unfortunate lucky contestant into a zombie for The Undead Road. The winner was Ilima Todd, who is now the awesome author of Remake. The next installment of My Zombie Summer is underway, and David wants to do this contest again. Want to be in a zombie book? Not only is this your chance, but it is your choice!

Between now and next Wednesday, send an email to dpowersking [at] gmail [dot] com, with the subject line: Zombify Me! Contest. In your email, David wants you to tell him three things:

1: The name you will be identified as (example: your first name).
2: A description of yourself—the more detailed you are, the better.
3: How would you like the survivors to put you out of your misery?

Four casualties contestants will be chosen on Wednesday, November 25th. The most inventive or interesting entry will be zombified! The other three who are unlucky fortunate enough to survive will be given special honors. Winners will be announced on December 2nd on David’s blog.

Prizes? The winner will be zombified in the pages of My Zombie Summer: Part Two, receive a signed proof of the novel (when it’s ready), and a $20 Barnes and Noble gift card. The runner ups will receive a free ebook of The Undead Road for their Kindle (other platforms TBA).

Thank you for participating, and good luck!

You can tell he's not related to me from that awesome jawline. - CDGK
David Powers King was born in beautiful downtown Burbank, California where his love for film inspired him to be a writer. He is the co-author of the YA fantasy novel WOVEN, published by Scholastic. An avid fan of science fiction and fantasy, David also has a soft spot for zombies and the paranormal. He currently lives deep in the mountain West with his wife and three children.

Monday, November 9, 2015

How to Write a Classic Story: Buy a Bear

"Left Port Arthur 7 a.m. In train all day. Bought bear $20."

That's an actual entry in the diary of Harry Colebourn, a Canadian soldier from Winnipeg who was travelling to Valcartier, Quebec to undergo training on his way overseas in 1914. He bought the female bear cub from a hunter who had killed the animal's mother. Now, Colebourn was a veterinarian by trade and I could absolutely understand him wanting to take the animal from some weirdo random hunter, but he then proceeded to take the bear with him to training camp.

Even better, when Colebourn shipped out to England... HE STILL KEPT THE BEAR. It became his unit's unofficial mascot.

I've never served in the military and I don't know a whole lot about army practices and regulations, even less about those in effect during World War I, but I had no idea they were so cool about their soldiers keeping giant wild animals as pets. I mean, were people back then so badass that no one was worried about A FUCKING BEAR wandering around their base? And no one thought it was odd when the dude brought the thing with him ACROSS THE OCEAN to hang out with him in England? I mean, I would imagine if a soldier asked to bring his dog with him that would be a flat-out no. But a bear's okay?

You're probably wondering where I'm going with this and what this has to do with writing, so stick with me a moment (if you haven't figured it out already).

Colebourn wasn't a complete jerk; when he shipped out to France he finally decided to leave the bear behind. Apparently the trenches at the front line were not the place for a bear cub, though I'm sure if she had been full grown they would have slapped some armour on that bastard and brought it along.

Way deadlier than any WWI-era tank.
He left the bear at the London Zoo, where it became a favourite of guests, in particular to an aspiring writer and his young son, who loved the bear so much he named his teddy after her. Did I mention that Colebourn had named the bear "Winnie" after his hometown of Winnipeg? It all makes sense now, right?

A.A. Milne wrote the Winnie the Pooh books for his son, Christopher Robin, based on his toy bear that was in turn named after a real bear that Major Colebourn irresponsibly dragged halfway around the world.

(For anyone who caught that, yes Colebourn was eventually promoted to the rank of major despite  - or maybe because of? - the fact he irresponsibly dragged a bear halfway around the world.)

So what is was my point in this ridiculous story? My point is that A.A. Milne became famous because some dipshit bought a gawd-dang bear off a crazy hillbilly in a small town in backwater Ontario. That, my friends, is the secret to literary gold. Ursine trafficking.

Being super creepy-looking apparently also helps.
So if you too are an aspiring writer, if anyone ever offers to sell you an orphan bear cub, snatch that up right away and wait for your book deals to start pouring in.

Or, alternately, I'll become famous writing about you getting eaten by a bear. Either way, someone wins.

My new story Tentacles Under a Full Moon - now available here - doesn't have anything to do with Winnie the Pooh, but it does contain a giant murderous werebear, which is probably much better.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

IWSG November: It's a Spectrum

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 here.

You may recall from last month I was feeling pretty good and hyped about writing. Actually, I'm sure you don't remember, but you can read about it here, if you like. Anyway, some of that luster has come off in the last 30 days. I'm not saying I've switched a full 180-degrees and am now wallowing in self-loathing, insecurity and depression, but I've definitely slipped a few notches on the excitement spectrum.

Editing on Hell Comes to Hogtown has not progressed as well as I had hoped thanks to normal life busy-ness. I have done quite a bit of work outlining my next projects, which is a good thing, but neither are quite ready to be dived into yet. I was hoping I would be farther along with all of those things, especially Hogtown, by now, but it was not meant to be.

I am not participating in NaNoWriMo. I'm in a pretty good place with reasonable writing habits so I don't need it for that reason, and I don't need to do it to prove anything. I know I can write 50,000 words in a month, and I don't need to do it right now. Pushing myself to try would just be unnecessary stress. Right now I'm in revising/outlining mode, which for me is much harder than racking up word count. I don't need a special month as an excuse to vomit words into my computer. I am quite capable of literary regurgitation, thank you very much.

This is what writing is like for everyone, right?

So good luck and godspeed to all my fellow writers out there, but know I will be watching you from the sidelines this year.

The one thing that saved the month for me and put a little boost back into my step was the release of Tentacles Under a Full Moon on October 31. I didn't mention it during last month's IWSG post because at the time I had no idea when or if I was would actually put it out. It was the story I wrote as a joke in response to an episode of The Grim Tidings Podcast (which, if you're a fantasy fan you should totally be listening to). I thought it turned out pretty well though, and I needed something for the Halloween blog hops I had signed up for - thanks again to Patricia Lynne and Wittegen Press for setting those up - so I hired someone to do a quick edit on it, slapped on cover on that baby and made it available to the world.

I actually got more downloads of the story in 2 days that I've got of Ten Thousand Days in almost 6 months, but to be fair it WAS free (though 3 people bought it, for some crazy reason). It's now available for only 99 cents US pretty much anywhere ebooks are sold, but if you want a review copy let me know and I'll hook you up. So far the only feedback I've received is that it's "crude," "funny," "weird," and "depressing." For the record those are all things I was going for, so I take those as compliments.

Available at:
and more!

Just to clarify, the story IS NOT tentacle porn (mostly). It's what I call "grimlark," that is, comic dark fantasy. It is crude, weird, funny and depressing. It's about a werebear fighting a land octopus (which is right on the cover!) and features filthy dwarves, pervert wizards, foul language and Greek-levels of tragedy. It's certainly not everyone' cup of tea, but if you like explosive volcano drake diarrhea and candid discussions about the genitalia of elves and dwarves, it's worth checking out.

So yeah, all-in-all, I'm feeling okay, and I would feel even better if you check out my story. ;-)

Friday, October 30, 2015

FREE STORY! (Happy Halloween!)

Joyous Samhain!

In honour of All Hallow's Eve (and in association with the Trick-or-Treat Blog Hop and the Share-a-Scare Blog Hop), as promised today I'm giving away a weird and creepy story in the tradition of the season! So please don't egg my house!

The big news is that this is a BRAND NEW, never before seen tale by yours truly, and you're getting it ABSOLUTELY FREE! Grab it fast, cause this promotional event only lasts until November 1st! 

Here's the blurb:

A grimlark short story of hilarious misery. 

In a peaceful land of lush prosperity, an ancient eight-tentacled evil has risen to wreck unfathomable havoc. A simple, unassuming warrior named Huckle gathers together the bravest and most dysfunctional band of heroes in the kingdom to battle the beast, but they are fated only for the direst of suffering and failure. 

The only way to defeat a monster of this magnitude is with an even more horrifying monster... 

Huckle goes to hell and back and back again in this tragic tale of terrestrial cephalopods, ursine lycanthropes and explosive volcano drake diarrhea. 

Dark fantasy will never be the same. 

SUGGESTED FOR MATURE AUDIENCES: Contains coarse language, violence and candid descriptions of the genitalia of various fantasy races. 

With a forward by R.S. Matheny and Philip Overby, hosts of the Grim Tidings Podcast 


This story was inspired by a conversation on the Grim Tidings Podcast, between hosts R.S. Matheny and Philip Overby and their guest Will Bly. They said someone should write about werebears and land octopuses. I took that as a challenge.

The story is weird, creepy, funny and not for the faint of heart. As you can probably tell from the blurb, reader discretion is advised.

Here's where you can get it:

It's also available at Amazon (US, Canada, UK and everywhere else), but it's not free because, you know, Amazon (still only a buck, though). You can get a Mobi file from Smashwords, so grab it there for your Kindle reader or app.

Don't forget: I'm not the only one giving away free books today! For the full list of everyone who's giving away a book or story for Halloween, check out below:

Thursday, October 29, 2015

George Cotronis Cover Art Giveaway

Published by Kraken Press, art by George Cotronis
George Cotronis is currently running a competition to give away free covers on his website, and lemme tell you: Dude does awesome covers.

You can see a gallery of his published works as well as premade covers currently for sale at his website His work is weird, creepy, kinda abstract. He reminds me a little of Dave McKean, which is a very good thing. They're perfect for a horror or dark fantasy book, which is right up my alley. He currently does art for Ragnarok Publications, Evil Hat Productions, Pelgrane Press and many others, which is some excellent credentials that speak very highly of the man's talents.

Full disclosure, writing this blog post fulfills criteria to give me a chance to win one of those wonderful covers, but I'm not ashamed of that. I would gladly pay the guy good money for one of these designs, but since the budget for my next book is somewhere around the $0 mark, my only hope is to win one in this contest.

Go check out his site and sign up yourself! Maybe you could be the one to slap one of these beautiful (and eerie) babies on the front of your book. We could only be so lucky.

Published by Ragnaork Publications, art by George Cotronis.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Trick or Treat for Books (100th Post!)

Happy All-Hallow's-Eve-Eve-Eve-Eve-Eve-Eve!

Ah, Samhain is in the air. Smells like cheap kid's make-up, candy and rotting pumpkins. Well, that and winter. It definitely smells like Winter is Coming, but that's a story for another day.

I love Halloween. As a kid I just liked dressing up, but as I've gotten older I've been drawn more and more into the spectacle and pageantry of it. I'm at an unfortunate life stage however where my kids are really young so I can't go too overboard with the decorations. The first year we had our house and my oldest was an infant, the neighbourhood kids were terrified to come up onto my front porch. Last year, my son started asking why there were severed limbs all over the yard. This year I'm afraid he's old enough that he won't ask, he'll just run up to his room crying and send me his future therapy bills..

So I'm going to have to tone it down for a few years, I get that. But I still want to have some fun at Halloween, right? If I can't scar children this year, maybe I'll give away some free spooky books instead.

(Not to the neighbourhood kids. My books would probably scar them, too.)

Thanks to the Devilish Duncan Twins at Wittegen Press and Grim Patricia Lynne, I've signed up for both the Share-a-Scare Blog Hop and the Trick or Treat Reads Blog Hop. Fortunately both are basically the same deal and pretty straightforward: On Halloween, you hand out free (preferably spooky) books and stories to anyone who comes knocking on your door/blog!

Make sure to come back this weekend (Samhain technically runs until sunset on November 1, so let's keep the festivities going) when I'll be giving away FREE copies of an appropriately-spooky story.

Plus, if you're interested in other places to grab free books, the full list of participating blogs is below. Feel free to sign up yourself, if you have something you want to share:

Also of note, as you may have noticed from the title today is my ONE HUNDREDTH blog post here at Stories I Found in the Closet. I thought this was some kind of momentous occasion, and actually failed to write a post last week because I spent too much time thinking about what I should do for this special event. This week I just said f*ck it and got on with business.

Life is too busy. I wrote 100 blog posts. Yeah me.  Now let's get on to the important stuff!

Just 114 hours until Halloween...

Monday, October 12, 2015

Happy Turkey Murder Day, My Fellow Canadians!

This is going to sound like a bad 90s stand-up routine, but what's up with Canadian Thanksgiving anyway? In the US, Thanksgiving is a huge event, celebrated by massive football games (which are seemingly equivalent in pomp and circumstance to the overthrow of oppressive regimes in other countries) and murdering fellow citizens in cattle-like stampedes over cheap electronics. In Canada we have some turkey, maybe a pumpkin pie. In election years, we'll passive-aggressively talk about politics. But it's really not a big deal. In Quebec they take the day off and go to the spa. In several other provinces it's not even recognized as a statutory holiday.

A quick bit of research (thanks, Wikipedia!) uncovers that Canadian Thanksgiving is actually older than its American cousin. The first recorded instance of "giving thanks" on Canadian shores took place all the way back in 1578 (compared to the Pilgrims OG version in 1621) when English explorer Sir Martin Frobisher attempted to set up a colony on Baffin Island in what is now known as the Canadian territory of Nunavut whilst searching for the ever-elusive Northern Passage to the Pacific. 

Now, those of you who know a little of Canadian geography know that Nunavut is among the most inhospitable places on Earth, so setting up a colony there was about as successful as trying to attack Russia in winter.
That collar was probably cutting off blood flow to his brain.
Just trying to make landfall, Frobisher lost several ships along with their crews and provisions, but eventually the fleet made it and started kissing the frozen dirt. Mayster Wolfall (no he's not a Game of Thrones character, he was the fleet's preacher) then "...made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankefull to God for their strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places ..." which in my opinion was not really a Thanksgiving Feast so much as a JESUS-CHRIST-THANK-GOD-WE'RE-ALIVE- FROBISHER-YOU'RE-AN-IDIOT cocktail party. But whatever the details (or how many slaps Frobisher received upside the head), this pants-wetting-landing in frozen tundra is what went down in the history books as the first Thanksgiving.

In case you're wondering what happened to Frobisher, over two voyages to the New World he lost several more ships but ended up bringing back to England a combined total of over 1500 tons of what he thought was gold ore. It turned out to be nothing but worthless pyrite. Fed up with exploration (and probably - rightfully - mocked by his peers) Frobisher took up a life of privateering in the name of England. Turns out he was way better at murdering Spaniards, as he ended up being knighted for his efforts.

Thanksgiving was celebrated irregularly for the next few hundred years, usually when there was a particularly good harvest or some other special event to celebrate - it was the same in the US. Thanksgiving didn't become an "official" regularly scheduled holiday until the modern era. The biggest Thanksgiving influence the US passed onto Canada was after the American Revolution, when those still loyal to Britain realized sticking around all those gun-loving Yanks was probably a bad idea and fled North. They brought with them their traditions of turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and taking advantage of the indigenous population. Just kidding! Americans had actually learned that from the Canadians and the British first.

So you're going to give us this life-saving food in exchange for a few worthless beads?
Can we talk about real estate next?
After World War II, Thanksgiving got lumped in with Armistice Day (November 11, now Remembrance Day in Canada) and remained there for a few decades until someone decided that we needed a holiday in both November AND October. It was John Diefenbaker, the only Conservative Canadian Prime Minister to serve between 1930 and 1980, who made that call.

It might just be a coincidence, but during the Dief's term as PM, he also appointed the first Aboriginal Senator and First Nations people were given the right to vote. Conservatives seem to be a lot more chill back then.
In 1957 Thanksgiving officially became the second Monday in October, and it's remained that way ever since.

So as you enjoy your turkey this afternoon, argue about politics and pray for a Blue Jays victory tonight, please remember Frobisher and Diefenbaker in your revelries, because without them Thanksgiving might be a completely different holiday. Maybe it would be in November like the in the States and be a even bigger deal. Just saying.

Did you know I've written a couple of books? They have nothing to do with Thanksgiving, but they are set in Canada... mostly. The first, Ten Thousand Days is now available at Amazon and many other booksellers worldwide. The second, Hell Comes to Hogtown, has greatly upped Canadian content in hopes of getting some kind of Government grant. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Made to Suffer: Season 2 Episode 1

On Friday night we launched a new RPG campaign, the first in a long time. This time around we're running "Zombie-World" by AJ Ferguson, a hack of Dungeon World, which itself is a variant of Apocalypse World.

Anyway, the game system is not that important for our purposes here (I'm sure I'll talk more about that on Rule of the Dice in a couple of days). Right now what I want to concentrate on is the story. The Apocalypse World series of games is very much a story-driven system; it encourages the players to build on the world and drive the plot and the action. This is in contrast to many game systems where the game world is entirely created and manipulated by the Game Master and the players are along for the ride.

Our group, being far more familiar with the latter style of game, took a bit of getting used to in this new open-world format. But we are getting the hang of it, and it was a lot of fun. We told a story, and it was wild and wacky and worth recording here, I think, for my own future benefit if nothing else.

For those keeping score, this story is roughly set in the same world as my previous zombie games, just several months later, long after civilization has fallen and the survivors are struggling to make sense of the crazy new world. Our group is holed up in a city (which city exactly is unimportant - it could be almost any major city in North America) and they're just trying to survive day-to-day.

The Cast of Characters

Andrew "Mac Truck" Feldman - An escaped inmate, he was serving time for white collar crime, but his prison stay actually turned him into a harder, more dangerous individual. The hard lessons of prison prepared him for surviving the apocalypse. A huge muscular man who uses a pickaxe as his weapon of choice.

Chibi - A Goth chick with a samurai sword, she uses her charms and wits to survive. She's gotten by letting others do all the dirty work for her and if she can't find someone to do manipulate she will usually prefer to run and hide from a fight.

Dusty and Oswald - Two grumpy oldtimers who both think they know everything and think the other knows nothing, these two burly grumps are quick to provide advice to everyone whether asked or not. Both are flustered by young Chibi, and she takes advantage of it.

Bubba McMahon - A police academy student when the zombie uprising hit, Bubba has no trouble telling people he was a lawman even though he probably never officially wore a badge. He's not quite right in the head, and grows ever creepier as the days and nights go by. His entire body is covered in tattoos, and he keeps adding more, often prison-style and drawn by fellow survivor Mac Truck.

Trevor - The most average and boring man on the planet. He can become invisible simply by standing in a crowd. His only distinguishing feature is "he used to drive a truck" though he is annoyingly positive and is good at cheering on the other members of his team. He also develops a weird overly-friendly relationship with Bubba that everyone is pretty sure is going to end with Trevor on Bubba's plate.

The Story

The group is hunkered down in a warehouse trying to determine what to do about their dwindling supplies when the quiet night is shattered by gunshots. A young man is being chased through the streets nearby, firing a weapon wildly and drawing great attention to himself. They consider leaving him to his demise but Chibi convinces the old men to go get him and see if he has anything good on him. Mac Truck, Bubba and the Oldtimers head outside to fight off a couple of zombies and grab the kid, but Trevor and Chibi head to the roof to discover that the noise is attracting a large hoard of zombies.

Bubba attempts to question the kid but he's hysterical and ends up trying to shoot the lawman - fortunately his weapon is out of bullets. Bubba beats him unconscious and drags him into a back room to further interrogate him. Meanwhile the zombie mob converges on the warehouse and the group tries to determine how to escape. Trevor tries to burn the zombies and inadvertently lights the front of the building on fire.

Help arrives in the form of a school bus full of armed survivors who offer help if the group can get past the zombie mob. As they're escaping, Oswald goes to the back room to get Bubba and sees the kid's mutilated corpse - it looks like Bubba had been eating him. Without time to deal with Bubba's cannibalism, they fight their way through the zombies. Trevor is wounded and nearly bitten, but Bubba goes back to help him and carries him out.

The group makes it to the bus and the leader - a soldier named Corporal Thompson - demands to know where Samuel is. They quickly determine that Samuel is the kid they beat up and left behind, but lie and say they never saw him. The group convinces Thompson to take them back to her refuge (mostly thanks to Chibi getting cozy with one of the young men in the group and convincing him to vouch for them).

The leader of the other group is a Doctor Theodetos, who immediately recognizes Samuel's bag among the group's possessions. The again lie and say they just found it. The Doctor says he wants to believe them and offers them a deal - if they can head out on a supply run and bring back some good provisions for the group to share, he will know that they are trustworthy.

A woman in the group - Samuel's sister Anastasia - also recognizes the bag and is very distrustful of the newcomers. Trevor and Ozwald give her the recognizable patch off the bag back, but she still seems to have it out for them.

The next morning the group sets out to check the nearby refuge of another group of survivors that was recently overrun. Dusty stays behind due to severe diarrhea, and to see if he can learn anything about the group. On the way they find a station wagon full of supplies, but are wary of a trap. They're about to walk past when Trevor tries to slash the car's tires to keep them from following, and gunshots ring out from a nearby building. Oswald and Mac Truck charge the shooters, bringing one of them down but the other escapes. Oswald tries to incapacitate their assailant but Mac Truck doesn't hesitate to crush his head with his pickaxe. The group has to flee, leaving the supplies as the noise of the battle attracts wandering zombies.

The group finds the refuge, a townhouse that appears to have been overrun by zombies. They split up and Trevor is once again nearly eaten by a zombie but saved by Bubba. The young Everyman falls deeper under the creeper's spell. The rest of the group encounter a massive, 300+ pound zombie in the basement that Mac Truck dispatches gruesomely with a chainsaw they found upstairs.

Grabbing what they can, the survivors return to camp to share their spoils. Doctor Theodetos is pleased to have such a great windfall, and praises the group for their generosity. Most of his people share that opinion save Anastasia, who still suspects they had something to do with her brother's death, and Corporal Thompson, who seems to have some other schemes on her mind.

Not to mention they know there are other survivors out there who are not afraid to ambush their fellow humans, and one of them got away to tell his friends...

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IWSG October: Wake Up, September's Over

So another month came and went. As you may have guessed, I DID NOT win the Nerdist Publishing contract. Several cools books did win, however, and you could do worse than to check them out. I ordered all of the top 5 myself, and I'm looking forward to checking them out when they drop in a couple of months.

I started the month hot and heavy, still with a some shreds of hope my book my catch on. I made a "cool" preview trailer:

I also did a fun interview, talking about my book, Inkshares and writing in general:

Sadly, neither of them lit up the Interwebz. Winning a contest like that, or crowdfunding a book (or anything) in general takes a ton of marketing, promotion, networking and selling that I just did not have the time or the energy to do right now. I accepted that weeks ago and moved on.

While the contest is over the crowdfunding campaign is still technically ongoing. The book is still available for pre-order until mid-November. If you sign up you still get a digital copy of my first book, Ten Thousand Days, and you'll get added to a mailing list to to be updated when the new book is officially (self-)published. Since there is probably only a 0.01% chance of the book getting funded at this point, you're basically getting that all completely free.

Outside of my misadventures in crowdfunding, it was actually a pretty cromulent month for writing. I re-wrote the ending for Hell Comes to Hogtown at least four times, but I'm finally feeling pretty good about it. After fixing that I took some time off from Hogtown to write a short story in response to a challenge from the Grim Tidings Podcast guys that I took far too seriously. Ten thousand words is way too long for a joke, by the way. I think the story actually turned out pretty good so you may see it pop up somewhere. With that out of the way, I dove headlong into hardcore editing (with the help of my fabulous, beautiful and talented editor, of course) for Hogtown which is slow but I think will ultimately make the work a lot better.

Slowly going through this baby with a chainsaw.
On top of that I've also made some concrete decisions and started outlining my next two projects, which I'm hyped about, but at the same time I'm trying not to get too far ahead of myself.

I'm excited to finally unleash Hogtown upon the world, but I'm reining in my impatience and holding off on dropping it prematurely like I did with Ten Thousand Days. I really want this to be a better, more polished book than my first one. I'm taking time with the editing and getting more feedback before rushing off to Amazon to hit the "Publish" button. I want to put a bit more thought into marketing and advertising. I want to get some review copies out early to hopefully grab some release-day reviews.

I originally wanted to have it out before Christmas but I've now accepted that it will probably be early next year. I have a date in mind but I'm not revealing it yet, just in case. Who knows what could happen, right? Right now I could almost believe it might be something good.

Like getting one of these awesome suits under the Christmas tree.
TL;DR version: Today, I'm not actually feeling insecure. I'm cautiously optimistic, and feeling productive and excited about my work, at least for the moment. I'm sure that once I'm knee deep in notes from the editor in a couple weeks, or when I'm struggling to convince people to buy and/or review the book in a couple of months, those feelings will be long evaporated. But for now, just for today, let's look on the bright side, m'kay?

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 here.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Star Wars Composer John Williams's First Score Was a Newfoundland Film

I'm a proud Newfoundlander, born and raised. I'm also an unabashed Star Wars fan, a film which we all know would have been very different without the classic score by John Williams. So you can imagine my shock, wonder and merriment last week when I discovered that John Williams' first professional musical score was for a Newfoundland travelogue in the 1950s.
The full details are here at an article from the CBC, but here's the short version: Williams was serving in the U.S. army in 1952 and stationed at a base in St. John's, Newfoundland (the island being the location of several major bases during and after WWII, as it was an important staging point for transatlantic flights). Like many military musicians he served his time working with a service band, and performed for dances at both the American and Canadian bases in the area. This talented young musician caught the eye of a local film company who had been commissioned by the government to make a tourism video for the newest Canadian province (Newfoundland only became part of Canada in 1949) and they hired Williams to score their film. 

The music doesn't sound much like the theme to Star Wars or Superman, as the composer instead opted to borrow elements from popular local folk songs, but it's still a weird and fascinating bit of trivia. But I have to admit, the score itself is basically an afterthought compared to the sheer batshit insanity that is the rest of the film. Thankfully, it still exists today in all of its mind-blowing lunacy:

My first quick thoughts about the film:

1. The narrator is drunk. He is literally shitfaced. There are weird cuts in the opening shot because I think he was falling out of his chair, and in the final moments he's struggling to keep his eyes open. He never misses a line though, which is proof positive that radio personalities in the 1950s were wasted at work at all times. Probably still true today.

2. The film is loosely told from the point of view of the suitcase. A talking suitcase. To be honest I didn't mind the fact that the suitcase talked (the narrator is drunk, remember, so he may be hallucinating the whole thing) nearly so much as I minded that they pointed out the damn thing cost $65. Sixty-five bucks in 1952 was an entire week's salary at a decent job. Who the hell spends an entire week's salary on a suitcase?

3. They keep talking about the "modern amenities" but it all looks like a communist internment camp. The houses are tiny and utilitarian, most of which were obviously just built a few days ago and are in the middle of the goddamn woods. They show swimming pools and tennis courts that, again, are in the middle of the goddamn woods. Most of the roads they show outside of St. John's aren't even paved. And you know the best part? Sixty years later a lot of those places still look exactly the same. (Except the roads part, the roads are now paved... mostly)

4. Apparently the pulp and paper mill is worth mentioning as a tourist attraction? It's brought up toward the end of the film, so maybe they were running out of stuff to talk about and they just really wanted to hit that twenty-minute run time...

5. But do you want to know the best part? The absolute best part of the film? The main attraction trumpeted by the this government-sponsored travelogue is HOOKING UP WITH RANDOM STRANGERS. Seriously. The male lead shows up in Newfoundland, bumps into a random woman and then proceeds to travel all over the island with her staying in shifty hotels. Not to mention the 1950s bathing-beauties that apparently come free with your parks and recreation brochure. The thesis of the piece seems to be: "Newfoundland: Come for the Scenery, Stay for the Strange!" I thought Free Love wasn't a thing until the 60s???

In case you were wondering if this was just a sad attempt by filmmakers who didn't know what they were doing, I should point out that "the film [was] selected as 'one of the outstanding travelogues for 1954' during a premier showing in New York City." So... this was a regular thing in the 50s? What was the California travelogue? An ad for a drug orgy?

So, yeah. The question remains: Was this a historic low point for John Williams and the province of Newfoundland? Or an awesomely high one?

When I'm not making fun of my mid-twentieth century tourism, I write books. My first, Ten Thousand Days, is now available at Amazon and many other booksellers worldwide. I'm also in the middle of crowdfunding a new book at Head over there to check it out. I'm thinking my third book will be about the wild party scene in Newfoundland in the mid-twentieth century.

Monday, September 28, 2015

St. Stephen's High MANIFESTO Issue 1 (November 12, 1996)

Last month I told a story about how I made my first money as a writer by ripping off my high school literary magazine. It was a low point in my academic and literary career, trust me. Thinking about the story made me go back and dig up my old copies of said magazine, which sent me hurtling on a trip down memory lane.

Today, I'm going to take you along with me on that trip. Buckle in.

First to set the stage: St. Stephen's High School was a Catholic high school in the town of Stephenville, Newfoundland. I was actually a member of the last graduating class before it switched to the public school system in 1998 and was renamed simply Stephenville High.

The school was mostly known for its sports teams and bands (the organized, orchestral kind). Other arts, literature and drama were deemed far less important activities - the concert band and the school drama club actually had an ongoing feud for a couple of years that I may have to write about some day. There was actually a reference to the school prizing Math and Science above Arts and Literature in the lead Editorial of this very issue, which was kind of the impetus for starting this magazine in the first place.

I should also point out that, despite the environment, there was not one but TWO student publications circulating the school halls in 1996-97, which explains the context of this little note on the bottom of page one:

The Spartan Corner was our "official" school newspaper which had a lot more teacher involvement and was tailored more to material that the administration wanted the students to hear about. So, basically government media manipulation.

We balked against that and started our own paper where we could say whatever we wanted. This caused some minor controversies in later issues, but they were just that, very minor. The most controversial things in our debut issue was our lead essayist (the illustrious Mr Lee) complaining about people getting in his way in the hall:

Actually that's a lie, the most controversial thing in the issue was probably hidden in the French essay (coincidentally also by Mr. Lee). On the surface it was an examination of how French Immersion was treated poorly in our school system and at risk of dying out, specifically referencing the falling numbers of students in the program every year. However, there was also a couple of digs at the quality and qualifications of the English teachers in the school, which - since they probably couldn't read French - they likely didn't pick up on. A crafty guy that Mr. Lee. Probably explains why he didn't make Valedictorian, despite having the top grades as well as taking part in lots of sports and other intramural activities: somebody must have translated the essay for the principal.

Random Fun Fact: I stole the the William Hazlitt quote on the first page from the Quotable Quotes section of my parents' Reader's Digest magazine. This was before I had ready and regular access to the Internet, where else was I going to find appropriate quotes?
You will notice that I only have scans of the interior text pages; unfortunately I'm missing the cover and the comic strip. If I recall correctly, the body of the magazine and the artwork pages were printed separately and then collated together - I suspect this is a copy that was left over after we ran out of the art pages. While do I miss the cover, I don't mind not having the comic. I drew it and it was spectacularly bad. You'll see what I'm talking about when I get to Issue #2.

That being said, if anyone who attended St. Stephen's High School in 1996 and has a copy of the cover or comic PLEASE scan it and send me a copy. I will be your best friend forever.

I would amiss if I didn't take a moment to comment on the absolutely atrocious formatting. I remember vividly the first issue being messed up; I had given the files to someone else to print and they printed like 50 copies without noticing that the font was wrong, the pages had all shifted and the page numbers were screwed up. I was so pissed that I took Draconian hold over the layout and wouldn't let anyone else touch the set up or printing for any of the future issues. It's a bit of a obsessive control streak I maintain to this day, and may have something to do with my choice to self-publish.

The white space was a not a design choice. The other half of the poem is on the next page. The table of contents also says it was supposed to be on page 7. Nineteen years later and this still makes my blood boil.
I guess I can't get away with talking about this issue without talking about the story I contributed to it. The Blade of Destiny: First Act is the first chapter of a serialized short novel/long story I had intended to publish in each issue of The Manifesto. It was supposed to be six parts but I think I only got through four during the Manifesto's run. It's about a poor young peasant boy who never knew his father and has strange dreams of a magic sword. In this part he meets a mysterious figure who says he has to claim the sword and face his fears in the dream in order to reclaim his destiny. He does of course, and somehow pulls the sword out of the dream along with him.

It's... not terrible. It's not good, either, but it's perfectly perfunctory. The prose is kind of awkward and definitely too wordy (twenty fucking years later and I'm still dealing with that), not to mention I used every single possible lazy fantasy trope I could think of (the sword is embedded in a stone, for crying out loud). It was also surprisingly dark. The boy's mother is a depressed drug addict and he discovers over the course of this chapter that's he's cursed because his father was a coward who abandoned his family. It's kind of depressing. This was during a time when I took my writing and my fantasy way too seriously, before I found that you can (and should) find humour in everything, even (and especially) tragedy.

Hopefully you didn't mind my little trip down memory lane. If you're interested in checking out my more recent (and slightly better) writing, my first book Ten Thousand Days is now available at Amazon and many other booksellers worldwide. I'm also in the middle of crowdfunding a new book at Head over there to check it out.
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