Friday, October 30, 2015

FREE STORY! (Happy Halloween!)


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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:




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Thursday, October 29, 2015

George Cotronis Cover Art Giveaway


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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 www.cotronis.com. 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.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Trick or Treat for Books (100th Post!)


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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...
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Monday, October 12, 2015

Happy Turkey Murder Day, My Fellow Canadians!


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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. 
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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Made to Suffer: Season 2 Episode 1


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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...


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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IWSG October: Wake Up, September's Over


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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.
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Monday, October 5, 2015

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


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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 Inkshares.com. 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.
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