Tag Archives: The Newfoundland Vampire

Star Wars: Return of the Love

Happy Holidays everyone!

Let me be the first to wish you all the best in 2016. I know it’s been a long time (well longer than usual). I’ve been busy editing, working, visiting with friends and family (more so the past week than the previous month) and of course obsessing over all thing Star Wars!

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I’ve also been smothered with a Christmas cold 🙁 But I’ve got medicine (and booze) so I’ll be fine. In case you’re wondering I have the shirt above and when you press the hat on the left it lights up! Lovely early Xmas gift from my wife =) Before I get too deep into Star Wars and how it’s affected my writing (and of course a few thoughts on the new movie) I wanted to let you know I did just send the latest version of third vampire novel “The Newfoundland Vampire book 3: The Gathering Dark” over to my editor (I’ll do a post on editing next month) so that means the great folks (which includes me, yay!) at Distinguished Press will hopefully make it available to you sometime in first the six month of 2016.

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Now back to Star Wars 😉 Seriously I have loved both Star Wars and Star Trek since I was little (Trek a little longer I’ll admit) and while my heart was broken and my faith shaken by those travesties called “the prequels”, once I learned George Lucas was out and Disney had taken over, I was ready to fall in love again. I got back into the Star Wars comics, read some of the novels (some are okay), played the video games (some of the new Star Wars app are a lot of fun) and even found myself writing a Star Wars novel (spoiler, I never finished it and I don’t even know what happened to it). Who didn’t imagine wielding a lightsaber and using the force?

When I was writing my first book my previous editor said (I’m paraphrasing of course) “how many times have you seen Star Wars? People don’t always need to have their hands chopped off during a fight!” While I write vampire books (and some short stories) I put in a lot of geeky references and Star Wars was no exception. In fact while my vampires fight with swords, I often imagine what the melee would be light with lightsabers. I also based one of my vampires powers on Star Wars, just as Luke can sense Vader’s presence on Endor (and Vader senses his old master on the Death Star), my vampires can sense each other from miles away.

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Perhaps more importantly though I have always been fascinated with the difference between good and evil, I’ve always wanted to explore what makes a person do terrible acts and I often like to explore the idea that no one is completely without hope or in other words “I know there is good in you. The Emperor hasn’t driven from you fully.” Star Wars presents a fascinating idea, no matter how far you have fallen there is always the chance for redemption, the chance to make it right. While Vader or Emperor Palpatine are extreme examples (as are several characters in my books) there are others that have a taste of the dark side, ones that are tempted by evil or even straddle the line on more than one occasion.

I think for me Star Wars gave the important idea that characters (and stories) can have an arc, things can take an unexpected twist and ultimately end up in places (or acting in ways) you never imagined initially. I’ve always admired Star Wars for having the guys to develop a character like Darth Vader who (for over half of Episodes I-VI) is a villain and yet still be the main character. Vader often wins and ultimately is the hero once more by the end of Episode VI.

While Lucas (I believe) got caught up with technology and special effects far too much in Episodes I-III, he is still a great storyteller that presented a rich world full of interesting characters and ideas that continue to capture the imagination of audiences/readers all over the world.

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So about two weeks ago it happened (You knew I was getting to this) Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens finally came out. I won’t get into my whole review (if you’re seen the movie my review is here, it has SPOILERS! You’ve been warned) but I’m back in love with Star Wars. The movie showed what good writing, action and directing in the right hands can do. Fans new and old alike (and yeah I’m getting old, whatever that means) can enjoy it once more, the arc is growing and the story goes on.

So does Star Wars inspire you? Do you love it? Hate it? Do you reference other materials in your writing? And more important, have you seen the Force Awakens? And if not, GO SEE IT! 😉 Seriously I hope you all continue to enjoy the holidays season and if you’ve ready this a little late, happy 2016!

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Words turn into pictures, when does it work?

Greetings again faithful readers,

(What can I say? I like old-fashioned phrases) I thought about what to say this month for a while. There are some big changes coming here at Distinguished Press but I ultimately decided this is neither the time nor the place. As for me, like everyone else I’m working on Xmas shopping (I buy what I can online), hoping snow doesn’t show up for a while (I lie, we’ve already had some here but thankfully it melted) and of course anxiously awaiting the new Star Wars movie (which I’ve had tickets for since October). Aside from all that I’m editing, doing blog posts, interviews and of course writing to you now.

WinterisComingStarWars

Which brings me back on point. With all the comic-book movies and TV shows I got to thinking, what is the successful formula for turning a book/comic book into a movie/TV show? I’ve seen hundreds of movies, my wife and I usually go at least 2 a month (often more) and I watch lots more on Netflix. If there’s a book I love, I often check to see if it was or will be made into a movie or TV show. I’m also a huge comic book fan, so the past 14 years it’s been a steady flow of comic book movie/TV shows/novelization movies, so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to compare, admire and contrast.

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There are so many I can’t go through them all but I think I have to start with Lord of the Rings. This is perhaps the most well known fantasy novel series ever, they have been around for almost 80 years and have inspired countless writers, other stories, toys, authors and also an enduring (and immensely fun) game called Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve read and loved them since I was a child and studied them in high school and university. Suffice it to say I was very pleased to see them turned into movies.

When I watched them I knew I couldn’t help but compare them to the books, there were differences and changes I didn’t like. Overall though Peter Jackson did a marvelous job, I fell in love with the story all over again as I saw the people, creatures and stories I loved so much brought to life. Then there came the plan that the Hobbit (the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy) would be made into not one, not two but three movies!?!? For those that don’t know the Hobbit was written for Tolkien’s children, it was the shortest of the novels and certainly did not have enough material for three films.

Of course they said they would invent new material, take stuff from other Tolkien material and the appendices at the back the Hobbit, but really I knew the truth, 3 movies means a hell of a lot more money than 1. Don’t get me wrong I watched all three of them and I enjoyed them but I knew the truth, Jackson wanted get paid to do 3 movies and forced the story to fit. Sure the story of the Hobbit is there but it could have be easily told in 3-3.5 hours, not 8.

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Let’s take a different example where (at least so far) it wasn’t stretched out and an obvious example of Hollywood greed. I dearly love Batman (as you may know if you’re read my books The Newfoundland Vampire and Killer on the Road, both are on sale now for 99 cents!) and I was thrilled when my favorite comic-book story of his (well Frank Miller but you know what I mean) The Dark Knight Returns, would be made into an animated movie (I’m also very excited for the upcoming Batman VS Superman movie, which is also supposed to be loosely based on the comic). I loved this comic, I’ve read it many times and I think the movie (which was split into two parts as the comic is that long) was a masterpiece. I wouldn’t dare spoil the story if you’re unfamiliar with it, if you want to see story converted right into film, this animated movie is the one to see.

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I had a big discussion on this with a friend of mine. What’s the best thing for a director/producer/movie company to do? Be extremely faithful to the source material or due your own interpretation? I think being too slavish to the book/comic can be a determent (though as a fan I love it when that actually happens). Some things are just not able to be filmed and I know that a movie is supposed to make money, in many cases the general public hasn’t read the book/comic and they don’t care how faithful it is. Then there are the big fans who will scrutinize the movie for not being close enough to the source (and I know I do that sometimes).  I think ultimately it’s a compromise between what is in the source material and what will work/be successful on screen.

To bring it home, what do you think about movies based on your favorite stories? Do you clamor for more or think enough is enough? I’m always willing to give them a chance and always want more. And I can dream, I know it would be a dream come true if one of my books was ever made into a movie/TV show/play. I know there would be changes but as long as the important parts stayed I’d be happy, well that is as long as I was getting paid…kidding! The struggle between creativity/integrity/money is a topic for another time, until then I’ll eagerly await Batman and catch up on a really good show based on a comic called Jessica Jones (which is on Netflix now, don’t let your young children see it though!). Until then I bid you all good night.

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“Advice is a form of nostalgia…

…dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.” That’s a quote from one of my all my favorite songs, “The speech song” by Baz Luhrmann. I’ve been listening to it since it came out in 1999 (and was even played on the radio a bit), if you ever get a chance, give it a spin. I’ve lived my life almost completely by that song (and I think I’ve done okay so far).

Hi everyone,

It’s  a cold, windy day here (there were flurries here this morning and it’s only October!). Halloween, Xmas shopping, Xmas and of course winter are fast approaching. People love the fall, not me, sure the leaves are pretty but I like hot, sunny weather anything else gets me down a little. But you’re not here to listen to me pontificate, today I’m going to talk about writers and advice, both giving and receiving.

KingAdviceWriting

I’ve done lots of conventions, given plenty of talks, been part of panels, book signings, book launches and book readings. I’d say the most common question I get is, “what advice would you have for a young/new writer?” (ok they didn’t say /new but I’m too OCD not to be complete). Say what you want about his writing, I think he gives great advice. He wrote a book just called “On Writing: A Memoir of the craft” and I highly recommend it. I would, however, also tell writers to, however, not get caught up in style books and writing handbooks and classes. If you want to do English in University then do it but there’s no substitute for writing and reading every day.

Writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum, the idea of a writer holed up in a dark corner spending years of his or her life working on a story with no input from others is (I hope) over with. Get to know other writers, I’d say in particular local ones. Local ones have the most time and interest (usually) to talk with you and are often very nice people. One of the best pieces of advice/encouragement I ever got was from a local author, one I had contacted when I finally got serious about writing.

HemingwayonWriting

I know that picture above is a little blurry. What Hemingway (someone else who gives good advice on writing) is saying is that you can’t just use your imagination. You have to experience life, I think some of the best writing I’ve done is based on places I’ve been and experiences I’ve had. The world is full of wondrous people, nature can be inspiring, a place, even just seeing how people live in other parts of the world does so much to broaden your mind. Sometimes I feel that not becoming a serious writer until I was 34 was a good thing, I was lucky enough to have a lot of experience to draw on.  Even now I find when I get back from a vacation I have an idea for a story or chapter, a place that needs mentioning or a person that would be fun to incorporate. Don’t get me wrong, you still need to use your imagination, spice up the world, exaggerate events, or just plain kill people (in your stories of course! That’s not illegal.)

What other advice do I give? I tell people to work hard, write what you love (and don’t write unless you love it), be patient and get plenty of feedback (among lots of other things.) I also say that for 99% of writers (probably more like 100) you have to have an editor. King talks about how you need you to have an ideal reader, the person you really write for (besides yourself). For me that is my editor, I eagerly await her reaction (I’ve had 4 female editors and 1 male). I’ve learned plenty from my editors (currently the wonderful Kathy, who did a wonderful job getting “Killer on the Road” in re-release, ship-shape, available in November!) about grammar, writing style and lots of other important author lessons.

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To finish up, the quote above is true. People who give you advice usually mean well, they’re trying to help. I’ve found though that often times people are limited by experience or simply don’t understand what kind of writer/person you are. So be careful taking any advice, don’t act rashly. Think out any big decision, I once had someone tell me I should get rid of my editor because she wanted me to change parts of the story. That guy had no clue how writing works and I ignored his advice. Writing, like anything in life, is a learning process. Learn what you can from others and pass it on. I’ll end with this, nothing you write is ever perfect. If you have the chance (and the interest) to improve on someone you wrote do it, you’ll be glad you did.

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Why do you write?

Greetings all,

I’m back from a wonderful holiday around BC (Canada) and a cruise to Alaska. If anyone is thinking about a trip to either of those places I’d highly recommend it (though maybe for Alaska to go in July or August) and tomorrow I’m off to a convention (about 6 hours away from where I live), so busy times! For this month, getting back on topic, I’d like to talk about why I write, it was something that came up at a convention and in Stephen King book I read (and is an important question for any writer I think.)

IWHandWriting

If you’re curious the book by Stephen King is called “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft“, I’d highly recommend any writer (or aspiring writer) check it out, if you don’t like King. Back on topic, I’ve always had a love of literature. It started (like lots of people I’m sure) with comic books (Archie and then superhero titles) and then novels (and some Hardy Boys and Choose your Adventure stuff). I love to be creative, at first I just wrote a journal but soon moved into short stories, poems and later novels.

IWwhy-we-write

The above reasons are (mostly) true but there are more. You write any story you’re in control, the characters, the plot, the setting, it’s a great feeling to write something exactly the way you want (well if you want to be published it might be a little different but close enough). To see your ideas come to life (even just on the page or screen) is a wonderful feeling and fills you with excitement. I do also hope that my writing has an affect on at least a few readers, I have strong ideas about the world and how it could be better and if other people feel the same, then maybe the world can be a little better. I wrote my first book The Newfoundland Vampire ( the sequel, Killer on the Road,  soon to re-released by my most excellent publisher, Distinguished Press, what? You knew I always put in a plug!)  because I had a story to tell and something to say and I’ll keep writing as long as that’s the case.

IWfeedback

I’ll admit there’s another reason, I’m needy, in particular I need feedback, comments (hopefully praise) and even constructive criticism (please don’t come up and just say you suck, I’ve had that happen and it stings). I think most writers are needy and crave attention, it’s a big reason of you why get stories publish (or self-publish). I am thrilled when I get a new review of a book (especially if it’s a good one and goes on for a more than a few sentences).  I had a book launch party and having everyone show up because they care about your writing (I did a reading there) is also an incredible feeling, I’m looking forward to having at least one more.

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Overall though, I write because I love do to it. I’d tell anyone that writing for the money is  bad idea, sure it’s nice to be rewarded but the money should never be the goal. I’ve read about that writing brings you joy, healing your mind and body and make you a better person. I don’t know if all those things are true but I know that if writing is a chore or all you see is dollar signs, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

What about you? Why do you write?

 

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My writing habits

Greetings once again all,

Summer is coming to close (for me in NL we’ve had maybe 4 weeks of summer weather but such is life here) and like when any season ends I get a little reflective. This month I thought I’d talk about my writing habits/process. Every writer has their own way of being creative, here’s my story (and details.)

For me writing is a time to relax, to dream, to fantasize about mythical creatures and imagine how my life could have turned differently if I had made different choices. I know some people can write in public places with all sorts of noise and people around but for me I need quiet, solitude and something to look at. I also find that generally I am at my most creative in the morning. My best writing occurs when I’ve had a good night’s sleep, get up at 6 or 6:30 and start writing by 7 or 7:30 AM. (Unless I’m on vacation, then it could certainly be later.)

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I also find that I need an outline. I like to have a clear idea of where I’m headed in a story so I always plan a novel at least two or three chapters ahead of time. (For book 3 “The Gathering Dark” it was the whole book, now for book 4 “War of the Fangs” about 12 chapters). Before I write I have a look at my outline (especially if I’m at the end of a chapter). Also at least once a month I look over the tips my esteemed editor, Kathy, gave me from book 2 ( and I try to keep in mind all I’ve learned from Karyn as well). I find that generally I only write in short bursts, 30-45 minutes tops then I’ll look out the window, possibly check my e-mail or pet one of my cats if they happen to be on the table with me. Generally I do most of my writing at home but sometimes I use my iPad for on the go. As I mentioned above if I have the time (and my laptop) I have also been known to write on vacation, in airports, at conventions and on weekend trips around the province (I live in Newfoundland, if you want to visit somewhere different, you should come . . .  in August or September only!).

LaptopWriting

With my first book published (by the wonderful people at Distinguished Press), I also find it useful to keep a copy of “The Newfoundland Vampire” nearby, it serves as both an inspiration and a guide as I work on further installments (there will be at least 4, after that, we’ll see). For me I try to write about places that I’ve been (or wish I’d been) and either way I like to look at pictures of that place before I write the scene, sometimes I read histories of a building or a town (for me info about my research methods for writing go here). As the main character, Joseph, is about 90% me, it is always a lot of fun to revisit these places in my mind and see how I would act differently in my imaginary world. For some scenes I try to imagine the whole thing in my head and then get it down on the screen as accurately as possible.

WritingStruggle

When it comes to personal preference, I find I enjoy writing the sex, action and humor scenes the most. Action scenes in particular get me excited and then they writing comes faster. A friend of mine gave me a tip to just set a simple goal, write one page a day every day. I found this very helpful as even one page, single spaced, means a chapter done in a week and of course some days I get inspired and do more Thumbs up.

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The best scenes for me just fly out of my brain and I worry about cleaning up dialogue, punctuation and grammar at later time. While I’m certain writing could be taken with a scientific approach for me its artistic expression and the best way I have to communicate my ideas and feelings to the world. I read once you should write drunk and edit sober, I’m certainly not going to encourage drinking but writing drunk can be fun 😉  I hope you do something creative today and let me know you thoughts. What writing habits do you have? What scenes are the most fun to do? Do write better at certain times of the day? Inquiring minds want to know! Have a good one all, talk to you next month.

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Writing and the internet, a marriage made in heaven

Greetings all,

It’s what passes for summer here (I won’t get much into it, I’ll just say the average temperature for the month of  July here is 11C that’s just 52F!) and time for another monthly post. I’ve been slowly working on book 4 of my Newfoundland Vampire series (as book 3 won’t be out until sometime in 2016 I’m certainly not in a rush) and I was thinking how wonderful a tool the internet is for a writer.

I’m a slow reader and I can remember the days when doing research meant going to the library (or in high school digging through my parents encyclopedias/National Geographic magazines) and spending time first searching for a book that might be related to the topic, getting the book, the trying to quickly determine if it was any good for your research before too much time was wasted. It was a treasure hunt and I know for untold hours I would look through journals, textbooks, newspapers, microfilm or even taking the step of ordering the book from the library and waiting for it to come  in.  Sure I got better at it, more efficient and I certainly had help from other students and asked librarians often. Don’t get me wrong I love libraries and enjoyed 90% or more of the time I spent there but still I was thrilled when I did my masters so much material was available on the internet. At that point I had an office (well I shared it with other students but eventually it was just me) and reading stuff on my laptop was just so much easier and convenient but I’m starting to stray.

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When I started to write my first novel “The Newfoundland Vampire” (what, you didn’t think I’d put in a plug?), available now with Distinguished Press, I wanted a main character that was based on a real person from history. Catherine Mandeville Snow was the last woman hanged in Newfoundland in 1834 and seemed like a figure I could really work with. My idea was to get someone from Newfoundland who had a significant/unusual death and she popped up. If I had wrote this book 20 years ago who knows how many hours just discovering that fact may have taken me. In seconds I read a brief bio of Catherine’s life and after a few minutes discovered there was a local author who had written a book on her, I sent him an e-mail and he agreed to meet with me (I did have to leave the house to do that of course).

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To be clear  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with going to the library and doing research, it’s a great thing if you live nearby and have the time but I find the older I get the more time becomes precious to me. I’m also aware that it is certainly possible to find information on the internet that is exaggerated/half-true or complete lies. Just as you would with a book you check your sources and see if the same info can be found from various sources. It would slow my writing down tremendously if I decided to read a book on a subject I didn’t know about and makes you admire authors like J.R.R. Tolkien or Bram Stoker for the incredible amount of time and effort they put into researching a story. Fortunately for writers past and present (to be precise a those with a publisher) you also have the invaluable tool of your editor to double-check your facts. Ultimately if you’re writing fiction and changing characters (my Catherine is quite different from the real one in many ways) you don’t need to get everything 100% accurate and wouldn’t want to but still do your best.

I’ll finish with another example. This week I was writing a chapter set in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. I have not been to Mardi Gras and so I did a Google image search (if you’re a very young author make sure you have safe search on!) and within a seconds I had dozens of great pictures. I did a little more checking on interesting bars on Bourbon Street, thought about the chapter and I was ready to start. While most of the images have nudity, here is one I can share.

epa03580945 (left to right) A Christian Street preachers yells at a group hanging outside of a bar whiledrag queen Charles Loraine Wendell yells back on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter during Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, 12 February, 2013.  Fat Tuesday is the final day of Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans.  EPA/DAN ANDERSON

How great is that? One extreme to the other right in this picture and it’s real. I could right several pages on what these two could say to each other but for me it was just a nice tidbit of what happens at Mardi Gras (besides the obvious beads/drinking/flashing everyone knows about). If Google didn’t exist I never would have thought to write about these two guys and my scene would have been lacking something.

So what do you think? Is the internet a great tool for writers? Should we instead spend untold hours in libraries and more time becoming experts on topics/history? Is there some combination/happy medium I’m missing out on? I’d love to see your thoughts, until next month everyone!

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Paper or digital?

Hi all,

So it’s me, Charles, back for my monthly installment.  I’ve been around a while (I’m 39) and I thought the other day of how much technology has affected what way we ingest our favorite writers. When I was young (up until I was 17), the only way to read was with paper (at least for me, PDFs did exist in 1993 but were only used then for academic papers). Aside from novels (which I have been obsessed with, even now I only have about one-hundred) I had a huge collection of comic books, probably around 3000 of them. I love comics (I still read them) and I thought my collection would be worth something someday . . . well it was worth something but not nearly as much as I hoped. Around 15 years later I started to sell it off piece by piece but I digress. My point here is that whether it was a comic book, a magazine (I used to collection Dungeons and Dragons magazines) or a novel, it was paper and it usually meant just carrying 1 or 2 with you.

ComicBookLongboxes

That changed back in 1996 when the first Palm Pilot came out and since I’ve always loved gadgets, I had one that year. With a palm pilot I was able to read books, e-mails and do some other convenient things whenever I wanted to. PDFs were only just gaining popularity any virtually any you found were ones you created yourself or looked high and low for on the Internet. Still though the idea that I could carry around more than one or two things to read and I was intrigued. Sure the display was crappy (it was not even in color but this weird monochrome LCD screen. It was a touch screen though and the ability to tab it with a stylus pen was neat, I had one with me 5 days a week for years, I found them reliable and fairly easy to use (though I went through two in four years).

PalmPilot

Before we go further I know that Laptops were available in 1981 and those with color screens were around by 1991 but they were expensive then and I didn’t carry one around me most of the time. I will add though while comic book subscriptions (or the Comixology app) weren’t around, there were many PDF and CBR (comic book reader) versions to be found, so by 1997 I was reading comics and PDFs on my laptop as well. By the way if you ever think about buying a laptop on Ebay with no warranty (and it’s as strange brand name) don’t do it! I had constant trouble with mine and in the end had to give to my friend for spare parts.

Desknote_fullpix

For me I reached the point when I found that I was still printing stuff off of the internet and buying novels (though I found I could save a ton of cash by never buying hardcover and waiting for sales/going to used book stores). I used to go on binges and once while on vacation in Florida I bought 15 Star Trek books and read them all (most of them were crap if you’re curious. There is something about holding a book in your hands, no matter how cheap/convenient/easy eBooks get, I’ll never be able to give up print entirely.

Move forward some more, this time to April of 2010. My first book was released, “The Newfoundland Vampire” (you knew I was getting a plug in here somewhere! 😉 Oh it’s currently available from the great folks at Distinguished Press and is better than ever with a new cover and touched-up story. I gained a new perspective on books, comics, ebooks and audio books. I could see then that it hurt me when someone downloaded my book for free and I made a point to pay for everything I got from the internet. More relevant to this post, however, is that I got an iPad (it still works fine too!).

AppleIpad

The iPad changed a lot for me. Now I could carry around hundreds of books, the ability to download any comic I had purchased and of course with the internet purchase any book (that was available as an ebook) I liked and read it instantly. With this lightweight, handy device I found myself buy paper books much less, the same went for comics. I did also (just for completeness sake) also buy a Kindle. The reasoning is lost on me (I suppose it was an impulse buy) but I was impressed by the devotion of this device to books and it’s simple connection to Amazon (for free at the time as well) was a great piece of marketing.

Kindle

Now let’s bring it up to present day. I find that I listen to an audio book and I’m reading a novel on my iPad but yet I still buy my D&D books in print format and I have a good dozen print books waiting to be read on my bookshelf. For comics I still buy them at Flea Markets/conventions/comic book stores when I see a good deal (or something I can’t get in digital format) and I’m subscribed to four digital titles. So I would say I’m about 60% digital and 40% print. There’s something about the feel of paper and the ease of flipping through pages that I haven’t found a digital book able to replicate, until that day I’ll continue to support both.

How about you, do you think ebooks have print on the ropes? Is there room for both? Which one will win? Is it even a contest? I’m getting tired! Talk to you all next month.

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A CONventional Experience, Part 2

Happy Monday all,

It was a long weekend for me (Victoria Day, or as we call it 24th of May) so I’m happy to have a shorter work week and am feeling fairly rested but onto the post! Last month I told you all about my experience attending conventions, this month will be my experience being a guest/vendor/author at conventions over the years.

SciFiontheRock

My first time as a guest at a convention was at Sci-Fi on the Rock about 6 years ago. Back then I wasn’t an author but I was a huge geek and developed an interest in Klingons, more particularly how to speak Klingon. In high school I used to be really shy, while I had no problem speaking in front of a class (I knew all them after all), giving a talk in front of strangers terrified me. It took a whole degree and diploma at university and my girlfriend (who is now my wife) to finally get me out of my shell. Talking in front of a crowd still makes me nervous and have to rehearse for at least a week ahead of time. Being a teacher for a few years helped me a lot in this regard (I also have a Masters in Education) and I have observed plenty of other speeches by friends, strangers and acquaintances at conventions. I also got involved with this fan made Star Trek show called Star Trek Reliant, a friend of mine asked me to be in an episode and speak some Klingon. I did so and enjoyed it, I was in a few more episodes but eventually didn’t want to give up my Sunday’s, especially in the summer. It did lead me into an idea about turning my lines into a panel on how to speak basic Klingon.

After my Star Trek Reliant time ended I gave a little talk on how to speak basic Klingon phrases, it was fun and it got me into the convention for free. I changed my talk over the years and eventually included some audio clips and handouts. For those who don’t know me I am a lifelong Star Trek fan, I was president of a Star Trek society in University and even have a Star Trek tattoo, so it was a natural step for me. After doing this speech for a while (and having the experience of people walk out of my talk, always annoying) I got tired of it and moved onto my writing talk, “Adventures with Vampires and Publishing”.

The first year  I was a vendor/artist at SFOTR I was very excited and happy. It was April of 2012 and my first book “The Newfoundland Vampire” had just been released and I had my first chance to interact with the public as an author. I gave out candy to get people at my table (I still do that now), had a gift basket (people could put their names down for free) and some bookmarks to hand out along with many copies of my book. I think I sold about 36 copies over the whole weekend and while I was happy with sales, I immediately learned a few things. I wasn’t charging enough for books (they cost me about $10 and I was selling them for $10!) and there was no good trying to push for a sale.

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The following year book two hadn’t been released by I expanded my table with Magic cards and comic books for sale (and upped my prices). During that second year I had some wonderful experiences, people who had read my book came up to me to talk about it. Some young women asked me to sign them and even wanted a picture taken with me! My ego was through the roof and I had a great time, I don’t remember my exact sales, at this point I started to see that being an author wasn’t about the money but the memories and the people. I gave my talk again (changing the name to “Writing, vampires, and publishing oh my!”) and gave a sneak peek of book two (which came out in September of 2013, also from Penumbra Publishing).

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You can see my table in the above picture. Being at a convention where you have a table does have its downsides though, I don’t get to see most of the guest, or go to any panels (besides my own). While Friday and Saturday are usually the busy days, by Sunday you can be sitting around for hours with no one coming to your table. I’ve also seen that any time you give something out for free there are always people who take advantage. As it’s just me (aside from family and friends who occasionally stop by), you have to get to know the people around you so you can leave your table for bathroom/food/water breaks. Since then I’m not with Distinguished Press (and I couldn’t be happier! They’re a great bunch of people) and for the sake of length you can read about my latest convention experience here.

Moving on another thing I really enjoyed was being invited to conventions in other places. First it was Atlanti-Con in Corner Brook (about 6 hours from where I live). The main guy, Jeff, knew me from Sci-fi on the Rock and invited me to come to his convention. This meant a free table and a great opportunity to promote my book and meet some new geeky people.

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Sadly I couldn’t find a picture from that first year but the above gives you an idea. My book sold well the first two years (and I already knew some people who travel from St. John’s to Corner Brook as I do) and by year three my sales of comic books made up for declining book sales (I know places to get them cheap and had a large collection up to a few years ago). I also had the unique experience of doing a panel with another author (to increase attendance for both of us). I really, enjoyed that as it took pressure off me and let me have some fun with the other author (whom I’ve known for many years). Corner Brook is on the west coast of Newfoundland and has some amazing scenery here’s some of my favorite pics from nearby Gros Morne.

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Yes in case you’re wondering the above is a moose, they are featured in my books (for reasons you’ll have to read to find out!), the others are several places around Gros Morne, a wonderful place to visit if you ever get a chance. As if being at a convention isn’t enough fun I found that as I drove people there (I believe in carpooling) I would get to know them and even hung out with one women during the convention (Jana, who is really nice and helped me do my book reading later in 2013). I went to a party at a bar where vendors,guests and organizers at Altanti-Con went and I have a wonderful time chatting with one of the actors. I was lucky enough to be staying in the same hotel as the guest and got a chance to have breakfast with one and drinks with another on other nights. The person I’ve really had a chance to connect with at Altanti-Con though is the always hilarious (and really nice) Fat Apollo. Who is he you may be wondering? You’ll have to check on the link to find out. Moving on (I’m nearing the end, promise!)

Everything to (what I thought) a climax in November of 2013, as I was an invited guest to a convention outside the province, in particular Nova Scotia and the city of Halifax. Hal-Con is a much larger convention that Sci-Fi on the Rock or Atlanti-con (I’d say actually bigger than both combined). For first convention my wife came with me and she also experienced the madness of that con. I’m not going to dwell on it but this was probably the worst convention I attended, they didn’t have a author badge for me, a table and it took several people to even find me on the list! Once I was set up I discovered almost no one wanted to buy a book from me and due to a mistake with tickets the fire marshal and even the police had to show up to stop too many people from coming on Saturday. (They sold tickets as any day, not expecting almost everyone to try and come on Saturday). I look on the bright side of things though and I did have some wonderful talks with the other vendors around me and I won some money at a casino nearby.

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As you can see there were some amazing costumes and I always enjoy seeing those. I did also sell some of my more valuable comics (worth $50 each) and get to spend some time in Halifax (which is a cool city with some great restaurants and lovely hotels). I did also get to give my talk with the highest number of attendees (some of them asked some excellent questions that I had to work on for the following year) and had people buy my books right on the spot (which is always a feel good moment).

In the end I’m not sure what I enjoy more, attending conventions or being a guest. I certainly get to see and do more just attending, meet people I’ve admired for years, attend great panels but I don’t get the interaction with people and of course only spend money, not make any. They are both rewarding experiences and I’m certainly looking forward to another two conventions this year. Until next month everyone!

 

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Judge a book by it’s cover

Hi again all,

I’ve had a fair amount of experience with book covers. Two different companies and a bunch of artists/cover designers. I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings and I don’t believe in spreading negativity, so for that reasons some names will be left out. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words and in this case I think the covers can speak for themselves.

NewfoundlandVampire-coverFRONT700.jpg Here’s the cover for the first book (published in 2012 by Penumbra Publishing). There are parts of it I’m happy with (the blood red sunset, the water, Cassandra and the obvious vampire traits.) I’m not much pleased with Joseph or what he’s wearing. Newfoundland is an island so the water is fine (and some important scenes do take place on a rocky beach). After hearing lots of comments on it (and people who said it was terrible) I came to see that it gives an impression. It often makes people think of a romance novel (and a cheesy one) and all the things that go along with it. While there is romance present in the story, I don’t like people to get the wrong idea and not take my work seriously. Let’s move on to the cover for book 2.

 

 

 

NewfoundlandVampire2-coverFRONT  This time I took a much different approach, I paid a guy to make a cover for me (and I don’t mind saying it cost almost $300). He did many versions of this (at least 30) until the cover had to be sent it or the publishing would have been delayed. This came out in September of 2013, also by Penumbra Publishing. I’ll just call the designer Alex, he was agreeable and made many changes as I asked him to and tried lots of different things. He thought I should pick out a scene from the book that was important and created a creepy atmosphere (I picked an abandoned amusement park in New Orleans). I found some real pictures of it from a website (there was no one I could ask permission from) and he incorporated them to my satisfaction. What didn’t occur to me at the time was that the title “Killer on the Road” has nothing do with the cover. I also never thought about how much is going on, looking back I can see it looks jumbled. I do like the eyes above and I thought Cassandra looked even better than book 1 (these are both real people after all). I thought he did her fangs and the blood well, I liked Joseph face hidden almost completely in shadow. I also thought the splashes of blood were cool. The moon above was a nice touch a subtle nod to time passing (as book 1 was a sunset). Still though I wanted something different, which brings us to an attempt I made getting a cover done for book 3.

 

NFLVthumbnail  Here’s the rough draft I got for what could have been the cover to book 3 (tentatively called) “The Gathering Dark.” This time I wanted to try hiring an artist to do something with no stock images and nothing computerized (aside from scanning and minor alterations of course). I’ve been told this looks terrible and while I think it needs work, it has potential. He incorporated what I wanted, each character ready to fight at an airport (St. John’s in particular) in the background, the moon large in the sky (and it would have been blood red), and different characters reflected in each sword. Casandra’s hair is different and their looks are meant to convey that events have taken a dark turn in the story. The artist was a nice guy but ultimately he just said he was too busy to go any further (he never asked for any money in advance.) At this point I decided to leave Penumbra Publishing so this brings us full circle for a look at the new cover for book 1.

NLVampireDPCoverRough Vanessa (Armada West) has been working diligently on a new cover for me now that I’m with Distinguished Press (and I love it here by the way, everyone is great!) What you see here is just a rough mock-up but I like the direction it’s going. Once again I wanted a red sunset and this time I choose a university building (it was a dorm in the book) as the backdrop (several important scenes happen on campus). Cassandra looks great (no vampire traits here) and Joseph is fine but I’m looking for a better model to choose from. This is a return to photo stock images but it’s not costing me $300 and Vanessa has been very accommodating. I’ll be sure to share a more finished version of the cover when it is ready. I still may one day pay an artist for something really different but not for the re-issue of book 1 or 2. Oh I should say book 1 will be out April24th and book 2 will be July 24th (of 2015) and of course from the fine folks at Distinguished Press.

 

 

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Here’s another version of the cover for book 1, this time I choose a different male model, I like him better as he looks more like me (and a regular guy). You’ll notice Cassandra also has fangs and some blood about her lips. It’s an ongoing process but I’m excited for the final version.

So what do you all think? They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover but I think most people do. You can’t help it, a cover is your best form of advertising for anyone browsing in a store or on a website (or app). Talk to you all next month!

 

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Book Review: The Gathering Storm, Book 12 of Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re making it through the doldrums of winter. Our winters (I live in eastern Canada on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean) drag on and on (I’ve seen it snow in June) but I’m doing fine. The snow is melting (at least for today) and my back is getting a welcome rest from shoveling. More importantly winter gives me some time to catch up on reading (I’ll admit a lot of comics but some novels too) and the “Wheel of Time” series is one I’ve been trying to finish for years. All the books are out and I’ve got just two more to go. Here’s my thoughts on “The Gathering Storm” and some of my feelings on the series as a whole.

p.s. be sure to check out the re-release of my first novel “The Newfoundland Vampire” by the great people at Distinguished Press. It will be out March 27th, mark your calenders!

The Gathering Storm: Book Twelve of the Wheel of Time

Robert Jordan , Brandon Sanderson

Initial Thoughts:

Ahh “Wheel of Time”, this is for a lot of geeks a fantasy classic, a truly epic tale that sadly outlived it’s own author (Robert Jordan) and was completed (with his widow’s guidance) by Brandon Sanderson. I’m not going to get into a long discussion about the series as a whole. I was late picking it up (book 7) and I’m such a slow reader that I’m still not finished despite the fact that the series has been over two years. Suffice it to say not matter how long it takes me I will finish reading the series and this book was one I completed a few weeks ago.

Main Points:

I just don’t have the patience I used to, as such I find a book of this length (over 1000 pages) very hard to get through. Don’t get me wrong this book has some amazing action scenes, some lovely quiet moments, good character development and advances the plot at a much better pace than some earlier ones (7-9 in particular) but still here it just gets bogged down in parts far too often for my liking. I love Rand and I enjoy Matt and Perrin (along with some other characters) but I think the authors do Matt and Perrin quite a disservice here.

I know that Perrin doesn’t like to kill but he KNOWS the last battle is coming and yet he is paralyzed and unable to act on almost anything in his life. He is a wolf brother (I think that’s the term) and his inability to embrace this (or speak truthfully to his wife) is incredibly frustrating and makes his parts rather dull. The same goes for Matt, all he seems to do anymore is complain about his wife to be, Tuon and women in general. He does have a good scene with town of people who go insane and can’t stay dead but overall I think both of the characters are wasted in this book.

The book does show a lot of different places in the world and is slowly drawing the main characters together. I also especially enjoyed how the Dark One has a much larger impact on the world at this point. Crops spoil, rooms shift, people die mysteriously, weird accidents, it all makes everyone aware that something bad is coming.

I also thought a lot of the time spent on Cadsuane Melaidhrin is wasted. She is rather dull and do very little until almost the end of book. The same goes for a lot of the happenings in the rebel camp and with early chapters with Egwene al’Vere in the tower, there’s just so much buildup that seems unneeded to me. The ending, however, is a little odd so I’ll say…

SPOILER ALERT!

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Okay so Rand thinks about killing a large portion of the Seanchan, doesn’t do it, then thinks about destroying the whole work and (of course) doesn’t do it. He does finally destroy the Choedan Kal and silence the voice (Lews Therin) in his head along with quelling his madness. All that’s fine and good but why does it work? Rand was driven mad (at least partially) by the tainted male half of the power. Even though he cleansed it my understanding was that it was too late for him. So his madness is cured because he can no longer channel unheard of amounts of the one power? I just don’t follow this reasoning. Sure it was a temptation and he was obsessed with the access key but I don’t think destroying it would suddenly make him all better.

Final Thoughts:

I enjoyed this book but the length and several frustrating passages (and a weird ending) takes away from my overall thoughts on it. Also I like to see characters go to a dark place, I liked emotionless/more crazy/decisive Rand, though I guess one of his companions would have tried to stop him eventually. I think Sanderson is a worthy successor to Jordan and I am looking forward to the two last books. A friend of mind pointed out to me that almost all of the male characters are dismissive towards women and immature. As I read the book closely I do admit this comes through in several places. This may be due to the fact that WOT is aimed at a younger audience (thought they aren’t YA) who are primarily men. Well this has gotten long. So I give this 7.5 out of 10. I do recommend it to anyone who has read the Wheel of Time (though not readers under 12), though obviously if you’re starting with this book you’ll be quite lost.  Wheel of Time is one of those series that will have moments and characters that stay with you and that ultimately makes the series a modern classic for me. Until next time, have a great week everyone!

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