Annoying to the Maxx

This may come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog, but people can really piss me off.

Last week, I was out walking my dog Maxx who is, by the way, the coolest and most educational dog in the world. Don’t believe me? Go read this.

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I always know within about 15 minutes when it’s time to go, because Maxx will find me wherever I am and then just sit beside me and stare at me with those soulful, sad brown eyes. It kills me. So, I then go down, grab the coat, gloves and hat, grab the iPod with whatever audio book I happen to be reading at the time (this week it’s John Grisham’s The Racketeer which, unless he pulls a giant rabbit out of the hat in the last fifty pages, is not going to be recommended by yours truly, but you can find that out here). After getting all geared up, I slip the collar on Maxx and we’re out the door.

Now, Maxx is a funny dog at times and truly needs constant vigilance when we’re out. He loves to find wet tissues and carry them in his mouth, which is a supreme gross-out when you consider what’s likely held in those wet folds. He’s a sniffer, constantly zigging this way and zagging that way. Along our regular route, if something is out of the ordinary, such as someone putting out their garbage bags, or a Halloween or Christmas decoration, he’ll slow down, growl, then bark it into submission. Oh, and he loves to pee on election signs, which I take great delight in considering the act as a canine commentary on the choices we Canadians are provided to vote to run our country.

One of the things that I really hate as a twice-daily dog-walker, is other, less intelligent dog-walkers. The ones that move to the sign, a tight rein on their pet? Those are great. I love them.

No, it’s the assholes that strut their animals down the streets unleashed, as though the entire cities walkways are theirs and theirs alone. When I come trotting along with my tightly-leashed dog, and their dog, completely ignoring their so-called master’s commands, comes scampering up to my dog, now I’m in a worse spot. My dog is mostly friendly, but there’s certain species that seem to set him off, and there’s no rhyme or reason to it. Hence the reason for the tight damn leash.

If your damn dog doesn’t listen to you in the presence of other animals, leash the goddamn thing.

The other ones I hate are the walkers who are out to give their dogs a “social experience.” You know the ones. They see you walking your dog. They watch as you tighten your grip and shorten the leash and move off to the side…all very obvious signs that says My dog and I are doing all we can to avoid you. So what do these morons do? Of course they bring their stupid dog over to you and usually after the dogs are nose-to-nose, they ask, “Is your dog friendly?”

Little late now, isn’t it asshole? “Nope,” I’m so tempted to say. “He’s responsible for the deaths of four dogs and the maiming of scores more. He’s wanted in eight provinces and can never set foot in a PetSmart again.”

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Anyway, this past week, Maxx and I are out doing our evening constitutional. I manage to avoid all the discarded booger-rags and Maxx is well on his way to getting his fifty-seven pees in. We’re about halfway through the walk and Maxx pulls off to the side and does his hunch-over. I immediately reach for the poop-bag, not taking my eyes off the spot where he’s dropping the deuce. I have to watch because he tends to wander a bit as he does his business, so it’s a bit of a scavenger hunt to get it all. Even more of a challenge at night.

So, there I am, ready to stoop and scoop. Maxx finishes, does his halfhearted scratch and dig at the ground as though he’s doing a brilliant job of covering his mess, and moves off for me to swoop in. As luck would have it, another dog walker has been behind me and, in the time it took for my dog to release the chocolate hostages, they’ve caught up. I rein my dog in while trying not to lose the exact positioning of the tootsie rolls.
And of course, moron heads toward us instead of just walking by. Then he says those three dreaded words, “Is he friendly?”

I say, “It depends on the dog and I’m really just trying to pick up his crap here.” By now, he’s already brought his ugly-ass dog over and Maxx is straining and pulling and, as I said, I never know how he’s going to react, so I’m at DefCon 4, holding him back while still desperately trying keep an eye to the poopsicles. Then the guy, deciding his dog isn’t getting the full social experience, comes in closer.

Now we’re in danger of the two dogs trying to circle each other, hopelessly tangling the two leashes, or worse yet, getting a leash wrapped around a leg. And if that happens to Maxx and he pulls it tight, it’ll hurt. He’ll possibly snap at the other dog, blaming him.

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“Dude, seriously, I really just want to pick up his shit here, okay?” I say, still trying to be polite, but letting annoyance creep into my voice.

Nope, he’s not taking the bait, and now my dog’s getting excited and I know he’s going to get circling soon and then it’s just going to be a damn thing. The other guy and I will then have to move in, try and reposition the dogs or do a whole untangle of the leashes. I’m so not in the mood for this. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t want this.

This guy is not taking the hint. I distinctly remember thinking, Fuck polite. He started it.

So I pull back on Maxx, stand up straight, look this douchenozzle in the eye and say, “Will you please get your goddamn dog away from mine so I can pick up his dogshit? Jesus!”

And which point the guy, now acting all hurt, backs his ugly-ass dog up to the sidewalk. “Okay,” he says. “Geez, I thought you said he was friendly.” He walks away all hurt the way only a douchenozzle can.

“No,” I say. “You didn’t give me a chance to say whether he was or not!” Then, as I go back to look for the dogshit, I finish with, “Next time, ask me if I’m friendly!”

I don’t think our dogs are going to continue to see their newfound relationship blossom. Hell, the next time I see him and his ugly-ass dog, I may just lean down to Maxx, point to them and yell, “KILL!”

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The pirates of Port Perry

My friend Pat over at Nine Day Wonder (who, by the way, did a great interview with me that you should check out right here) is a big crime fiction fan.  So big, in fact, that she’s dragging me into the genre.

Not that I’ve avoided it.  I’ve been reading and loving Elmore Leonard’s stuff for years, as well as Dennis Lehane and a few others.  But in the last few years, Pat’s encouraged me enough to judge unpublished manuscripts of the CWC’s Arthur Ellis awards, got me out to a book launch for a local crime writer, Howard Shrier and even to try my hand at a mystery novel myself…which is a story in its own right.

Anyway, long story short, I remember walking around a bookstore with her a few months back and, in my hazy memory, I seem to remember her telling me that Ian Rankin was a great author.  Fair enough, but I didn’t pick up any of his books at the time, as I’d already grabbed a few books on her recommendation and mentally noted to check him out at some unspecified future date.

Now, flash forward to last Thursday evening when I had occasion to be in the Port Perry hospital visiting both my mother and my aunt–again, another story all on its own.  Here’s the thing…on the way out from the visit, I walked by the gift shop, which was closed.  But they had a wheeled cart stacked high with books.  Taped to the side of the cart was a price list (Hardcovers 50 cents, paperbacks 25 cents, magazines free) and an envelope that you can drop your money in.  Totally on the honour system.

You gotta love small towns, don’t you?

Anyway, not ever able to resist a stack of books, I took a quick scan through and noticed an Ian Rankin book.  Hmm, I thought.  Good way to discover if he is any good.  For 25 cents, how can I go wrong?  Then I found a second book, then a third.

Then I noticed the whole row.  It should be noted that only one of these books even had the spine broken.  They looked brand new.

When I pulled them out and stacked them up and counted them, there was a total of 24 books.  $6.00 for 24 books. Even if I hate the guy, I’ve still spent less than I would on one of his books in Chapters.

I pulled out three toonies and put them in the envelope and trotted my new library out the door.

Then, on the drive back home, I started thinking.  Obviously someone at some time presumably went to a store and purchased these books at full price and Mr. Rankin dutifully received his cut.

The owner then either read the books, or cast them aside, eventually donating them somewhere that they would end up in a cart under my questing fingers.  And the hospital got the rough equivalent of four Tim Horton’s coffees out of my pocket.

So, here’s where my thoughts went: How is this different from internet piracy?
Let me put it another way.  If I went online today and managed to find a copy of the latest John Grisham or Danielle Steele or Patricia Cornwell or Stephen King or the aforementioned Elmore Leonard or Dennis Lehane.  Pick your famous author.  Let’s say I found an ebook version of one of their books that could be copied.  Let’s say I purchased that ebook for the full price.
Then, after reading the book, it’s just sitting there.  Now, let’s say I’m a disciplined guy and I offer that ebook up on the internet for 25 cents to the first person that reaches out to me.  And they pay me and I send them the book.
That’s piracy.  Arrrrrr, ya scurvy dog!
I can be fined or sentenced to jail time or whatever.  It’s Not Good.  Right?
Now, I’m not naive.  I know that whenever music files or movies or ebooks are shared, they aren’t just shared with one person.  That’s the thing with an electronic copy of anything, it can be copied as much as possible without any loss of quality.  So when they’re shared, they’re shared with the world.
And here’s another thing to think about.  If the Port Perry hospital had had only the one Ian Rankin book, I would have tossed my quarter into the envelope, and from there, read the book and possibly enjoyed it enough to go pick up another book or two from Rankin, thereby adding to his income.
Instead, from what I can tell, I got the full collection of his Inspector Rebus novels, as well as a bunch of others.  24 books spans a lot of years of writing.  Unless Rankin releases something new, I’ve got a ton of his books, enough to last me a couple of years at the very least.  I won’t be buying anything new from him for a long while.
So, did this help Rankin?  Or hurt him?
I’ve gone out into the Twitterverse and talked about how I think piracy can help as much as it hinders.  I’ll admit to downloading an illegal copy of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club which I then enjoyed immensely.  To prove my point, I then posted the picture of the 11 Palahniuk books I purchased at full price, including Fight Club.  The first Harry Potter adventure was the first audiobook I ever listened to and, not sure that I would even like audiobooks, I got a copy from the internet.
Not only did that cause me to purchase audiobooks going forward, but it also spurred me to buy every book J. K. Rowling released.
So, in these cases, did piracy hurt Rowling?  Or Palahniuk?  Or the audiobook market?  Hell no.
And personally, if my book Vanishing Hope ever gets released in ebook format, personally, I almost hope it’ll be pirated.  Yes, it won’t earn me any money, but I guarantee a lot more people will know my name, get exposed to my writing and perhaps, going forward, decide to purchase something else I wrote.
But back to the 25 cent books.  My question is, why is it legal for all the used book sellers to do so?  The authors aren’t making money off it.  The publishers aren’t.  And yet, within a half-hour’s drive, I know of at least stores of the top of my head that engage in this process.
Why aren’t the publishers going nuts over this?  How many stores sell used books nationally?  Internationally?
But which is sexier?  Online pirates are definitely sexier.  They’re the Captain Jack Sparrows to the retail stores…Cap’n Crunch (sorry, I couldn’t come up with an unsexy pirate).
And yes, the online pirates definitely have more reach.
But seriously.  In my opinion, online pirates have led me to actually spending money for stuff.  The Pirates of Port Perry got six bucks out of me and stopped me from paying retail for Ian Rankin.
Think about it.

Increasing Hope

It’s happened.  As of this Thursday, I’m officially a published author.

It’s something I’ve thought about a lot, talked about a lot, dreamed about a lot, and yes, even fantasized about a lot.  And it’s something that, as I got older and older, I also wondered about a lot too.

Would I ever get published?  Would someone ever like something I wrote enough to commit their time, resources, money and dedication to?  Turns out, the answer to that is a yes.

In two more days, I will be holding a copy of a book with my name on the cover, courtesy of Burning Effigy Press.

Burning Effigy is a micropress, so I’m telling you now you’re not going to be able to go to your local megalithic franchise bookstore and find my book.  As they say on their site:

Burning Effigy Press was founded in 1999 as a way to bring fringe poetry, prose and fiction out from the trenches and onto the pages of chapbooks and anthologies. The driving force of Burning Effigy has always been that we are writers publishing writers. That said, we ain’t in this shit for the bucks, we’re in it because we love books and we love the scene. More so, we love writing that moves, frightens or forces us to think in different ways. We love words that scream and bleed from the page and demand to be heard.

In March 2007, Burning Effigy Press relaunched with a new brand new genre focus and many big surprises in store. Since then, we’ve published some fine horror scribes such as Gemma Files, Richard Gavin, Lee Thomas, and Ian Rogers, and garnered Bram Stoker Award nominations in the Long-Form Fiction category with Nicholas Kaufmann’s 2007 novella General Slocum’s Gold and Weston Ochse’s 2008 novella Redemption Roadshow.

The line I like the most?  “…we ain’t in this shit for the bucks, we’re in it because we love books…”

It’s very much in line with a response I got from my editor, Monica, when I asked her today what would constitute a book that bombed versus one that exceeded expectations.  She gave me some numbers, which is good, you need to know your tipping point.  But I loved what she followed it up with.  She said, “…numbers matter little to me in the end…it’s the stories that matter the most.”

So I found a publisher that, while not one of the giant ones that sell books in the numbers John Grisham, Danielle Steele and Stephen King are used to, took me on because they believed in my writing.   That means a lot to me.

It also means a lot because I know how much effort has gone into this book.  I know the absolute painstaking care that BE, and Monica in particular, put into ensuring the right word choices were there, the layout was perfect, the cover was attention-grabbing.

Not that I had any doubt on any of this.  When Monica initially offered to publish me, she set me up with a few of the books she’d already published.  The first thing that struck me was the incredible loving care that went into each one of these books.  I’ve seen a lot of chapbooks in my time.  Carelessly thrown together things, covers that barely approximate, let alone complement the story inside.  Terrible writing, little or no editing.

Most of the chapbooks I’d seen published prior to this showed no pride of ownership, from the author or the publisher.

Burning Effigy’s on the other hand.  Man, these were works of art.  A lot of thought obviously went into the covers.  But more importantly, the stories themselves were fantastic.  Not the same old stuff.  Engaging, creative stories.

So I had no concerns signing up with BE.  And I had high expectations for the look and feel of my book, under their guidance.  Monica initially reached out and told me to start thinking about the cover.  Considering this is a couple of years of the life of Talia, a roughly nine-year-old little girl who comes across as fairly nice, but has dark, hidden depths of darkness in her, I gave her some of my ideas and she took them away.

Later, she helped me shape that idea a little more.  I looked over some photos and found something that I thought might work okay.  So, I did some quick messing around and sent her my ideas.

My story, without giving too much away, has this little girl doing some very, very nasty things to some animals and some people.  Some deserve it.  Some don’t.  She’s not too picky about that.  And in the end, this is what I got as the cover image.

And as far as I’m concerned, this is Talia.  No question.  I’ve been looking at this image now for a few days.  It never fails to creep me out a bit.  But it goes beyond that.  The type is simple, clean and understated and doesn’t detract from the main strength of the image.

By the way, I haven’t had a chance to thank either of them yet, but the photo is by Belovodchenko Anton, and the manipulation and cover design is by Justin Erickson.  I owe you both, big time.

As I said, I had high expectations coming into this project.  What I’ve seen so far?  Blows away anything I might have expected.

In two days I’m going to be a published author.  I’ve been riding a high all week, friends and co-workers have been crazy supportive.  I figured I’d try and drum up a little local publicity for myself, so today I reached out to the local paper to see if they maybe wanted to do a piece on the publication.

Ah yes, when you get too high, there’s got to be something that brings you back down to earth.  And my crash landing was courtesy of our local paper.  His response to my request?  Very polite, but then he went on to say, “I hate to be discouraging but I have a fairly lengthy list of local authors who have released books.”

Huh.  “Fairly lengthy…”

Ah well, I bet none of them have as killer a cover as I have.  And I’m fairly certain they aren’t backed by a feisty publisher like mine either.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk a little more about the book itself.