Friday, May 31, 2013

Dependence and Coercion.

Photo by Virginia Reza (Wiki Commons.)

I was standing out in front of the food bank, waiting for the doors to open, when the cops drove by. It’s the same thing every time, and it got me thinking.

"...there is a strong correlation between intolerance and insecurity..." - Patterns of Dominance, Phillip Mason.

In terms of context, Mason is speaking of the image of the Indian, subject to both social dependence and coercion in the past.

At first, the fur traders lived among them, and saw them as indispensible for the trade. When settlers displaced the fur trade, attitudes changed. Native Canadians were in the way of agricultural development. Settlers had gone through a social upheaval, having immigrated from another country, in search of fortune—a kind of social mobility promised by cheap land and a chance to be independent. They were scared, they had heard all kinds of lurid accounts of native Canadians, and they saw what they expected to see.

Extrapolating from that, the same attitudes apply to other minorities, and it holds true today in terms of attitudes towards Muslims, recipients of social assistance, the disabled, gays, you name it. It applies in a kind of universal social law. It is almost as if the insecure need to reassure themselves that they are in fact superior to someone else. They are in the process of improving their social status, with its concomitant rewards of better food, better housing, better educational prospects for their children.

Like the natives in the fur trade, a disabled person is someone who is not useful in society. They have become a burden, an impediment to progress and 'prosperity for all.'

ODSP Reform.

Is the government serious about ODSP reform? I think it's a scare tactic--a form of coercion. The object was to scare the disabled into shutting up about our very reasonable demands for social equity.

In situations of dependence, there is very often a kind of coercion to be found.

Battered women are unable to leave the abusive relationship for any number of reasons. The spouse is a good provider. There is a kind of security in the relationship, it doesn’t happen all the time, and perhaps the victim is afraid of repercussions. They find a way to justify it, for the price of leaving may be very high. There is extortion, often something held over their heads, anything from custody of the children, to threats of murder, other forms of blackmail, or in some cases it’s just the constant battering of the victim’s self-esteem that renders them unable to act effectively on their own. The abusive partner has defined them, and after a while, the victim knows who they are and is no longer able to resist. The abusive spouse gets a domestic and sexual slave—their motivation is much clearer.

Don't let others define you.

That’s why it’s so important to set our own agendas, not to accept someone else’s terms of reference or definitions. Obviously this can be very difficult for a victim whose personal resources, especially of the inner, moral kind, are at low ebb. They have been broken down.

When you think of Canada’s native peoples, the same principles apply. In spite of reputed efforts of government after government, native peoples have never been assimilated into mainstream Canadian society. Over time, all immigrant groups have successfully done so.

Are native Canadians somehow ‘different?’ They didn’t even have to immigrate. They start off right here at home.

Or were they just trained differently, over the course of several generations?

Outstanding issues of historical redress, land claims issues and the like are never resolved, and yet decades and centuries have gone by. And native stereotypes persist—the drunken Indian image, the criminal cigarette-smuggler image. The masked warrior at Oka image, the image of a people who are four times more likely to end up in jail compared to ‘regular’ Canadians sort of image…for surely it works both ways and can be twisted back and forth to suit the prejudice of the beholder.

Natives still live on reservations. For our society to give up that reservation mentality, would be very difficult after all this time. It is seen as the natural thing to do. It has become accepted. And in some ways, native Canadians themselves don’t want to give up those reservations, because they are a symbol, and the land they hold is all that is left of their heritage in the material sense. This is an oversimplification, but it has been accepted by both sides of the equation for too long.

People are sometimes marginalized for sound economic policy.

One of the reasons Ontario’s disabled people are afraid to speak out strongly about social equity is because they fear repercussions, reprisals against them, and of course they are dependent on the largesse of the taxpayers. This may seem irrational, but a captive audience can be made to believe anything, even things they knew to be untrue before being exposed to long-term propaganda. Luckily, a lot of disabled people used to have jobs, used to have homes, and had independence of their own. They remember the higher social status, and how they were treated before becoming dependent on the government and the taxpayers.

Negotiating social order.

Negotiating social order and the equitable redistribution of wealth, important in any state, also takes experience at communication, and many disabled aren’t particularly well-educated. It takes self-confidence to present an effective argument. Where would they acquire such self-confidence?

In my personal experience, self-confidence stems not from success so much, but in surviving defeat. Your experience may vary, but it stems from perseverance, and a strong faith in oneself. It stems from a strong sense of self-worth.

No supernatural causes.

When I became an atheist, there were no longer any external reference points for making moral judgments. It all had to come from within. It turns out I’m a pretty good guy, and this when there are no supernatural causes in this universe.

Our attitudes and prejudices are ingrained into us from a very early age. I had a Catholic education, for what it’s worth, and I watched all the same TV shows and read all the same books as the reader probably did. I went to the same schools and played in the same little-league sports.

It would cost money to provide jobs, it costs money to make public and private buildings wheelchair accessible, it costs money to train unskilled people in the sort of skilled occupations that would be appropriate to someone with a given disability. It’s cheaper to keep them at home, although the government never admits that. Society in general, and intolerant people in particular prefer to think of the disabled as criminals, mentally ill, dependent children with no thoughts or minds of their own. Lazy and useless people who don’t want to work. We get paid to sit around and do nothing. I’ve heard that one a million times.

We are all retarded in the view of some people. And retarded people don't have an opinion.

'Surely there must be something you can do.'

Mental illness can make a person unemployable. This is an unpalatable thought for some. Yet the very same folks, if they knew a job applicant suffered from depression or schizophrenia, wouldn’t hire them. They wouldn’t be willing to take a chance on them, even as they were telling the victim of this discrimination, ‘Surely there must be something you can do.”

I throw the words right back into your face.

“Surely there must be something you can do.” And there is—you just don’t want to do it.

Surely most if not all disabled people would prefer to be self-sufficient. Have you ever wondered what would happen if someone actually succeeded, and got off of ODSP? Under the terms and provisions of the ODSP guidelines, recipients can be asked to pay back benefits. When you think in terms of a single person who might have been on benefits for ten years, that would be well over $120,000. That’s a pretty daunting prospect for someone who might be barely keeping their head above water on some minimum-wage job, and it’s still daunting even if they had the great good fortune to bag employment as a pension administrator at $70,000 per annum.

Let’s be clear: it would be hard for the average Canadian bourgeois family, with a household income of $150,000 a year, because after all, they still want a roof over their heads, they’ll need transportation to and from work, then there’s food, fuel, insurance…the list is long. The point is, that repayment of benefits is not only punitive—a kind of coercion—and an obvious disincentive to succeed at anything. It is essentially restitution—a criminal paying back the proceeds of a crime to the courts, and of course a very small percentage of that would end up in the victim’s pocket. That’s because administration costs are everything in such situations.

Self-sufficiency is a key element in personal well-being.
While this theory speaks about Imperialism or colonialism, there are certain parallels.

Coercion theory.

Coercion diplomacy.


Kenneth Coates, from Best Left as Indians, on the police administration of welfare in the Yukon.

“Relief, or welfare, has long been the government program most readily associated with Indians.
A myth developed in the 1900-1950 period, and persists today, concerning the natives' reaction to the availability of relief. The standard account is that the Indians readily surrendered to the convenience of government assistance, abandoning more rigourous pursuits in favour of supplication at the Indian Agent's table. Those administering the relief program in the territory almost universally shared this belief, and their attitudes played a major role in shaping the program. As the Yukon experience demonstrates, that image was a misleading portrayal of native interest in government handouts.

Federal authorities initially refused to accept any obligation for native suffering, doggedly maintaining that the arrival of the white man had been of considerable benefit to the Indians.

Faced with the potential starvation of a small band of Indians at Moosehide in 1900, the government finally acted.

N.W.M.P. Inspector Z. Wood of Dawson authorized immediate distribution of food to alleviate the crisis, only applying for official permission after the fact.

The government insisted that ‘whenever possible the Indians should be required to perform labour or supply game, skins or other commodities in return for the provisions issued to them.’

In the short term, however, police officers were enjoined to ‘provide against anything like destitution.’

From 1900 onward, the government provided parsimonious relief assistance to those truly in need. Few took up the offer however, limiting the welfare rolls to a small number of widowed, aged or infirm natives.

The relief system was occasionally required to respond to more widespread destitution, as occurred in 1905 near McQuesten and 1912 in the southern Yukon, when game stocks unexpectedly proved insufficient. While few came forward to claim these fruits of the government's munificence, the police officials in charge of the program before 1914 believed that the availability of relief rendered the Indians graceless supplicants.

As the Commanding Officer of the Whitehorse Detachment commented in 1908, ‘It is evident that the government assistance given to sick and destitute Indians at Whitehorse is most injurious to the well being and morale of the Indians.’

He then proceeded to ascribe alcohol abuse, prostitution and general laziness to the ‘pernicious effect’ of relief. As a counter-measure, the police imposed controlling mechanisms to protect against abuse. Inspector Horrigan noted in 1912 that ‘young husky Indians asking for provisions were asked to split some stove wood. Needless to say in every case they found that after all they did not require provisions. This plan has worked admirably in weeding out the undeserving cases.’

Those in need found assistance from the government but, self-righteously convinced that the Indians were inveterate malingerers, police officers closely regulated their disbursements.”


Hopefully the reader will bear in mind that the police administration of welfare was the cheapest option. Acting quickly in an emergency was the right thing to do. Over the long term, the police probably hated the duty.

The infrastructure, such as it was, was already in place. Also, welfare, while it is social assistance, is not a disability pension. By definition, the recipient is able to work. What is interesting in Coates’ story is that the natives were reluctant to accept subsistence except when it was strictly necessary for survival, and an ‘entitlement mentality,’ if I may call it that, simply did not develop.

Anybody that doesn’t think subsistence—food, shelter or clothing, can be used in a coercive manner has never told their kid that if they don’t behave, they won’t get any desert. In other words, it’s bullshit.

Best Left as Indians, Kenneth Coates

Ontario’s disabled, the mentally ill and working poor families are lining up at food banks three or four times a month. Why is that?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013



Troopers Lorne and Willy supervised the disembarkation from opposite sides of the ramp.

The refugees streamed past in a forlorn river of unwashed humanity.

It was better than the Front. Willy nodded with a grim look, raising his weapon a little higher and jerking the tip in an effort speed them up, but they kept their heads down, families, children, old couples, young men and women. Most clutched bundles, what few possessions they had been allowed to remove from their homes.

There was a crunch of gravel behind him. His guts were already tense when Kossovitch paused beside him.

“How’s it going?”

“Fine, sir.”

The grey faces held no joy but Kossovitch’s tone was amicable, unusual for her.

“Look at them.”

Lorne wondered what she meant, involuntarily turning and meeting her eyes. Red-rimmed, bags of exhaustion under them, they were still expressionless, taut with unspoken emotions.


She looked away without responding as a small boy tugged at the hem of his battledress.

“Mister Soldier Sir?”

“Yes, boy?”

Kossovitch stiffened beside him.

The kid proffered something, a book. A kid’s book. Lorne shook his head. Kossovitch had a funny look on her face as he looked at her again.

“Keep moving, kid.” The boy looked to be about nine years old.

“Where’s your mother?” Lieutenant Kossovitch must have gotten fucked last night.

He’d never seen her like this.

The kid shrugged.

“It’s okay, boy. You can keep it.”

They were allowed to bring what they could carry. That was the rule and for the most part it was respected. Every single thing, any little thing of value had already been stripped away from them, and now they were to be resettled.

“I’ll take that.” Kossovitch’s tone was soft and motherly.

His guts went all queasy as the boy handed it over.

Lorne jerked his head to keep the kid moving along as an endless file of unwanted strangers passed down the ramp.

Kossovitch looked at it. She put it in her pocket. In one smooth action, she drew her pistol and shot the boy through the head. His fine mop of tousled blonde hair flew out in all directions as he spun away, arms and legs flailing.

“Aw, shit, Lieutenant.” Lorne backed up a couple of steps, cocking his weapon, sweeping the tip back and forth in case any refugeess should come this way.

People ran in mad panic, mostly away from the ship but some tried to go back up the ramp.

Willy was bowled over in a thin wave of panicked humanity, but he came up cursing and cocked his weapon. Whistles and shouts sounded behind them as reinforcements came running.

Kossivitch’s weapon spoke once, twice, three times and ragged figures went tumbling as she giggled and clutched her stomach with her left hand.

“Aw, shit, Lieutenant. Now we’ll never get them off.”

The kid stared up at the sky, mouth moving, limbs thrashing. It took him a long time to die as Captain Pyke came running up with gun drawn.

“What happened here, Lieutenant?”

She looked at Lorne.

“I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t see what started it.”

“Shut up. I’m asking her, trooper.” Flecks of foam came from the captain’s mouth.

He knew the difficulty of removing refugees from a ship when they didn’t want to go, and the news would flash through those still inside the transport.

“He came towards us and put his hand in his pocket, sir.” Kossovitch wasn’t laughing now.

Lorne looked straight ahead as small gangs of men pursued the civilians, and rounded up the stragglers cowering under the ship from the bright light of day and the fear of the unknown.

“Get these people moving.” The batch they had were herded towards the entry gate.

Peering up into the darkness of the ship, Lorne made out the pale faces of those staring out in fear, a seething mass of folks in the dark disembarkation chamber, pushed relentlessly by the pressure of the masses behind them.

“It’s okay.” Lorne yelled up at them.

He jerked the muzzle of the gun, willing them to come down. Hoarse voices came from inside the ship as the troopers in there tried to get them moving again, and a swelling of sound came from the refugees even as truncheons rose and fell.

“Get that body out of here!” Willy ran forward and dragged the boy away by the feet towards the darkness by the right rear landing gear of the vessel.

“You two are on report.”

“Yes, sir.” The captain strode up the ramp.

He grabbed an old lady by the arm, and dragged her, kicking and screaming out into the light. A man, probably her husband, clung to the two of them, crying and begging, but the captain ignored him.

He gave them a shove in the direction of the gate.

“Go!” He pointed as the man tried to lift the woman from the dust and pull her towards the back of the huddled queue there as the troopers outside the dome tried to keep order on what was essentially a herd.

Kossovitch turned to him with a smirk.

“Thanks. You want this?”

He shook his head.

“No. Give it to your own kid.”

She stuck it into her side pocket again before the captain had time to look around. Lorne stared at the blood on the sand as the people were herded down the ramp at bayonet point.

While they had all been looking forward to landing and getting some fresh air and sunshine at last, what started off as a regular day had just turned to pure shit as Lorne poked people with the muzzle of his gun and tried to hustle them along.

There were fifty thousand of the fuckers in there and he hoped this wouldn’t take all damned day.


“Come on man, let’s go.”

The evening light grew dimmer. Willy was a hard man to shake, and so Lorne didn’t even try any more. They attended the evening presentation. It wasn’t obligatory, but why take chances? That was what everyone said.

The first half hour was cartoons of the most secular nature. The feature film was called Why We Fight and while everyone there had seen it a hundred times before, it was something, which was better than nothing and at least killed a couple of hours.

Outside the open-air amphitheatre, set into a hillside, they paused for a moment when Willy grabbed his elbow.

“Look, I’m sorry, but some guys asked me to play cards. They got a bottle.”

Lorne’s eyes widened slightly. He’d sort of assumed Willy’s company, not that it wouldn’t be bothersome and boring at best, but he was now at a bit of a loss.

“Hey, no problem.” Willy nodded, his prominent eyes bulging even more than usual.

“Thanks for understanding, man. See you tomorrow.”


Willy turned and headed off towards the far end of camp, sticking to the perimeter patrol track. Lorne, eyebrows cocked in disbelief, could think of nothing other than a quiet night in his berth. Nerves still jangled by the stress of the morning, it wasn’t his favourite idea but he had nothing else.

Outside of the complex the planet was barren of life or entertainment for five hundred kilometres in any direction.

When he arrived back on the ship, he opened up the door to his nine-by twelve with micro-head as befitted full trooper status, one of the perks of this particular duty, and was confounded by light under the bathroom door—which he never closed, and some odd smell in the room.

A light snapped on and the hatch locks clunked closed behind him.

“Whoa. Lieutenant Rossovitch?”

“Call me Pattie.” She reached down beside the table and then held up a Mickey-bottle.

She’d already had a couple by the looks of the level. The amber fluid inside wobbled slightly from momentum.

“Is that my liquor?”

She got up, came over and stood directly in front of him.

“Drink. That’s an order.”

Taking the bottle, his eyes never leaving hers for a second, he tipped it back on an awkward angle. Lorne gasped, wiping a drop off his chin with the back of his hand.

“All you had to do was ask. I was just thinking of a drink anyway.”

Taking the bottle back from Lorne, Rossovitch secured the screw-cap and tossed it onto the couch.

Her eyes bored into his.

“Rape me.”

His mouth opened but nothing came out.

“…and that’s an order too.”

“Holy…” Lorne was in trouble now.

The question was whether to die happy or disappointed.

“Yes…sir.” He could at least try.

“Please call me Pattie.” Water welled up in her eyes as he stepped forward and took her in his arms, sure as shooting that it was all some mad sort of test, one that he had already failed somehow, and that he would be shot in the morning.

Pushing her back a couple of feet, he kissed her, tongue exploring her mouth and eventually fighting and struggling with hers. They hugged fiercely, neither one saying a word.

He let go and pushed her away.


She stood with shining eyes and water coming down her face as he pulled the low coffee table out of the middle of the floor and then took pillows and covers off his bed. Throwing them down on the floor, he grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her to him. Without being too rough, he let her know who was boss, as her breath rattled in her throat from need and excitement.

Then they were naked, clothes, shoes and socks thrown or dropped everywhere.

“Down. Hand and knees.”

She went down on all fours in front of him. Her eyes went from his crotch to his face and back again. She thought she knew what he wanted, and she knew what she wanted. He made her wait as he found the bottle again. He took a long swig, standing with his cock flying at full mast inches in front of her eyes and her wet red lips as she licked them, her breasts wobbling from emotion and her breathing.

“Turn around.”


Carefully, lightly, he slapped her, sending her scurrying around to present him with her buttocks.

One dark eye peered back at him over her shoulder, long red marks from his fingers visible on her left cheek.

Lorne dropped to his knees behind her. He held her left thigh and pushed his other index finger into her vagina as Pattie gasped and pushed back at him, moaning and with her one eye never leaving him.

”Mike.” She moaned and gasped.

He lowered his face and tried to shove his tongue right up her ass as she gave a little half-scream, choked off almost instantly from being overheard as several voices were right outside on the other side of those curtains. The sound died away again and they relaxed a little.

“I—I never knew you felt that way about me, Trooper Lorne—“

“Call me Mike.”

She sighed and snorted as he went in again.

“Just keeping a little promise I made to myself a long time ago.”

She cranked her head around, with an incredulous look on her face.

“I’ve wanted to do that from the minute I laid eyes on you…Lieutenant Rossovitch.” Mike crawled around beside her, conscious of the hot friction of the rough Army blanket under his knees.

At right angles to her, he nuzzled up beside her ear, sticking his tongue inside and slopping it around.


“Oh…fuck me, Mike. Please don’t let me wait. Please don’t torment me.”

“When I’m ready. But first, a little torment.” She twisted her head and their mouths met.

He gave her a short, sharp spank on the ass even with her mouth locked on his and fresh tears started from her eyes. She flinched but their mouths remained locked and their gaze unwavering. He stared deep into her eyes from two inches away. Mike let her have a little air as the breath was rough and loud in her nostrils.

“Thank you, Mike”

“You’re welcome, Pattie.”

Mike Lorne proceeded to fulfill one or two other promises he’d made to himself, carrying Pattie Rossovitch along with him, glorious in her lithe form, with her firm, conical breasts and thick, flaxen hair, right there on the floor of his plain old nine by twelve.

The second time, and it was her own idea, she sucked on his cock and he came right in her face, watching in sublime erotic bliss as she licked and gobbled the semen from his penis and thanking her master profusely for the privilege.

With the hands of the clock on the side wall reminding them of duty tomorrow, finally the frenzy of mutual lust and need ended and they cuddled together on the blanket, clinging tightly against the coming day. Neither one said a word. They were unable to pull their eyes apart.

After a long while, she slumped in pure emotional and spiritual exhaustion, leaving Mike Lorne to hold the girl in his arms, marvel at his good fortune, wonder how the hell it would all turn out, and praying like hell that nothing would go wrong and that no one would ever find out.


When he woke up she was gone. A bare glimmer of grey light at the edge of the front curtain made him look at the clock, but he still had ten or twenty minutes yet. He stayed under the blanket, heart palpitating.

He knew why she did it, of course. The thought of the kid, packed inside the dome by the door party, for the last five or ten thousand passengers were always a struggle to get in, and by that time the folks inside knew something was up.

The trooper on duty pushing the button and walking away…the sounds, even the heaving of the sides of the structure sometimes, as the place began to heat up and the moaning, screaming, seething mass of humanity inside began to suffocate from the heat and burn from the floors and walls whenever they touched anything…

It was more merciful really. In that sense, the kid was lucky. He never knew what hit him.

Why in the hell she decided to do Mike Lorne was another question, one with more slightly more subtle motivations.

As he flung the blankets aside and began to put the room together again on wobbly legs and trembling knees, longing for a quick shower, the electric kettle steamed and it was all he could do just to marvel.


Ann surveyed the mountain of gear and supplies with a jaundiced eye. She turned and followed Jackson into the tent, with his burly shoulders forcing a passage through the mob.

They had over eleven hundred people to feed, house and clothe during the first winter on the planet, which was three months away.

The work was daunting, with limited numbers of tools and inexperienced people. But the decision had been made and the senior officer on the ground had better get them moving. Behind the communal dining tent, gaily striped and more normally meant for shore functions during flag-showing operations in peacetime, loomed the sharp prows of their small flotilla.

She stood at the front of the tent, looking out over a mass of faces, with the light mostly coming from above through the thin fabric as there wasn’t room enough for everybody and the crowd circled all around outside.

“All right, people.” The buzz and hum of talk began to lessen.

“Thank you for your help in unloading.” She wondered when they would begin to revert to civilians. “We have hot food coming thanks to the volunteers and we all need to get a good night’s sleep tonight.”

Tomorrow they would begin to build a new life on the ground.


The three ships remaining hovered at zero velocity in relation to a line drawn between the Mother Worlds, a relatively small volume of the galaxy, and a particularly active radio source. They were undetectable at this range.

Senior officers regarded each other on their view screens. A decision had been made. The ships were operating with skeleton staff.

“So we are agreed then.” The Vice Commodore of the Fleet, now commanding what was believed to be the last striking force of the Polity looked out at all crew members, laugh lines by his mouth and humourous crinkles at the corners of his eyes betrayed by the ashen skin and grim resolution on his face.

“Aye.” They answered as one, without a quaver in their voices or a hint of hesitation.


Thirteen days later, coming in on a vector designed to elude analysis and pursuit, the three ships and the men and women dying of radiation sickness inside them plunged out of the sky at near-infinite mass and velocity into the glittering capital of the Mother Worlds.

They had no way of knowing, but their timing was fortunate and their supreme sacrifice was not in vain.

Fearless Leader and the bulk of her cabinet were instantly vapourized and their ashes subsumed in the boiling cauldron of molten rock and burning gases, fifty kilometres in radius, that had once been a city of a hundred and fifty million people.

News feeds carried the story in pictures, sound and commentary, to all worlds and outposts. While the grief and shock were considerable, there were other enclaves of Government and the leadership selection process was already underway.

The news feeds left no doubts in the minds of their stunned citizenry that the War and the Sacred Cleansing of mongrel peoples would go on, and that one day very, very soon, the Galaxy would be safe for decent people everywhere.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Art of the Gag.

I call it The Art of the Gag.

So much of my work begins with a process similar to Jimmy Carr writing a joke. I take something and invert it, I twist it and rearrange it. I turn it upside down and see what falls out.

In ‘Heaven Is Too Far Away,’ I took the classic Peanuts (by Charles Schultz) bit where Snoopy is always after the Red Baron, and tried to do the same thing but as realistically as possible. Yet the actual conflict between Will Tucker and the Baron is completely manufactured, almost with a view to the headlines. They’re just soldiers in the end, and it’s ‘nothing personal,’ as is said in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. (No, it’s just good business.)

Historically, there has always been a debate, and a meaningless one on the face of it, as to who actually shot down the Red Baron. Australian historians claim it was Aussie machine gunners, and Canadian historians claim it was Roy Brown, although both sides always admit to the other conflicting claims, and other historians in other countries, those having no stake in the outcome, have differing points of view. What I did with that book was to find that crack in history, and wedge my character in by careful pounding with a sledge hammer, and now there are three possibilities. Although Lt. Colonel Will Tucker carefully denies shooting down the Red Baron in the same engagement, the reader is left with the distinct impression that he might have.

Another gag I managed to work in was the aerial combat with Herman Goering. In the end, Will decides to let him live when Goering’s guns jam. While it’s never openly stated in the book, Will has just won the Second World War without firing a shot, because Herman goes on to build the Luftwaffe, with its emphasis on blitzkrieg, lightning war, and therefore he did not create a strategic air force capable of defeating Britain before the western allies became involved, which a more competent man might have done.

The point is, it’s all about apportioning the glory, and official histories are chock-full of that sort of thing, even though they would never admit to it. They’re arguing about who gets the glory, ladies and gentlemen. Well, whoever shot at Goering and missed in good old WW I, should get some of the glory for winning WW II. Tucker also strafed good old Adolf Hitler, incidentally. Unfortunately, he missed. Otherwise, he would have won WW II, which might not have happened at all, and he would have done it single-handedly, although he had a rear gunner along for the ride.

That’s the art of the gag.

In ‘The Second Coming,’ I extrapolated about what could happen when I saw the world’s first pregnant man interviewed on CNN. Only I had to have a gag, so I made sure he was date-raped, had no memory of the event, and was a divorced heterosexual man just to rub the point in a bit. The art of the gag, right? I even hazarded a guess as to who might want to do something like that and why. Yet a pseudo-memoir such as ‘Heaven’ might have worked here too. The art of the gag requires some daring, because it’s a different approach and people wonder why in the hell a writer would ever want to take such a risk.

Honestly, if I wanted to write about Canadians and aerial combat and WW I, there are proper ways to go about it, using straighforward historical sources, a conventional approach, and a suitably reverent point of view...

In the story ‘Wendigo’ I experimented with native mythology, only instead of a real Wendigo, a kind of native zombie, we’re dealing with something different, and yet still relevant to native history and experience. The story actually deals with alcoholism, which must have seemed magical, mysterious and totally evil when it first manifested itself in the native village. No one had ever seen it before, and they had only cultural equivalents to describe what they were seeing. They hadn’t invented the proper words yet.

The art of the gag doesn’t necessarily have to be comedic. It’s a way of getting at the truth, using the unexpected along with a little suspense and mystification to keep the reader following along, hopefully finishing the story.

As John Candy told Steve Martin in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, “…a story should have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener.”

The gag is surprisingly important to me. On some theoretical level, I can (or at least should be able to) write anything I want. Right now, I haven’t written anything in over a week. That’s troubling because a writer who isn’t writing is basically just a useless person. Not to put too fine a point on it, that’s why I took up writing in the first place—it’s the only thing I’m good for these days. The art of the gag is that the camera sees everything, and I just write it down. The camera sees the man step over the banana peel—and then fall down an open manhole cover. The trouble is that I’m not seeing anything lately.

Part of the problem is that without television, bad as it can be, I’m not seeing the contradictions. I don’t get out much, there’s that total lack of stimulus.

There’s no stimulation of my ‘aw, fuck off’ bone, where I see the ridiculousness of human perceptions, attitudes, and unconscious prejudices, (especially prejudices) and other things that are the common cannon fodder for the art of the gag. Without TV I’m not seeing that bad history, or bad science, mucky thinking, misleading reporting, half-truths, mob opinions, or just plain bad shows and bad movies, which people love in spite of it all. Without a TV there’s not much for me to parody, and I don’t get the paper these days either.

The internet is so much more proactive—I have to think of something first and then Google it. It’s not like it comes to me on a random basis, which in some surreal fashion, inspires me to have a bash at it. That randomness, that spontaneity of influence, is important to the art of the gag. And as I come to the end of this post, it suddenly struck me that if the British Empire had not collapsed after the west won WW II, the world might have turned out a lot differently.

They might have gone on to establish some kind of world hegemony.

Fuck, I wonder what that would have been like--I suspect a bit too much like StarFleet for my comfort. Yes, a world where all good thing stem from some sort of benevolent hierarchical entity, where racial science is discredited, yet notions of nobility, aristocracy and kinship are carefully preserved.

So we're back to writing about Canada again.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Three-Way Smackdown; Hillerman vs Deaver vs Grisham

A Three-Way Smackdown.

I borrowed three paperback thrillers recently. Part of learning involves checking out other writers, seeing what they got and how they do things. I also like to read just before I go to bed and I had run out of books.

It helps me sleep, and so when I saw them I grabbed them.

I read Tony Hillerman’s ‘Dark Wind’ first, then Jefferey Deaver’s ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ and now I’m working on John Grisham’s ‘The Client.’

The Client is also a film starring Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones.

All three are best-selling authors, and the writing is professional grade. It’s interesting to analyze between them. Deaver’s book has a sharp emotional shock right off the bat. The pyromaniac arsonist Sonny has a woman bound and gagged and he’s about to torch her apartment. That one got me in the guts in a way that Hillerman didn’t, although in his book the first body is a man who has had the skin removed from the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet. There’s Hopi and Navajo religion, some witchery involved maybe, and I don’t know, it was all right in its own way. It’s a boy who sees him first. But it somehow lacks emotional punch.

For one thing, we didn’t watch him die. The writer left his body lying in the desert to be found. Also, the idea of death by fire in 'Hell’s Kitchen' is horrifying to pretty much any reader. Deaver had the first victim, a lady, bound and gagged and watching the guy get ready to torch the place.

Grisham had some tough choices when dealing with child characters. I saved him for last, as I had read ‘The Painted House,’ and ‘The Street Lawyer,’ and now this one. In ‘The Painted House’ there is a scene where a guy is killed in a knife fight. Grisham can write horror or terror or call it what you want. He can write it. I know that much.

I’m sure we’ve all enjoyed ‘The Pelican Brief’ with Julia Roberts at her best.

All three authors tend to use about the same amount of description, and they all weave short descriptive passages through the narrative. In many ways they are all equally competent. I rated Hillerman four stars on Goodreads. Deaver got five stars for that emotional level. Now, how in the heck can I give Grisham six stars for what is a superior book in a dozen ways?

You can’t really do it, can you?

This is a concern when rating books. Everyone wants a five-star review, but the question of how many of us actually deserve one is perhaps a contentious one…

Grisham doesn’t have quite so much the emotional impact as Deaver’s book. The kid Mark witnesses a suicide and almost gets killed in the process. At that point the justice system kicks in as he is a material witness in a federal case…the mob is involved, etc.

Deaver has a kid in his story as well, although in ‘The Client’ Mark is the protagonist. In Deaver’s book the kid plays a secondary role.

But that whole idea of emotional level is an interesting one and it’s why I read other people’s fiction when I can. Trust me, I see plenty of areas in my own work where the horror or love or whatever seems a bit flat. I try to punch that up whenever I can. The highest compliment I can pay a book goes something like this: there was this book I read when I was a kid...I don't remember the title or the author. But I remember that story...something about that story has stuck with me for forty-something years.

All three authors took a different approach to the negative emotions aroused by human violence, mutilation of a body, death by fire, or the kid slated for death by the mob for what he sees. I also think that’s why Grisham’s book is a bit muted on the emotional shock. He had to decide just how exploitive or graphic he wanted to be when the protagonist is a kid. The reader, no matter what age, totally identifies with Mark, another interesting observation.

'The Client' is highly entertaining, and the characters are sympathetic except for the obligatory politician and his entourage. Even some of the criminals get a little sympathy. The news hounds not so much.

I can’t reveal the ending because I haven’t finished it yet. For whatever reason, six stars for John Grisham’s ‘The Client.’

If you’ve enjoyed any of these authors before, the odds you will enjoy the next one you pick up are very good indeed. When I saw them I grabbed them and that’s saying something.


Virtually every film or book released into the wild is a commercial venture. It’s designed to make money, and the fact that ninety percent fail to make money changes nothing. That’s where the love of the genre, or even just the game, comes in. But very few of us are prepared to pour our heart and our soul, our limited time and capital into a project without any hope at all of recompense.

Yet we are judged as artists by our success or failure in the commercial sense.

There are times when it is best to ignore such considerations and just to go ahead and make the book or film we want, and now it’s out there and can never be taken back.

Books like ‘Heaven Is Too Far Away,’ a fictional WW I memoir by Louis Bertrand Shalako, which can be found here.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Excerpt: Whack 'Em and Stack 'Em. A work in progress.

Hannes Grobe, Alfred Wegenr Institute.

Burgess stood up after the meeting and held up a hand to prevent the rapid out-flux of people from the room.

“What is it, Mister Burgess?”

He’d always been on thin ice with Gorman, but he had tenure and she observed certain limits.

“Yeah. Well. Suzie and I were attacked by motorcycle Ninjas this morning on our way to work. Luckily, with Suzie’s driving and my shooting, we managed to dissuade them.” He left the part about Tim’s out of the story.

What happened on the way to work stayed on the way to work but he was going to claim it as an expense anyway. A free cup of coffee, at almost any price, held its own logic.

“Oh, really.” As the staff settled into their chairs again, Gorman exchanged a significant look with Zed.

“So. It begins.” Zed frowned in contemplation.

“Any theories, Mister Burgess?”



“I think they might have been trying to kill us…or more likely me, as Suzie is new here and hasn’t had time to make too many enemies.”

Suzie coughed.

“I’ve been here eight years.” Her voice was low but confident. “Most of that on overseas assignment. Otherwise we would have met before.”

Burgess was impressed, although he hoped he didn’t show it.

Gorman gave a tight nod.

“All right people, keep your heads up. You can go.” Her eyes stabbed Burgess and then with a softer look regarded Suzie. “Zed will brief you on your current assignment.”

“So, um…”

“Mister Burgess, I would like to introduce you to your new partner, and I will tolerate no discussion on the matter. You and she will cooperate fully. No hazing, no pranks. No dumping her off twenty miles from home on a snowy night in Winnipeg. Got it?”

“Okay.” He knew when he was defeated.

It was his most charming trait, or so he had been told by Ludmilla Getonanov, the world-famous Russian secret agent, as old as the hills and wise before her time insofar as any mere woman could be said to be wise.

“Suzie Platonis is one of our best field agents. She has a great deal of experience, and I expect both of you to do your jobs with a professionalism that will do this department proud.” She stared at Burgess, willing him to comply. “Any questions?”

“No, ma’am.” So Suzie was of Greek descent then.

It helped to explain the Greek features…

“Then I leave you in Zed’s capable hands.” She got up and stalked out of the room without a backward glance, which with her thick neck and fuzzy pink basketball of a head wasn’t a good idea anyway.

That was one hell of a mouthful for a quiet Monday in southern Ontario but he let it lie as he had no wish to argue with the bitch.

“My eyes are a hundred and fifty megapixels. Arf! Arf! Guadalcanal.” The dog wagged its tail in melodramatic counterpoint to this foray.

“That’s nice.” Roscoe was just trying to be diplomatic.

So they were stuck with the dog, which bode someone no good, and it was probably him.


“All righty, then.” Zed’s lab was cluttered with the usual lovely bits and pieces of kit. They ducked under the spinning rotor blades and continued on to the back, carefully avoiding the hot jet exhaust and holding their hands over their ears.

Luckily there were several layers of security and an inner sanctum sanctorum to keep out the smell of burnt JP-4 and smoking ceiling tiles.

As they walked through to his personal bench, they were treated to the sight of all of the test subjects, fume hoods, bomb-assembly, cross-bows and all the usual apparatus and paraphernalia of the international spy game. The dog headed straight for a couch, hopping up on one end, even turning around twice, ramming its nose up its ass with an audible clunk, and pretending to sleep.

One man in particular caught Roscoe’s eye.

A slender young man with a face ravaged by abcesses and blood-red tumors, he seemed to move and then seize up in fits and starts, standing in place, starting off first on his left foot, and then the right, then going back to his original position.

“What…huh. Where was I—oh. Yes. No. Yes. No…” His hands lifted and then fell back to his side two or three times as the feet moved spasmodically but ineffectually.

“What up with that guy?” Suzie caught Roscoe’s eye and Zed turned to look.

“Oh, yes. There’s nothing sadder than a speedo with attention deficit disorder. But when he comes down a bit, he does a bang-up job of cleaning the place. If only we could get him to work during daylight hours…”

Roscoe nodded in comprehension.

“…the only thing worse is a crack-head with Turettes…” Apparently they couldn’t house-clean worth a shit as they needed both hands for crack-smoking and cost anything up to two grand a day from Molly Mutt’s, the well-known franchise which more usually employed the horizontally-challenged, as long as they had sufficient security clearance.

Since the only thing they read was Twilight, or Fifty Shades of Gey, that usually wasn’t much of a problem.

Roscoe wasn’t sure if that was a joke or not, but he laughed anyway as Zed kept going.

“Dang!” Zed stopped and Suzie almost rammed into him, and Roscoe made a point of ramming into her…she elbowed Roscoe and he stepped back.


“I’m going to miss Curves this week…again.” Suzie wondered who exactly cared what Zed did on his day off.

“Isn’t that for women?”

“Yeah!” He gave no other explanation, but that thirty-minute circuit was doing wonders for the cellulite in his inner thighs.

These days it was like he couldn’t walk in corduroy pants without announcing it from half a mile away. If the truth be told, it was the same even without the pants.

Suzie grabbed Roscoe’s arm and led him to the back, and a big long bench in front of Zed’s palatial cubicle, where he kept his tea kettle and a box of stale old water biscuits, which Roscoe had never understood. What in the hell was a water biscuit? But he was afraid to ask as he might get an actual explanation. And with Zed that wasn’t always a good idea.

“Okay, here’s your exploding IUD.” This was for Suzie’s benefit. “And Roscoe, your anti-personnel suppositories. Hmn, hmn, hmn.”

He issued them their plastic cards pre-loaded with a million each in expense money.

Zed opened up another package. Those anti-personnel suppositories were known to blow the balls off a charging rhino at a hundred paces, and had been invented by an admirer of rock star Ted Nougat.

This reminded Roscoe that there was in fact something sadder than a speedo with ADD—and that was a fan of Ted Nougat.

Suzie’s eye was caught by the long window where in behind the Ouija girls sat at their boards, with blank looks on their faces trying to prognosticate just how much the bourgeoisie would take in the matter of declining incomes and an inability to retire before the age of ninety.

“So about this assignment.” Roscoe was impatient to get out of the office.

“Oh, yes. Well, it’s very simple, actually. The pop singer known as Twila, that’s the one with the underwear…”

Roscoe nodded vigourously.

“I’m a big fan.”

Suzie gave him a look.

“No, seriously, any woman that parades around on stage with midgets and clowns is a friend of mine. In their underwear, I mean…”

“I didn’t know she did that.”

“I think he is referring to the band.” Zed held up a hand. “But that’s not important right now.”

The sound of a power drill came from not far away and a lot of screaming.

Zed sighed inaudibly and beckoned them to come into his cubicle, which smelled rather strangely of hair gel, which was a bit weird as Zed was as bald as a cucumber.

The door closed with a firm click and they huddled uncomfortably close as he went on with the briefing from two inches away.

Suzie grunted and gave him a jab. Roscoe took his left foot off of her toes.

“Anyway, her daddy is King of the Maruba people in sub-Saharan Africa. And he wants her back. She’s gone into hiding, and it’s our job to find her and return her to her people.”

“Oh, really.” An overseas assignment!

“Yes, she ran away and came to America as a very young girl. As you know, she made it big, and now she has a billion fans all over the world. Not all of them are fake Twitter accounts. They can’t be.” Zed plugged in Suzie’s data-pad and loaded it up with full briefing notes. “I guess she doesn’t want to go back, not even to be given away in marriage to another warlord.”

“What about this other warlord?”

Zed regarded Suzie with respect. Even Roscoe picked up on that.

“Well, it seems he’s got a piss-pot full of oil, too.”

“Go on.” That sounded intelligent.


“The young lady in question heard daddy was looking for her. A couple of his minions tried to grab her off the street…Rodeo Drive, actually. She’s gone into hiding.”

Just what the doctor ordered, if only there were any doctors available in Ontario since the government had clamped down on backseat dispensaries in cabs run by unlicensed doctors from other countries, most of whom were practically useless due to the execrable accents some of them affected in an effort to get you to trust them...

“So, ah, the prophecy must be fulfilled. You know?”

Suzie’s shoulders slumped. All these damned prophecies. It was a sign of the times they lived in.

Roscoe didn’t know and didn’t care as Zed always provided them with something on paper, the edible kind, which, while it bound you up pretty good, would give them something to read on the plane. And something to eat.

“Yeah, but why?” Suzie’s question was a good one, and if there had been room, he might have been tempted to kick himself.

“Oil, my dear, oil. He says if he doesn’t get her back, he’s going to open up the taps and cut the price, thereby making our oil sands prohibitively expensive to subsidize.”

“Ah. Of course.” The federal government of which they were a part would have no choice but to gouge the money out of the hides of the disabled, the mentally ill, and the working poor women of Tim Horton’s and while Roscoe could see the justice in that, there was always the possibility of social upheaval as many of them were the children of the middle class whose blind, mindless self-delusion wouldn’t last forever.

The truth was he’d lied his way through the psych assessments, every six months or so since his first day of employment. He could cheerfully admit that to himself in an unguarded moment.

There were a few more items of interest, including several gallons of body paint, a g-string for both of them and an old pickup truck to be mailed on ahead, and right about then the freaking dog came in and cocked a leg and they all piled out of the cubicle rather than get their expensive shoes wet with whatever was going to come out of there.

“He opened that door up himself!”

“Read the manual when you get a chance, please, Mister Burgess.” Zed sighed deeply because he probably wouldn’t.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Death of Society.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Victor Vasnetsov

The death of a society is an ugly thing. The end of the Roman Empire, first in the west about 476 A.D. and then the drawn-out agonies, lasting well into the second millenium, of the eastern Empire, Byzantium, make this clear.

The Empire stopped expanding and began to contract. Men bemoaned Roman rule. The weight of Roman taxes weighed heaviest on the poor, and made small farms and home industry untenable. The methods of collection were mean and miserable, yet fortunes were made by tax farmers and the Empire lost about thirty percent of its potential revenues to peculation. Garrisons were withdrawn, troops went unpaid. The roads fell into disrepair. When the Britons asked for Imperial assistance, they were released from their oaths and advised that no help could be forthcoming and to look to their own security. Fifty or a hundred years later, Britain—Roman Britain, had ceased to exist and the darkness closed over her bones.

When Barbarians invaded, Imperial authority conceded the loss, adopted them as allies, and eventually as new levies for the armies, and admitted new kingdoms where the conquerors, the Caesars, had once planted their foot.

The past is a foreign country. We may never know what really happened, but scholars have argued that the burden of taxes in the Empire was kept deliberately low, so the aristocrats could siphon off the profits of prosperity. Society failed because too many individuals failed, or simply could not cope with its harsh conditions. The rich got richer right up to the bitter end. There were still aristocrats when Empire died its much-deserved death.

Whether or not economic mismanagement happened in ancient times, it sure seems to be happening now.

We have some modern parallels. When the McGuinty government delisted chiropractic care for ODSP clients, that was a withdrawal of service. Not an enhancement. It caused suffering, it did not alleviate it. When the federal government stopped building low-income housing, that was a retreat. It was a failure of purpose. It was an abdication of responsibility.

State propaganda always stresses the positive. The real question is why anybody would believe it.

Governments are setting up for-profit prisons, and yet the injustices and abuses are well-known. They have private armies now. They’re cheaper than a national standing army in all of its complexity—and cost. They are also not nearly so professional, for what that may be worth.

The modern government would prefer not to take responsibility, for anything under government auspices is subject to close scrutiny, and rightly so. A private company submits to no such scrutiny. In Russia, they seem to get this, that’s why a strong-arm like Putin can make headway.

It’s not so completely alien to them after serfdom and the appalling social load imposed by nobility, which is of course a completely false concept. Merit is conferred by actions and not by birth.

The right to govern is conferred by the people.

When the government of Ontario takes $469.00 a month from 300,000 disabled people and then tacks $100.00 onto the cheques of 114,000 Ontario Works clients, then those disabled people will almost inevitably end up on the street and in homeless shelters, none of which are prepared or can be prepared for the huge numbers that are coming. Our local shelters have maybe a hundred beds between two shelters, one of which is not properly zoned and a thorn in City Council’s side. People are not going to like 500 to 1,000 homeless people a day (or more) being booted out into the streets and their neighbourhoods. The ‘not-in-my-backyard’ syndrome will become downright hysterical. Yet who will speak up for the disabled and help to prevent this tragedy, this ‘social cleansing?’

Not one member of the bourgeoisie will speak out, that’s my guess.

Where the other estimated $1.025 billion the province plans to rip off per month from ODSP clients is going is still a mystery, but in my opinion it will be used to buy another election by bribing Canadians, Ontarians, with their own money—money which the government has just stolen from their own sons and daughters in the name of fiscal responsibility and deficit-reduction. It’s true, ladies and gentlemen—the government believes the disabled can pay off our alleged deficit, last pegged at $11.9 billion. This is much-reduced according to discredited former Liberal Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, last seen furtively boarding a banana boat to Panama.

The disabled should be able to pay that off for you in about a year. Will we get our pensions back then?

Never. Never, and they know it, we know it and you, the reader know it.

Incidentally, the government claims the ODSP and OW programs cost $8.3 billion per year. Their numbers are always untrustworthy, which is unfortunate for Ontarians. This government claims the Conservatives left them a $6 billion deficit, which the Conservatives hotly deny. How are we to know the truth?

Here is an interesting graph. It shows the ratio of debt to capital, i.e. a deficit of $37.5 billion.

My question for this government is first, why can’t you pay it off? It’s your deficit. Also, why in the hell should we do it? We are forced to live within our means, or pay a very steep price. Otherwise we end up in the street.

This government will not live within its means, and it would prefer to shove disabled folks out into the cold rather than accept responsibility for their own excesses, their own failures, and their own abdication of the trust of Ontario voters.

And they go on closing schools, doubling the price of electricity over ten years and the pay of police officers over fifteen years--but then I guess they understand that they are going to need them, especially their political loyalty. This government doesn't just have the power to give 22 year-old cops a starting rate of $156,000 a year, it also has the power to tax. If only it could tax someone other than those least able to pay.

This government should be shoved out into the street. This is not exactly a ringing endorsement of Liberal policies in the Province of Ontario.


When you think about it, the penny was the last coin made of precious metal. The penny has been discontinued in Canada. It cost 1.4 cents to make a penny.

By calling in all that precious metal, the federal government has made a premium of forty percent on that currency. How badly they needed that money they will never tell.

The Roman Empire devalued its coinage many times over its decline. People knew that, and preferred not to do business with them any longer.

My guess is that the federal government is still in denial, although it should be intimately aware of just how bad the economic picture is. They have fallen into the trap of believing their own propaganda, and have no choice but to lie to Canadians and to themselves.

To tell the truth would be their doom and they know it.

Those Pesky Pen-Names.


by Dr. Emile Schmitt-Rottluff

I’m in the mood for a rant but I’ll leave that for another time.

Those pesky pen-names. It doesn’t take very long to realize that with four or five pen names, something is going to suffer. One pen name has been publishing stuff every two months or so.

Well, he’s got nothing on the go right now, because all of his time is spent developing the social networks for all those other names. None of them can possibly be as active as he (I) used to be on Twitter, where I used to tweet out relevant links, the sort of thing my audience might be interested in. But now I have five different personalities, who might tweet out to five different audiences. Those audiences require unique content to fit with their needs or expectations. Just finding and reading that stuff before it got tweeted out would be a big enough challenge.

The bigger any one audience gets, the more attention it merits and the more time it takes to serve it well.

I can’t really write one generic blog post and put it up on five blogs. For one thing, the opportunity presented by five different audiences is a stupid thing to waste, and secondly, it might not make much sense in terms of that particular pen-name. My erotica writer would have no reason to blog about the state of the economy, and her audience can find far better stuff elsewhere anyways.

What happens is that I tend to devote so much time to getting each and every one up and running. But then results begin to skew. My erotica writer has almost a thousand friends on Facebook. Yet another pen name has struggled to get a hundred, another has maybe two hundred, and the latest one has yet to get his first half-dozen. All this doesn’t even really ask or answer the question of whether being on a social network actually helps to sell books or any other product.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that it does, and some of the biggest names in the business are on social networks, blog regularly, et cetera.

The erotica writer gets dozens of friend requests a day. She confirms them unreservedly. She gets that chat box opening up as soon as she does something that registers and pops out on the wall. She can’t talk to three or more people at once, every time she goes on there. That one is a source of frustration, and yet she gave away eighty-seven copies of one title from Smashwords this month and we haven’t seen that with any of our other names, at least not for a while.

The analysis is fairly simple. She clicked on someone that was presented to her, and they are from another culture. And they told two friends…

A white woman, a pretty one, is more than they can resist. In their culture, there is restricted access to women, who would never be tagged, ‘available.’ Or worse, ‘single.’ That’s an untouchable person for a respectable young man over there. They have arranged marriages, or strong restrictions of a faith-based nature on the relations between unmarried young people.

You want to be careful who you talk to and how you talk to them in that culture.

Why did she click on that person or type and group of person/people? For one thing, setting up a new pen name needs a new e-mail address to set up on your publishing and social platforms. There has been no traffic through that e-mail address. The pen-name has no friends and family, no contacts, no list. When you skip through that part on Facebook, when opening up a new account, it presents some hurdles. There will be a list of ‘do you know?’ sort of people presented on Facebook. Being young and eager for success, I think she just basically started off by clicking unthinkingly on a few names and now we have to live with the results.

Now, trying to produce new products for five pen-names, with new titles coming at regular intervals, is another challenge. In addition to five blog posts a week, there is the need to create new material.

Inevitably something (or someone) is going to suffer. On the plus side, a couple of the pen-names are selling small numbers of books. One author gave away eighteen books and has not sold a copy on any platform, and as for the newest one, so far nothing. He’s had eleven samples on Smashwords and is linked in one library, which may or may not translate into a sale sooner or later.

Now, Smashwords founder Mark Coker regularly states that Smashwords authors will sell ninety percent of their books through the Premium Distribution Catalogue. My guys have been making it in with no problems although some minor fixes, which I found myself without waiting for the human vetters.

Once all those new titles, ten or eleven of them, dribble down through all the distribution channels, the next challenge is when, or how often, or especially how, to promote each individual author on each individual platform, whether it’s Kobo, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes, whatever.

One of the things I can safely say is that I have never sold a book in Japan, or in Brazil. The challenges of exploiting the distribution system as it exists right now are many, and all we can do is to continue experimenting and of course making new books, new stories and new products.

If a person had a professional or traditional publishing deal, they might be asked to go on social networks, or to blog regularly, or just feel it is a necessity. So I don't think the challenges are unique to any particular approach.

Other than that, the stuff you just read is a hell of a lot better than some stupid old rant.



Running pen names.

Setting up pen names.

How to set up a pen name.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

My Sexual Memoir.

Spring is in the air and a young man's fancy turns to you-know-what. Even though I'm getting older now, I ain't exactly immune.

Right now I am putting off writing another science fiction novel. I know that I want to do more, but I have reasons not to do it right now.

One thing I really ought to write is another mystery novel. ‘Redemption: an Inspector Gilles Maintenon mystery’ sells each and every month in a number of stores, including Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Sony, all of them really. I have one novella, set at free, and two mysteries involving Inspector Gilles Maintenon, i.e. ‘the series,’ which is known for selling long-term better than stand-alone works.

I need to do another one of those this year just to support those readers and build up the brand, in other words Inspector Maintenon.

I write what grabs me at the time. I need a plot. If I had a good science fiction plot I would be more enthusiastic about writing another science fiction book. The mystery is easier, (maybe) as I already know it must be a murder plot and the Inspector will be involved, it will happen in the thirties and all that sort of thing.

Much of the visualization work is done in a sense, and I learn more about the genre, the themes, the era, with every story I write in terms of mysteries. Theoretically that should get easier.

Pen names divide up the works by genre, so readers find it easier to get the books they think they are getting from authors they know and like.

So when I wrote some erotica, I assigned that work to a pen name. When a few books sold, much to my surprise, naturally I wrote more stuff. Now after a time it all starts to catch up. Each and every pen name needs to produce new works on some regular basis—just as I must produce another mystery within the year.

And yet I must write what grabs me, what I have the ideas for, and what I have a plot/no plot for…the reasons are obscure for writing any one thing. But they all add up.

All of a sudden I’m in a bit of a bind. I started something I first conceived of as erotica. It turns out it’s not so much erotica as literary erotic fiction, and it’s also kind of a memoir, and the whole consideration of what pen name to assign the work to or publish it under eventually came up. And maybe the thing isn’t really appropriate to Louis Shalako. And yet who knows? Maybe that’s what I should do. It does bear some thinking about. The problem is that it’s not really in keeping with my thriller/crime guy, nor my erotica girl, etc. It doesn’t fit with any of the existing pen names.

And if I do another pen name, it sort of begs further support if the book sells in any sort of manner (or at all.) How many freakin' sexual memoirs can I possibly make up? (That sounds like a lot of work.) I don’t have all the answers, but I won’t have the story done for a while yet either.

Hopefully it will come out around 25,000 words and then I’ll have my first literary erotica novelette. That would be so cool.

The protagonist is a guy called Devlin and he gets an anonymous note.

As for a title, I simply have no idea, but something will suggest itself.

It usually does.