Monthly Archives: September 2007

Madcap’s Flaming Duty

Tangerine Dream - Madcap's Flaming DutyMadcap’s Flaming Duty, by Tangerine Dream, is a beautiful album—and, with the exception of the quirkily-superb Cyclone, I almost never say that about Tangerine Dream albums featuring lead vocalists. But this time around, it just seems to work. Chris Hausl’s voice is a good match for the music, which alternates from Floyd-esque anthem to dreamy electronica to your more straightforward trance / house—and there is some really good guitar work as well. Nothing to write home about, but I do like how Edgar and the rest of the new lineup have done the texturing. “The Blessed Damozel” happened to start playing while I was working on a writing project; it was one of those lucky coincidences where the music totally matched the moment. ;) A worthy departure from 2006’s excellent Jeanne d’Arc.

By the way, I’ve been informed that Stories from the Steel Garden now has Search Inside! features enabled over at Go take a peek.

Teenage Mutant Digital Turtles

A little older, a little wiser, a lot more digital

A little older, a little wiser, a lot more digital

Gentle jerk-wads, this screenshot does NOT do the Blu-ray edition of TMNT justice. I’m about as impressed with it as I was with Planet Earth—and the movie itself isn’t all that bad either. A bit dumbed down for the kiddies, but yielding enough funny moments and well-done action scenes to convince me it’s more than just a vehicle for selling hi-def TVs.

Note to self: April is hawt in her digitized yellow skinsuit. ;)

Selling Yourself…or Parts Thereof

Perhaps not the best example of modern technology after all...

There’s a popular saying among the publishing elite: Books don’t sell themselves. You have to be your own best asset. For the gang here at Vertigo Alley Publishing, some days are better than others. Some weeks you sell 15 books, others you sell 5, and most you sell none. Likewise, sometimes your audience gets it, and oftentimes they don’t. That said, it’s been a tough quarter.

Take this recent flyer / e-card for The Reformed Citizen:

Gnobby says...

Everyone at the office thought it was a riot. Well, everyone except Nate:

A productive worker is a well-rested worker

(But he’s always been lethargic—we think he’s been diagnosed with narcolepsy.)

Anyhow, we thought gnomes would be a cute little gimmick to move some books, but instead we discovered that while garden gnome sales across southern California had quadrupled, sales of The Reformed Citizen remained unaffected.

Then there were our packaging issues. Take the original cover for “Babe,” which was banned from MySpace due to its graphic nudity and blatant sexual content:

A prime example of lewd behavior

The solution, we thought? MySpace stickers, 400 for a dollar at your local Big Lots:

MySpace is the best place, the best place...

The result: In late August, MySpace had its 1 billionth member sign up for an account.

In early September, a memo reading, “A babe in the buff holds a copy of The Reformed Citizen” accidentally got interpreted as, “A buff babe holds up a copy of The Reformed Citizen.”

Once we recalled all the posters and billboard panels, we thought it would be a good idea to leave the provocative packaging / advertising at the side of the road for a while and try something more subtle:

We should have learned our lesson after the first gnome mishap

Alas, this approach led to a bitter political dispute resulting in Massachusetts democrat Jesse Gordon being awarded ownership of the domain.

The dingleberry on the shit sundae was the Toronto release of Stories from the Steel Garden:

A boisterous crowd despite the elements

The book store was snowed in, which may have been understandable—had not this picture been taken in July.

But I’m not discouraged, and I don’t think any of the Vertigo Alley staff are either. Gnomes, politicians, freak snowstorms, and female bodybuilders aside, the Christmas season is fast approaching, and we have a plethora of ideas up our collective sleeves, including (but not limited to) our new sales manager, Mr. R. Santa—

Ho, ho, ho

—and less-offensive uniforms for our couriers:

Meet Dick - he's always hard at work

We’re confident that the above ideas, along with the introduction of an 18-hour workday, will bring our sales back up out of the red. Let the aggressive marketing blitz begin!

My New Ad Campaign

If Conan O’Brien has taught me anything, it’s that self-deprecation will sell you more copies of your book than will self-righteousness. So, here’s my latest crack at capitalizing off the ideas of others:

The Reformed Citizen - what IS this crap??

Re-post at your own leisure. ;)

Babe, Vacation, and the Moon

I’m down to my last copy of “Babe,” the free limited edition chapbook I’ve been handing out at bus stops and laundromats all over Orange County this last month. If you want it, contact me. If you don’t, contact me anyway as I like to get mail from time to time. ;)

Jeremy Shipp tells me his recent signing at Barnes & Noble was a rousing success despite the last-minute removal of any and all parasitic cookies from the premises. I’m not surprised that he did well without the supporting act, considering that his debut novel, Vacation, is one damned fine book. I reviewed it some time ago, and it still stands up as one of the better small press / POD releases out there—but don’t rely on my word alone:

None of the usual accolades work for Jeremy Shipp’s Vacation. The reader is not amazed, astounded, or aggrieved—the reader is achingly curious, alarmingly moved, and at the end, astonished by the vision and darkness and redemption. No one writes like Shipp, and that’s a great thing.

—Susan Straight, author of A Million Nightingales

Jeremy’s got many more where that came from, including a nice blurb from my avatar, Piers Anthony.

Has anyone seen Space: 1999? I’ve been living under a rock inside a cave hidden away inside another cave on a Chthonic planet far, far away, so I only recently stumbled upon Space’s brilliant premise—that Earth’s moon has been blasted out of orbit, leaving a team of stranded moon-men (and moon-women!) to attempt survival without so much as a Howard Johnson’s. And a younger-than-yesterday Martin Landau is the leading man.

shonsta’s new guitar DVD is awesome. The tag line is, “Face-melting guitar techniques.” I watched.

And my face melted.

And I’m going to watch again. ;)

My Native-Brando Mug

An uncanny resemblance:

Does Brando live on in mug form?

Does Brando live on in mug form?

Twenty bucks says I’ll end up trying to sell this obvious reincarnation of the late great Marlon Brando for…twenty bucks. ;)

Oh, and “Node” will be appearing in the October issue of Aphelion (and not this month’s issue, as previously specified—though you should certainly check out this month’s issue, too, because it’s got some great stories from some great writers).

Feeling the Heat

Great Zombie Jesus, it’s hot today. How hot? Well, let’s just say I poured some McDonald’s coffee in my lap to cool off…hehe…yep. Hot enough that I’m stealing cheap jokes from Futurama episodes and passing them off as my own. ;)

So, I’m sweatin’ and thinkin’ and sweatin’ over a very alarming statistic that’s cropped up over these last nine months: my Scare Rating. Usually it hovers around 60% or so, but this year it’s been darn near 98%! Most of it is book-related. In fact, I’ve actually had people remove me from their MySpace friends lists because they want “nothing to do with your crap.” I dunno. Did you think The Knack was over the top? Crap? In need of a good banning?

Here’s what Piers Anthony had to say:

The Knack, by Jesse Gordon, self published but worthy of traditional print. It’s a vampire story, and I’m not a vampire fan, but this strikes me as an original take. They do drink blood, but actually need any kind of fluid, even their own; it seems psychological as much as physical. They have sex not so much for sexual gratification as for the associated fluid. They do have special powers, but these are difficult to develop, and it’s not a happy state. Individuals are finely characterized, and the writing can be pretty: “As she moved through alternating spaces of evening darkness and frosted LED lighting, her hair a vibrant spray, a fiery beacon of femininity, she conversed on her cell phone.”

He seems to have “gotten it,” and for that I’m grateful…though it may just be because he’s read worse. ;)

Regardless of why my Scare Rating is so high, I’ve decided my next novel will be G-rated. One, the plot has nothing to do with sex, and two, I promised my kid sister I’d write something less…raunchy. Stories from the Steel Garden was supposed to be G-rated, but it ended up PG-13. The nudity thing didn’t go over too well, I guess—indeed, it probably would have been more effective to have had the workers wearing rags instead of nothing at all…but I love to exaggerate whenever possible, oftentimes to the point of sticking my foot in my mouth. It’s a Sagittarius shortcoming. Just ask my grandmother, my aunts and uncles, my old high school buddies—all of whom want nothing to do with me or my offensive little tales.

Meh. What do you think? Should I take it easy on the “for mature readers” thing for a while? Should I have given Bryson and Kyna an ounce of self-control? Should I have given Richard Doroschenko some fucking pants? Are those naked mannequins on the cover of “Babe” really more offensive than Satan Burger (see my MySpace post)???

These are the questions that flutter through my mind when the ambient temperature heats up my skull thusly….

Feedback: Okay, I’ve officially lost each and every one of my hangups thanks to feedback such as what follows below. You guys / gals are the greatest. (You too, Senor Perverto.)

“dont puss out man. u write how you wanna write. now you know how it feels in sacramento.” —Philip

“Don’t take shit from no one Jess. People who complain are usually doing so out of frustration of their own shortcomings or hangups. You just keep doing what comes naturally.” —Brian

“That’s so cool that Piers Anthony wrote a review :)

“You know, I’ve been pondering this. I like the disturbing factor, but I’ve been corrupted by the likes of Laurell K Hamilton and Monty Python. I am rather curious what would happen to your readers if they read more G-rated stories (is Time Chaser considered G?) – would they more apt to open their arms and then as they’re gnashing away at your books and inhaling the words on the pages, just start filling in with PG and PG-13…but movie directors don’t have to do that…huh. Somehow you found a boundary that you want to explore, but few want to explore with you. And the only way that I’ve found people easily crossing that line without a second thought is when things are amusing, like The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and the First Nudie Musical…

“I don’t think you should have given Richard pants. If I were in that situation (hell, a couple of days this summer, even), I would’ve gone without pants. Nobody cared way back in the day. America just has a censorship problem running rampant…kinda like in Piers Anthony’s Demons Don’t Dream…

“Naked mannequins are now offensive, huh. They can’t stay clothed all the time!” —I dream of diesels

“Its not so bad man. After the first few chapters I totally forget about Richards round, muscular ass.” —Senor Perverto

“Yeah. It’s fucking hot. And I still want nothing to do with you. Oh but your writing’s cool though.” —Shadow the Black Dragon

“Cool, my friend, on the Piers comment! And hey, it’s your book. I’m sure you wrote it the way it needed to be written.” —Jonathan Fesmire

“Big thanks for doing what you do! You put out very well written books with so much truth in them that everyone who “wants nothing to do with you” needs to experience before they make judgment. I have many friends from all over the country that love to read books like yours because of the unabashed atmosphere. If you haven’t already done so, you definitely need to check out White Light by William Barton and Michael Capobianco. It should make you feel less self conscious about your so-called offensive little tales.” —David

“Hey, a little naked fiction never hurt anyone, right? If anything you’re probably a superstar among the nudist crowd. You might do well to air-drop a crate of Steel Garden books into a nudist colony!….Wouldn’t it be funny if you were doing a book signing and a whole bunch of crazed naked people came up to your table for an autograph?” —Britney