Saturday, November 30, 2013

Weird West Woes

There are an amazing amount of weird westerns out there, if you look for them at places like Amazon. But, if you look more closely, a lot of them appear to be self published.  And still more are just short stories being sold as books.  And they're all horror stories.  Believe it or not, there was a time not that long ago when weird westerns were heavily science fiction. Then there was an abrupt shift and everything with the weird western label suddenly became horror--and ultra dark horror for the most part. And the science fiction weird western was all but gone and forgotten.

That's actually why I started publishing Science Fiction Trails.  There just aren't many homes for western themed science fiction anymore.  And, alas, it seems writers no longer have much interest in writing this stuff. Our submissions are way down.  The western flavor of steampunk fired up people for a bit. We also saw a real surge when Cowboys & Aliens came out. Now that the fervor from that has quieted down, there just isn't much going on in this market.  I actually feel more like the Dutch kid with his finger in the dam than at any time since I started doing this over a decade ago.  Even though sales are not what they could be, as readers continue to favor free downloads over actually paying for something, it is the departure of writers than worries me more.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Bullets & Paint Brushes


I'm pleased to announce a short collection of Kit Volker's weird western stories are now available on Kindle in a collection titled Bullets & Paint Brushes. Kit's work has appeared in our anthologies and recent editions of Science Fiction Trails.  It's only a buck. Check it out.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GZB6QGA

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkeys

I'm not really doing much for Thanksgiving this year.  I decided I didn't want the hassle of travelling. Alas, I'm not cooking any turkey.  I don't know why so many people can't cook them.  Ten to 20 houses are burnt down every thanksgiving by people trying to deep fry them in kettles--Cajun style. Growing up, our turkeys that my mom and my grandmother made were always overcooked and dry. This is usually because of an insistence of putting stuffing in the bird. Cook the stuffing on the stove. The bird will cook faster and more evenly without any stuffing in it.  
 
My mesquite grilled turkeys are the best in the world. No one on this earth can cook a turkey better than I can. And it's  a true shame that I'm not cooking one this year.



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Martians Aren't Coming

I've lamented before that I can never figure out why some issues of Science Fiction Trails, where I am head honcho, are fairly popular and some are total duds.  Issue 8 is by far the most popular issue. It has a very colorful cover, but we haven't seen a correlation to covers that much in the past. For a long time our first issue, with a clipart cover, was the best seller.  The 9th issue was our Martian issue.  It's been a total dud. People don't seem to want to read about Martians.  I don't know why. I love Martians.  Issue 10, in case anyone's wondering, has sold way more copies than number 9. 
 
So, I guess I'll go on wondering.  Black Friday offer for half price on number 10 continues through the end of the week. That's darn near cost. 

 https://www.createspace.com/4268257
 
Enter discount code at checkout:   R3D6R9FP

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dog's Doctor

The other day I ripped the latest Dr. Who special. I'm sure some of the fans called up their voodoo witch doctor to place a curse on me. Seriously, a mysterious rash formed on my leg just after my comments posted.  Well, after surviving a nearly deadly fungal infection a few years ago, I have prescription anti fungal medicines on hand.  Take that voodoo spell casters. The rash was quickly vanquished.
 
I meant what I said.  So, live with it.
 
Now, moving forward, I don't know what the new Doctor will be like.  But, I think the Doctor should get a dog. In the old series Tom Baker ran around with a mechanical dog called K-9.  I think the Doctor should get a real dog that can bark at people--preferably one that likes to wear goggles.   And I'd like for Clara to run around in skimpier outfits. That should do it. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Paying Up

I figure I'm owed at least $2300 in unpaid royalties and fees for services rendered.  In the world of publishing, these ripoffs are quite commonplace.  I'm just amazed at how high the balance is getting. Simply put, contracts aren't worth the paper they're written on and these crooks know it costs more to pursue them than you'll ever collect.  Rule of law my ass. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dr. Who?

Well, I spent my Saturday afternoon sitting through the "Day of the Doctor" or whatever the hell it was called. It was a global simulcast  where everyone watched it at the same time around the world. It was nice seeing David Tennant again.  I think he was the best doctor of them all.  Frankly, I hated this show. I have nothing good to say about it. The storyline made no sense at all.  They broke all kinds of timelord rules.  I think it may be time to pack it in for Dr. Who. The show is running on fumes.  I wish they'd give the tardis to Clara and let her run around in it and put the doctor in an old folks home eating applesauce.

 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Oh Britania

Looking back over the sales, or lack of sales, of Science Fiction Trails and the books, I lament the loss of the British. When I first started publishing stuff, about 20% of sales were from the UK. This year, there have been no sales of any kind to the UK.  I don't know what happened to the UK market. I sold more to Germany than Britain this year--and Germany is not an English language nation (though there are a lot of folks who speak it and a lot of expatriate Americans). So, I guess I'll never figure it out.
 
Speaking of English language countries, we've never sold a single copy of anything in Australia or New Zealand.  And only one copy of one book to Canada, in spite of repeated positive reviews on a Canadian science fiction website.  So, we remain essentially an American business serving an American market. So much for globalization.
 
 
Our Current Products
 
(Not counting back issues of Science Fiction Trails, which are also available)
 


 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Black Friday Special

Over at the Steampunk Trails site, where I am publisher, they've got a half off special.  This is darn near at cost. 

Five biggest reason people won't buy Steampunk Trails:

I don't like steampunk.  Buy it anyway.

The stories might hurt me. Don't be silly.

I don't have any goggles.   You local hardware store can help you with that.

My dog doesn't like steampunk.  Dogs love steampunk. Get another dog.

I don't know what steampunk is.   Neither do we.

Steampunk Trails Magazine

Thursday, November 21, 2013

New Book Review


We found a new book review of Gunslingers & Ghost Stories
 
This is the third anthology by Riley this magazine has reviewed. While the other two anthologies were a mixture of horror and dark fantasy, this one is made up of all types of ghost stories. And just like the others, it is made up of some great stories... Most of the stories are enjoyable and easy reads. It has many other different ghost stories that keeps the reader guessing what is next
 Blood Moon Rising Issue #53 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Black Friday Special

Now through November 30th you can get half off the print edition of Science Fiction Trails magazine Issue #10, the current and biggest issue ever. To get this rate you must order from our distributor and use the discount code below.
 
 
 
Enter discount code at checkout:   R3D6R9FP
 
 

Harry Potter Stamp?

Well, the mighty US Postal Service has unveiled their Harry Potter stamps. In my opinion, they are butt ugly.  Anything to make a buck, I guess.  When are they going to release the Walking Dead stamp?  Hah, like that'll ever happen. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Amazing Moment

Well, they say as we get older you have moments. Yesterday I took out the recycling to the recycling bin in our condo complex.  Then, about an hour later, I noticed the recycling was still sitting by the door.  Which brought me to the question: What the hell did I just throw out?  I took the recycling out again and noticed they'd just picked the stuff up and the recycling dumpster was now completely empty. And I still haven't figured out what it was I took out.

 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Abominable Cereal

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth I took a college marketing class. The concept was we had to come up with an idea for a product or service, then make a plan for how we would market it. My product–Abominable Cereal. You would have little Abominable Snowmen, coated in frosted sugar (so they'd be white) and kids would buy them. On the box you would have a picture of Yeti (The Abominable Snowman) on top of a mountain top swatting at airplanes, much like King Kong is often depicted on top of the Empire State Building. I thought this was a wonderful idea for a product. As I recall, the professor gave me a C and ripped it pretty hard.

Hell, if I won the lottery or found a million dollars lying in a ditch, I’d market this product right away. I still think it would be awesome. In the meantime, if the folks at Post or Kellogg's want to rip off my idea and market an Abominable Cereal, go right ahead. I don't mind. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Plum Pudding

I've been trying to decide if I want to make a plum pudding for our upcoming Steampunk Christmas event on Dec 14th.  I used to make them all the time, but have not done so for years.  The fact is, I don't really care for them.  For those unfamiliar, they're sort of like a fruitcake, though there are differences in ingredients. And they're steamed instead of baked.

Once upon a time some members of my family liked fruitcake. I started making my own, instead of ordering them from Texas.  My fruitcakes were the best in the world.  Then I branched out in plum pudding. But, over time, as distances increased and we stopped doing much for Christmas, I stopped making them. Maybe I'll toss a coin.

By the way, my mesquite grilled turkey is the best in the world also. But that's another story.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Arrogance

I've been dealing with writers in multiple capacities for years. Many of them are not nice people. One writer in particular has simply amazed me. He's gone, in just a few years, from being someone trying to establish himself to an unbelievably arrogant ass. I actually published this guy, but that isn't likely to happen again. His blog entries now regularly put down other writers, the meager writers peddling their PDF crap. He doesn't seem to realize his own collections and anthologies are published by very small presses.  In other words, he has never had anything resembling a commercial success himself, yet he puts down everyone else. He barely got himself qualified to become a member of SFWA. Upon which, he began his attacks on the meager writers.  I'm not calling him out by name, though I am tempted.  But I don't attack other writers in print--at least not by name.
 
I mention it only as an observation.  I don't begrudge anyone their success, nor do I ever feel myself superior in any way to the novice writers submitting their first stories to an editor. But arrogance and writing seem to go hand in hand.  I guess because it's not always easy to tell who the Divas are. And I'm probably misusing the term a bit, but there are so many different types of writers--some specializing in one genre, others in nonfiction, short story hacks, novelists, screenwriters. Other than a few blockbusters and those handfuls of writers with major awards, how do you really determine who is good and who isn't? I don't know.  If it's commercial success, then the guy who set me off on this tirade is anything but. In his mind I'm sure he thinks he's the greatest thing to come along in years, though I regard him as a hack.  It's all how you look at things, I suppose. and I'm not arrogant enough to think my opinion matters all that much.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Super powers?

I was having a conservation with some people last week. The topic drifted to: If you could have a super power, what would it be? Ideas bounced around like invisibility, the ability to fly and being able to travel through time. All have their advantages, to be sure. Then my turn came up. I wanted to the ability to make people crap on command. Everyone stared at me in disbelief.

I don’t think they see the power here. If someone’s trying to rob you, zap. As they suddenly crap their pants, they’ll be so distracted you can run away and they will not chase you with their underpants filled with piping hot poop.

Likewise, if a politician you don’t like is about to give a major keynote speech, zap just as he gets started. Or, on a smaller scale, if you didn’t like your boss and everyone sits down for a meeting, zap. It just seems like an amazing power to have and I wish I had it.

When I was about 4 or 5, I went through a phase when I was pooping my pants, to my mother’s dismay. That is not the same thing. I got over that.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hotel Management?

I’ve been working in the hotel business for quite some time. When you work in the hotel business you notice things about human nature. One observation I’ve had is that hotel guests, for some inexplicable reason, become completely helpless the minute they check in. They can earn a living, remember their kids’ names and successfully find their home each evening, but check them into a hotel and such tasks become instantly impossible for them. Not only do they become helpless: "I can’t turn my TV on", but they also become convinced that hotel employees are all knowing oracles available 24 hours a day to dispense wisdom for them. I honestly expect one will soon come to me with a ticking bomb and ask "Can you disarm this for me?"

Case in point: A few days ago a guest came to me and asked, "How do you get shit out of a car?"

To which I replied: "Excuse me?"

Apparently, someone had taken a dump in his unlocked car. I was supposed to profess some wisdom as to how to solve this dilemma as if I were the Oracle at Delphi. "How about some paper towels?"

"Yeah, thanks," the guest replied. And a few minutes later, he returned, demanding still more attention. "Man, it sinks in there."

"I"ll see if housekeeping has some air freshener," I offered. And I quickly found a spray bottle of what could possibly be air freshener. "Try this."

And that worked for a few minutes until the guy returned yet again. "It still stinks."

"Is it a rental car?" I asked.

"Yes, it is."

"Well, just turn it back in then," I suggested.

"Oh, okay."

I expected him to come back when he realized turning it back in meant a two hour drive back to Denver in a car that smelled like shit. For some miraculous reason, he didn’t come back and I never saw him again. The thing I wonder is: Do classes in hospitality and hotel management have questions on their exams like: What do you do when a guest’s car smells like shit? I don’t have a hospitality degree, so I don’t know the answer.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review?

To review or not to review? That is the question.  I rarely review films. I don't really consider myself a reviewer or critic.  I'm more of a crackpot who goes off on a tangent now and then that may or may not include a movie. Hence my dilemma with Thor: The Dark World.. I liked it, but I really can't say why.  In so many ways it's the same movie they did before. On the other hand they have stuff getting blown up and lots of spectacle from computer generated effects.  And the big guy sure can throw that hammer around.  And that's about all I can think of to say about it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Routine business today

Not much to ad today.  I'm just getting caught up on routine business like trying to get more propane for the BBQ grill.  I don't grill much in the winter, but I like to have it ready to go for when I do.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Awards Versus Rewards?

I think AMC’s The Walking Dead is absolutely the best episodic horror production that I have ever seen–bar none. So, I was recently looking over the past few years recipients of the Stoker Awards. It wasn’t the lack of any awards to The Walking Dead that bothered me so much as the fact that the screenplay category went to what I felt were vastly inferior productions. It is a writing award, so it’s strictly the screenplay category here.

That is sort of the problem with these awards. Whether they’re the Stokers or the Nebulas or the Hugos, they all tend to be sort of a popularity contest as much as an objective assessment of their contribution to the craft. Whoever is popular with the voting membership has a distinct advantage. I think that’s even true to some extent of the big awards like the Oscars. But somebody has to make these decisions. Or they could just stop giving out awards–like that would ever happen. So, I guess I’ll keep watching The Walking Dead and hoping it gets the awards it deserves. Damn that show is good.

For the record, I am an active voting member of the HWA, which hands out the Stoker Awards. I’m not really attacking the Stokers, just complaining that the stuff I like never seems to win anything.

Haunted Hotel?

Right before Halloween I retold some creepy things that happened at a hotel I used to work at.  What I've been silent about is the hotel I currently work at.  I never really heard much of a haunted nature until recently.  And I'm not mentioning the hotel because I'm not sure how the company will react to the allegation that it may be haunted. Employees have been hearing whistling and there is nobody there. Disembodied voices talking to some employees.  And last week I heard someone stomping around on the fourth floor--and it was loud. I was on the floor below and it sounded like someone was stomping up and down the hallway.  Thing is, there was no one at all staying on that floor. And I went up there and found no one. So who or what was stomping around up there?  Stay tuned...
 
 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Used Food

If you buy a transistor radio and you don't like it, most stores will let you return it.  If you buy a food item, not so much.  I bought some cashews yesterday and they're not very good.  Having opened the can to try them, I don't think the store will take them back unless I were to put a dead mouse in the can and claim it was there when I opened it. So, I did the next best thing. I took them in to work and put them in a bowl in the employee break room.  Those people will eat anything.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Final Days

If anybody's been thinking about submitting to Science Fiction Trails, I expect it will close to submissions by Thanksgiving.  Just thought I'd mention it.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Nice Review

Well, yesterday I woke up to a pleasant surprise  in my inbox. We got a very enthusiastic review to the new issue of Steampunk Trails, where I am publisher. This is on a site called the Rabid Reader.  Check it out!
 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Man With Beard

Back in July I shaved off the beard I'd had since March of 2010. Why? I just decided to.  I noticed two things when I had the beard. Country Buffet kept wanting to give me the senior discount, even though I was not old enough.  The second thing I noticed was, if I wore my dark sunglasses,  a lot of the local Mexicans thought I was a home boy and insisted I speak Spanish. Not only did the Mexicans think I was a Mexican, but so did local law enforcement.  They would often pull up in the other lane on the freeway and sort of hover there--obviously checking me for warrants or perhaps to see if I had insurance, all the while thinking I didn't know they were there. Surprised that I was not wanted anywhere and my car was not stolen, they would drive on.

Thing is, since I got rid of the beard, no one from law enforcement pays me any mind as I tool along in my Ford.  And, the people at Country Buffet charge me full price--no more senior discounts. So, in retrospect, I guess the solution to life's problems is not have a beard.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Dumbshits

I wonder why Walmart hires such dumbshits to work for them. It seems every time I go there the cashier puts one item on the other side of the turnstile where I can't see it for no explicable reason. Then I get home and I'm short something. I hate shopping there. If I didn't live in a small town with limited options, I wouldn't go near the place.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Efficiency

I have bashed the Post Office a few times here on this blog.  Well, they lost a package I sent to California about a month ago. I filed an insurance claim online and got a check from them in a week. I think that's pretty good service, actually. Well done USPS.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Science Fiction

Over at Science Fiction Trails things have been kind of slow.  Both orders and story submissions have really fallen off.  I'm not  sure why that is, but that seems to be the nature of the game. We go for a while with a volley of activity, then it drops off to nothing. It's sort of maddening, but I'm kind of used to it by now.  I did manage to acquire an interesting review about some Wild West comics that I didn't even know existed. I think that'll be an unexpected surprise for our readers. Life goes on.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Xmas Goodies

If I ran a factory that made  candy bunny rabbits, here's what I would do. For Easter I'd sell chocolate bunnies. For July 4th I'd sell red, white and blue bunnies. For Halloween I'd sell orange bunnies.  And for Christmas I'd sell red and green bunnies.  That would give me a year around business in a traditionally once a year product.

Costco just sent me a catalog of goodies.  I'm still awaiting my other holiday catalogs.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Postage Due

Back when I lived in California I had a friend named Ramon. He ran a small business making fishing lures. One of his best customers was some place in Louisiana. I was curious why he always shipped the order by Express Mail.  I asked him what was so urgent about fishing lures? "Nothin," was his reply. Turned out he used Express Mail because it was free.  He said the Postal Service had never once delivered an Express Package on time, so he just filed claims and kept getting his money back.
 
Well, my situation as a publisher isn't quite the same, but I was pleased when the Postal Service added free insurance to their Priority Mail service. Delivery date is still not guaranteed, but loss or damage is. I've found about 10% of the packages I've shipped in the last year have never arrived. Yesterday I filed my second claim for a missing package.  I have this feeling I'll be filing more of them. The damned Post Office has a hell .of a thieving problem in the Denver sorting facility. That seems to be where most of the missing stuff drops off the end of the world and is never seen again. At least I can recoup my losses now.  I've never used Express Mail, I guess I could try it. Ramon swore by it. Free mail is sure tempting.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Travel

I've been criticized for not having a true writers blog. I can talk about writing one day and rattle on about garbage the next (yes, garbage like the stuff in the dumpsters). So, today is no exception. But I'll focus on something I rarely talk about--travel. I don't talk about it much, but I've worked for quite some time in the hotel business.  As we plan our winter travel, I thought I'd share a few thoughts.
 
People are often enticed by the offers of what we in the travel business call wholesalers. and I admit that some of the packages places like Expedia and Hotels.com offer are enticing. Still, consider this: I estimate that 95% of my problem reservations that I have had to deal with are booked through wholesalers or travel agents.  The flip side of that, I hardly ever have any issues with guests who book with our hotel directly.  What kind of issues?  They run the gauntlet from people expecting a view room and they were booked in the cheaper rooms that overview the parking lot to showing up and we've never heard of them. The most common issue is bedding. If you have specific needs keep in mind that the major wholesalers do not guarantee bedding. If you have dreams of that king bed awaiting you, you may be in for a surprise when you check in. A full hotel can't magically move you to whatever you want. And they're certainly not obligated to upgrade you.
 
There's nothing wrong with the convenience of having someone else arrange your trip, but keep in mind this: I booked with a large company that lets you bid on rooms (I won't say their name). The room was awful. The hotel was a dump and totally misrepresented. The response from Price$@!& was basically that I was a damned fool for booking with them and their rating system was meaningless.  In other words, buyer beware.  Have a nice trip.