Going On the Account: No, That’s *Not* What That Means!

As of this writing, we now have two weeks to go before Thanksgiving in the US, which means we’re six weeks into advertising for Christmas.

Which, okay, the way things have gone as of late, between supply chain issues and the spike in prices therefrom, maybe we do need a little Christmas now. A little something cheerful, even if we do tend to veer away from the reason we have the day celebrated (with a few notable exceptions).

But this year, we’ve got two egregious examples of drawing the wrong lessons from the story.

Not the one you’re thinking about…

"A Christmas Carol," by Charles Dickens and illustrated by John Leech.

By now, everyone must have had some contact with A Christmas Carrol by Charles Dickens. A few movie adaptations, at least, including ones with Alastair Sim, or Albert Finney, or George C. Scott, or Patrick Stewart, or the Muppets.

It’s worth reading the original. Copies can be downloaded here, and the whole text is online for ease of reading. At the very least, having a quick summary on hand is an option.

Something the ad folks working on these products should have done before these got shot…

This, for example: Marley is visiting Ebenezer to show him the past, the present, and the future, a future where the electric car is a definite improvement over a horse-drawn hansom or the current gas-powered car.

Which… Wha’? The whole point of Ebenezer seeing the past, present, and future is to encourage him to be a better person, but here our Ebenezer is under no obligation to do better. Are we assuming that our protagonist is someone who doesn’t need to consider their past, and can ignore everything they did in their life because there’s a reward for it?

And considering our habits created a need for an electric car, don’t we need to be mindful of what led us there so that we don’t continue to make more mistakes? If ol’ Ebenezer here gets handed a new car and can’t take into account how the power grid needs to change to allow for plug-ins, then he really didn’t learn anything, did he?

(Please refrain from “electric car net zero” jokes; they weren’t that funny the first few times…)

Speaking of failing to learn, we get the above spot from Peloton, where Scrooge snarls at carolers before someone (with a few bucks and no sense) gifts him their bike. We then watch as he uses the product and finds himself healthier and happier (while the instrumental for Danny Elfman’s “What’s This?” plays in the background, because… Okay, I don’t know either…).

Scrooge may be happier and healthier, but there’s nothing to say he’s a better person. There are too many people, likely at least one of them you know personally, who are fit and together and yet still are f’n’ G-d a-holes; the only happy outcome suggested by the spot is that he stays inside on the bike for the rest of his life and is no longer anyone else’s problem.

(Considering Peloton has had issues with their commercial campaigns before, this is probably an improvement compared to that…)

Yes, the original source material is 179 years old as of this writing, but getting a worse mangling in a bad game of telephone than the other tales the holiday is based on, which have been around for far longer, seems at best really sloppy. That the main point in a story about self-reflection making someone a better person would get hurled to the curb without slowing the car down be lost in so cavalier a fashion is at best a misunderstanding, and at worst appropriation for nefarious commercial purposes.

It may be too late to save the original meaning of Christmas, but can’t we at least try to save the original meaning of A Christmas Carol…?

Going On The Account: A Round of Thanks

And so we’re finished here.

And not a moment too soon, you might say.  Thing of it is, so would I…

I had someone ask me during a Q&A after my reading at NYRSF what year Red Jenny took place in.  Coyly, I declined to give a year, citing how both George Orwell and Arthur C. Clarke got hobbled by tying some of their better-known works to a date on the calendar.

Truth be told, the way things were going, there was every chance that a lot of events happening around us were going to make the novel look dated months before this moment.  Between March of 2011 and today, we’ve seen federal sequestration leading to government disengagement from its citizens, a major storm slamming the New York area and a realization that we’re going to lose a lot more land to inundation than we thought, an explosion of gun violence that would not be that uncommon in the time of these pirates, serious challenges to our access to medical treatment, a worsening relationship between the U.S. and her neighbors; hell, the Peace Bridge just became a flashpoint between both sides….

Despite plenty of evidence in literature for years that trying to project near-term developments by a writer is a sucker’s game, I still put a couple of bucks down for some action, thankful I was able to walk away not that much lighter at the end of it.

So wrapping things now worked out pretty well.  In fact, I’d say my timing was pretty good; a few weeks ago some press was being generated by the coining of the term “cli-fi,” having the novel in the right place and time as everyone considers the subject and allowing me to drastically cut down the time for my elevator pitch…

Speaking of getting everything in, I feel like a writer getting an Oscar and finding he’s only got 20 seconds left before they play him off to start thanking everyone for getting there.  If you don’t find your name here, we’ll talk:

* My wife (and editor) Susan, and son James:  The non-writers out there can relate to the misery of being around someone who needs time to create and gets snarly if they can’t be with their craft often enough, and the two of you put up with a lot from me.  (And you writers out there reading this with someone with whom you share close quarters: Take a second and let them know how much you love them.)

* Cheryl Mortensen, who encouraged me not to sit around too long after Raging Gail was finished to share this one; as it happened, the timing worked out pretty well.

* Susan Rocan, author of Withershins, whose interview with me was a big highlight of the whole experience publishing this novel.

* Tim O’Mara, author of Sacrifice Fly, and host of the We Three Productions reading series, who gave me the first opportunity to read from the novel and offered me a chance to share the work with a wider audience.

* Jim Freund, radio personality and host of the NYSFR reading series, who took a gamble on giving me a chance to do a reading from the novel at literally the last minute; if that isn’t a great stress test of your skills as a writer, I can’t think of any better.

* Everyone who came to or ended up at both readings; having you as an audience was gratifying, and I love the warmth that you all showed.  And hey, count your blessings; better you hear me reading than singing…

* Last but not least, everyone who logged in and read the book.  I enjoyed your comments when they came, though just having you read along as it came out was more than enough for me.  It’s to you I owe so much; thank you.

I had at one point the wild idea of a big wrap party when I got to this point, but not having a Harvey Weinstein-sized budget for a soirée, I’ve had to scale back; dammit!  I’m still scaling here as I write this, so even if all I end up with is coming home alone to a can of Genesee and one of those stale cheese-and-cracker packs you get from a vending machine on the New York State Thruway, I can at least have this out here to show my thanks.

Who knows, maybe someone reading this may decide to take me out for a drink or two, just to say thanks.  I can promise I’m good company and that I won’t be that embarrassing.

And I might even share with you a sneak peak at the next project…

Going On The Account: Out Of (Licensed) Character

Fanfic:  It’s no longer just a thing, it’s also a market!

Last Wednesday, Amazon Publishing announced Kindle Worlds, allowing writers who want to write about Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries to do so, not just legally but for money.  Not a lot of money (and let’s be honest, no one’s really paying anything to writers these days; just ask the staff writing for Fashion Police about their jobs…) but it’s more than fanfic writers were getting before.

And, as a bonus, one thing they don’t get is a cease-and-desist take-down notice from the rights holder, proof that sometimes it’s not what you add to the act that makes it better, it’s what you take out of it!

Is there a catch, maybe a dozen?  Sure; Ben Richmond on Motherboard does a great job of explaining those, in the form of a more-legal-than-before Gossip Girl fanfic.  The obvious ones, about the rights holder retaining all rights to the characters, having first crack to exploit anything you might come up with, and no crossovers (unless presumably both are part of the program down the road) are of course there.  Which is to be expected; remember to treat this more of a loan than a gift, and you won’t be disappointed.

Still, this is great news for those writers who fall into one of these camps:

  • The Inspirationally Challenged:  Having problems coming up with characters?  Have a situation you want to explore but not a lot of luck coming up with whom to inflict it on?  Here’s your chance to start on your piece with some of the prep work done for you.  Think of it like having a pre-made pie crust at hand to make that chocolate chip-mince meat pie that much easier to bake…
  • The Egotist:  You call that a development?  You call those story arcs?  Well, if they think that’s acceptable, you should see what happens when MY talents are applied!  They have seen nothing until they have seen MINE!  MINE, YOU PEONS!  And you WILL love it!  I just know you will!
  • The Tinkerer:  Cool, let’s see what happens if I go this way, and see if something sticks to the wall…      Awesome, so like, if we do this now…

And for the rest of you, who don’t have to worry about any of the above and can as a result expect higher royalties over more platforms, don’t be so ready to scoff at this.  Just think:

If you create something popular enough to draw a lot of attention to it, here’s an option you might not have considered:  Marketing opportunities through Kindle Worlds!  If you have a good product and a strong hide, here’s an opportunity that might get you more than those tie-in T-shirts.

Please, don’t ask me about the T-shirts; you don’t want to know…

Going On The Account: Getting Back Aboard

Well, it’s 2013, and only a few days away from the fifth anniversary of this blog.


But more on that closer to the date; right now I’m just trying to prove that yeah, I’m still here.  I did sort of let the whole Blogtober stunt serve as an excuse to phone it in last month, between all the other stuff going on.  And trying to do a whole host of things we wanted to do, much else occurred.  Who was it who talked about life being what happens while you’re busy making other plans…?

Oh yeah, him:



Anyways, in the midst of a lot of other things, there was Newtown.


Which was a problem for a while, in that I continually craft pieces with nasty characters in threatening situations.  I talked about this a while ago, at a time when we didn’t have the images from that Friday burned in our retinas and a wall of concept kept us far enough away from a reality of pain to allow for writing about characters with guns that casually.

So what happens when you have a moment of doubt about your work?

I’d be lying if I said that what happened at that school didn’t give me pause.  Writing people who carry and use in a setting where they could be in a firefight at any minute was not something I wanted to work on after that.  Even Aurora didn’t give me the same pause that newton did, although I did wait a week before going to see THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.


But there’s the counter-argument, that only by confronting the uncomfortable can we move ahead.  If I’d been so sensitive that I couldn’t write in the face of such a confrontation, I’d have been offline until a few weeks after the last of the people I knew who lost power below 34th Street got service restored.  Hell, if I’d been that taken aback, I’d still be on the sidelines until the South Ferry subway station got reopened, which may take a while at this point…
There’s also the point that part of the focus of the work is portraying a dark future in an unflattering light.  I went back over what’s been posted so far, and I can say with little fear that I don’t exactly celebrate the thug-and-pirate life.  I’d feel damned miserable if up until now I’d been doing this Frank Miller/Mickey Spillane-themed celebration of life looking down the barrel, then had to keep serving drinks to that party.  These are not what I’d call fun times to inhabit, and it keeps me focused knowing that I came to bury this time our children will know better, not praise it…

And yes, focus is an issue; in addition to all this, there’s some fatigue setting in.  I have projects I’d love to start in on, which have to wait until this commitment is finished.  Hey, you’ve been willing to put up with me this long; least I can do is get to the point already, which a few folks I know accuse me of never doing…

In any event, I do owe those of you still here the rest of the novel before I go on to a few other projects.  Some projects are longer, very involved and may just drive people into fits of frustration; others are short bits that might be monetize-able if I can get an editor or two to see what I see in the piece.

Or I could go fully alone on the short side; I just found out today that a favorite piece from the old Tor collection,  Alternate Kennedys, is being made available by the writer directly through Kindle.  David Gerrold’s “The Kennedy Enterprise” is a great story that assumes that Joe Kennedy went to Hollywood to pursue a deeper relationship with Gloria Swanson, and brings the boys with him, putting Jack in command of a very famous spaceship on TV…  Major classic, well worth the read, especially at only $1.39 to download.  And if the other project works out well-

You know, the other project, the one I talked about a few weeks ago…

Yes, if that pans out, who knows, maybe I could rethink how I present short pieces, the same way I rethought novels.  Oh brave new world, he said on a Shakespeare kick…


New, and hotter; the US had a record hot streak, as did Australia last year.  If the guns don’t get ya, the heat will…

And no, I don’t remember who was responsible for that quote I mangled…

Going On The Account: Write Away

So what am I reading to avoid doing any work tonight?

Well, for starters, there’s John Self’s piece from The Guardian about how individual fans can kick up a writer’s profile (recommended to me by Nathan Bransford’s blog).  It seems simple enough, going guerrilla to word of mouth your payload into as many ears as possible, then hope for it to translate into sales.


In my case, the current read I’d be doing this for would be Rob Reid’s Year Zero, a book with a Douglas Adams-esque eye on the way Big Music tries to fight pirates, suggesting a very funny sounding doom if we aren’t careful about how we apply USC: Title 17.  If our existence ever did depend on a copyright lawyer with the same name as a Backstreet Boy, at least we’d be able to laugh about it as the end came…




And when I’m not reading, I’m watching the short film Tangled Tales – Mr. Write.  This was forwarded to me by the Lovely and Talented Susan, who is a big inspiration for me; that said, I’m thinking that tonight, I sleep with one eye open…

Going On The Account: Taking Another Pass At Ye

Many, many moons ago, oh, around 11:08 PM of July 16th, 2008, I wrote about Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.  You’ve all seen it, right?  Right…?


Well, if you haven’t, you have a chance to see it in the US on the CW.  It’s going to air Tuesday, October 9th an 9:00 PM EDT, so you have another opportunity to see one of the best examples of what happens when artists are allowed to present art directly to the masses, without an intermediary to thrust the control rods into their hearts…

Going On The Account: Taking Notice

Well, it’s time to spread the love, or to put it another way, Es ist Zeit, über eine weitere Auszeichnung übergeben

I have Susan Rocan at the bolg mywithershins.com to thank for presenting me with a Liebster Award.  No, I don’t know who started them either, sorry, but it’s always an honor to be singled out in such a manner.  All I know for sure is that “Leibster” is derived from the German lieb, for love, and that someone thought enough of my work efforts stuff to single me out.

According to the rules of the “organization” on receipt you should thank the person having so presented it to you (thanks, Susan; check), then answer the nominated questions and present eleven more…  Which could be difficult as Susan mentioned during her term of possession that the folks at wingsofwonder.com have already broken the rules as far as what’s expected of possessors of the honor.  Hopefully this will not lead to bad things for anyone, although that nasty rumor about Bashar al-Assad having messed up following the instructions when he passed on the Internet IronFistie Award does eat at the back of my mind…

Part of the issue is that by the time I received it there was a requirement to reveal a few things about yourself.  That’s sort of a problem, in that I had just given an interview that has not yet been published, and I don’t want to ruin that site’s traffic by spilling details that would end up there.  So, like a bad game of telephone or a very successful religion, I’m going to have to misinterpret the original intent even further and along with the eleven nominations, provide a few search terms in what is ultimately random order that show where my head is these days, leaving you to act like William Alland’s Jerry Thompson to put the pieces into a proper mosaic…

1)      Pirates

2)      Duke Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria

3)      Buffalo, NY

4)      Pigeons

5)      Laura Secord

6)      Spiders

7)      Comic Books

8)      Writers

9)      States of Denial

10)   Beowulf

11)   History

You may start hating me for pulling this crap as soon as you finish your visits to these folks:

Sweet Mother

J. Keller Ford

Speaker 7


Let’s Get Digital

Sailing the Void

Rolling Down Rodeo

Ashley Jillian

Snotting Black

Storyteller In The Digital Age

Peter Denton – Writer

Going On The Account: And The Award Goes To…

I got something in the mail recently; not quite like this…

More like this…

Thankfully, I have a few words handy for such occasions:

I want to thank the Academy for the recognition.  I want to thank the studio for believing in the project; our director for overseeing the shoot; the wonderful cast for bringing these characters to life so fully; the folks at the agency for getting everyone into the room in the first place; my wife Susan and son James; my parents; my f-

Aw crap, wait- that’s my Oscar acceptance speech; wrong file, gimme a sec…

Ah, going to have to build one from scratch, then:

The Versatile Blogger Award set a few rules for its nominees:

1. Thank the award-givers and link back to them in your post.

-OK, first off, my thanks to Amanda Young at Storyteller in the Digital Age for putting me forward for this.  Wishing her the best as she gets geared up to play the writing game…

2. Share 7 things about yourself.

-Well, they require it, so…

a.  I have a major interest in history.  It started in part because of my dad, who got his PhD in the field and is passionate about it; while other kids got the Three Little Pigs for bedtime tales, the sibs and I got the Song of Roland, which looking back was probably a better deal than we realized then…

b.  I have a particular passion for alternative history, aka allohistory or AltHis.  It was probably inevitable; as a kid handling a lot of history at a young age, the inevitable question at the end of the narrative tends to be, “So how come this didn’t happen?”  So when I finally get exposed to The Man In The High Castle and  Bring the Jubilee of course I was going to devour those.

c.  Yes, I am a major Beatles fan.  In addition to all the history I had as a kid, I nearly destroyed my parents’ copies of Magical Mystery Tour and  Abbey Road playing those LPs to death.  Which ultimately comes together years later with the AltHis pursuit when I wrote for the webzine Rooftop Sessions such tales as “Act Naturally,” “Magneto and Titanium Man,” “Out of Gear” and my presonal favorite, “One Bright, Shining Moment.”

d. Speaking of alternate history, I came close to a radically different personal path when I seriously considered not going to college and enlisting in the United States Navy.  I’m not sure the shape I was in at the time they’d have taken me, but for a few weeks there I did say “Screw the SATs!” and looked into how to report for enlistment.  This of course would have broken my parents’ heart; in addition to everything else involved  in such a decision, there was the consideration that most of the family that served went into the Army, which would have made my choice doubly embarrassing.  (Had I done so, I could see myself at family reunions wearing a shirt with the line from Duck Soup emblazoned on it:  JOIN THE ARMY AND SEE THE NAVY…)

e. One of my first semi-serious writing gigs in college was a film reviewer, where I learned how to write to deadline as I wrote about movies.  This gave me a love of film and an appreciation of the form.  This said, no, I’m not going to start writing film reviews; the last thing I need is Tom Brazelton and Gordon McAlpin to come after me for trying to cut in on their action.  Worse, Joe Dunn is local and knows me on sight, so he could probably find where I live easily…

f. I’ve actually gotten up to sing a few times and gotten some good notices for it.  I have to admit the folks I sang along with a few of those times with were far, far better than me, so maybe I did have some cover; the solos I undertook didn’t get me stoned, though, so maybe I do have something there…

g. I have always been into comic books and comic strips since way too long ago.  In fact, when I discovered webcomics, I thought about how I could try and get in on this movement; however, as the only thing I draw well are stares when I say something stupid, I had to reconsider that, and instead settled on emulating the webcomic business model as a means of getting my work out there, so…

3. Pass this award along 15 or 20.

-Hoo-boy, that could be an issue; I follow a few blogs, some of whom have gotten this duty, and I’m not sure what etiquette is involved if they get dinged a second time.  Also, some of the folks I follow  are technically webcomics, not blogs, so there’s a whole taxonomic quandary involved  herein…

Nonetheless, in no order that suggests any favoritism whatsoever…

Brave and the Bold/Super-Team Family: The Lost Issues

A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing

May Pang’s Asian Media Internet News

She Writes

Space 1970

Seduction of the Indifferent

Law and the Multiverse


Robotic Rhetoric

Five Bucks to Friday


Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid In The Hudson

The Bowery Boys: New York City History

The Dreamer

1977 the Comic


4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

-Being done soon upon posting of this.


And if I forgot  to mention someone that needed a word or said something out of turn, hit me up for a pint.
That line, by the way, is how I’d end the Oscar speech too…