Monday, June 30, 2008

For whom the bell tolled

Doorbell, that is. It rang early on Monday afternoon, and there was a delivery dude from local trucking company Star Track (I know; cute name), with a skinny box to be signed for. Ask not for whom the doorbell tolled, because I've been waiting for it since Thursday, which is at least six wees ago. And...

Here it is, halfway to installation. All I need now is a wifi adaptor, and I'm back in business ... though I am a tad-bit disappointed. I don't get to saunter into IT Warehouse an ask where they keep the gay cables. There was one in the box. Its' a 22" wide Samsung monitor which is coupled up to a Dell computer, and this old laptop will be retired with honors. It can go out to grass with my blessings.

Have you ever counted the number of computers you've bought, over the years? A few days ago I was tallying up the regiment of typewriters that have all gone to that great print shop in the sky; the last few of them coexisted with surprising harmony with the first computers, but change was in the air and they knew they were doomed. They slunk away in docile surrender when the first desktop PC came throug the door.

It was a dual disk machine. Remember those? You started with two 5.25" floppies, with your operating system (MS Dos 2.1) on one and your application on the other. You had two floppy drives and you juggled disks. Next came an 086 with your actual, genuine hard drive. All 30MB of it. (That machine cost $2500, believe it or not ... contrast that with the $600 laptops you can get today. And shudder.) Next came a 386 with a 100MB harddrive (and a power switch on the back that arced and was always gunked up with corrosion. Go figure). Next, a Compaq system which was your actual $6000 Pentium I, to which I added an extra harddrive ($999) and (this was outrageous in 1996/7) a CD burner ($1700). In those days, blank disks cost A$7 EACH. The Compaq was one of the much-lamented Presarios, and it was full of bugs, kinks, quirks. To get a job done by a specific deadline, I ended up paying two grand for another Pentium -- something called an Edge, whatever that was. It worked: I'm not complaining! The Compaq stuck around and did service as a word processor for several more years. If you didn't ask too much of it, well, it didn't deliver too much, but it kept on working. Next was Pentium III, which ran Win98 like lighning. Then a build-up that was bits of this and bits of that. It cost $800 (without a monitor) and was screamingly fast for its day. Then, an Acer with was Celeron inside (and which is still doing sterling service on the other desk) ... then this laptop; then another laptop which 'had to be done,' because SOME system had to run Vista, and no machine we have had the brains to run it. And lastly, the Dell which is going online right now (and which is an XP-Pro machine ... I'm not impressed with Vista. Sorry guys).

I've lost count. I'm also sure I've forgotten some machine which landed in some dumpster yonks ago. You work it out. And I'm not even going to think about the printers I've acquired in the same time frame ... though I will mention that I paid $2,400 for a HP Laser back in the mid-1990s. Makes your blood run cold, doesn't it? Right now, you can get a laser for about $90. [Sounds of slow strangulaton]

So, as of tomorrow, I don't have an excuse for not getting boat-loads of work done, an if I don't deliver the haunted house novel in a timely fashion, you have every right to deliver a swift e-kick. In fact, I *am* beginning to get the feeling that comes over every writer from time to time: a kind of restlessness, where only one thing will cause the itch in the fingertips to go away ... getting the story out of the brain and into the computer. Even the subsidiary characters are fully-formed, and I have the ending to the story; I just have to get onto Google Earth and choose the exact location for the house itself.

An old house, with a history. An isolated house, where time, distance and winter will easily come together to weave a kind of prison...

Trust me, it's going to be fun. No vampyres in this story ... but I do have several more plotlines for the characters from NOCTURNE and TWILIGHT, and it wouldn't take much persuasion to inspire me to write another novel there. I'd also like to get back into THE SWORDSMAN and finish out that story, but first I want to get HELLGATE finished, 'right to the end,' as they say; and what readers are actually asking me for lately is (no surprise here) more NARC. More Jarrat and Stone. Oh, yeah.

These stories are all on the agenda -- it's just a question of time. Bear with me. Seeing the new website is, in itself, enormously inspiring.

Speaking of which, said website launches in about 36 hours. It's in full working order, with just two items waiting to go up. The screen-reader versions of the ebooks for NOCTURNE and WHITE ROSE are the last elements waiting for upload. And with the new computer installed, I'm sure I'll get my 'second wind.' That's when the endorphins kick in and you don't feel the pain any more.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The cruellest cut...

Last night I was writing a quick column about the way DEATH'S HEAD was cut by 15% of its running length, according to publisher requirements; I was asked, how do you go about doing thr work, and stretched my memory back over more years than any of us care to tell, to actually remember doing it (shiver). Then, later in the evening we played the DVD of the director's cut of TROY, which is about a half hour longer than the theatrical release ... and I was struck by the similarity in the two editing jobs.

On one hand you have the writer who has to cut the heart and soul out of a book to make it fit covers which had been pre-printed; on the other hand, you have a director who's been told to bring the story in at a certain length, and s/he has to rip through the film and find a way to cut it by about 20% of its length, and do it without compromising the story.

Well, maybe the cuts to TROY didn't compromise the plot, but they certainly chewed into the 'integrity' of the characterization. The director's cut is extremely good. I'd actually missed the movie on the big screen because I was (!) dumb enough to believe the critics, who had nothing good to say about it. I suppose it depends what you want to get out of a movie for your $14 ticket (yup; that's what we're paying locally ... and you bet, a movie's got to be good to be worth the asking price ... it's not like buying a paperback, where you get days of entertaining for your $24, or whatever. With a movie, whether it's good, bad or indifferent, the whole thing is over in a couple of hours).

Maybe the critics who went to TROY were wanting something more, or different from it. More of Helen, less of Achilles? More female nudity, less of Brad Pitt's physique dramatically undraped for the cameras? Okay. I can see how a troupe of het film critics could get upset at the scarcity of female nudity in the theatrical version, while Brad and Orlando get to romp around in sun tan oil and smiles. I can just imagine the puffs of steam, or smoke, coming out of these critics' ears as they sit beside wives or girlfriends who're oohing and aahing over the cinematic beefcake. So TROY was always destined to be rubbished by mainstream movie critics!

There's a little more for these guys in the director's cut. Not only is the movie a lot more bloodthirsty (though nowhere near 300 or PATHFINDER. I'd put it on a par with THIRTEENTH WARRIOR), but there's enough nudie shots of Helen to woo the other side of the fence. There's also a lot of Mr. Pitt, who broods all over the screen and leaves the viewer with a lingering impression of animal magnificence, and also a kind of madness. Was Achilles thoroughly nuts for a while? I'd have to say so -- and if you've read your Homer, the original text of the ILLIAD only underscores the idea. This seems to come across in the director's cut more keenly than in the theatrical cut. Kuods to Brad Pitt on many levels. For having the guts to actually portray the 'hero' as a blood-hungry maniac for a while ... for being a major investor in the movie ... and for living in the gym for months. That physique didn't just happen. One can imagine the buckets of sweat spilled to make it happen.

And as a writer I can also imagine how directot Wolfang Peterson would have wept tears of blood in the cutting of it. A couple of shots, I could have lived without --basically, seeing people's heads get cut in two isn't high on my day's agenda. But violence was only part of what was added back in, in the process of restoration for the DVD.

Cutting DEATH'S HEAD was the same kind of 'tears of blood' chore, a trial by ordeal. (What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Yeah, right. You know that the guy who said that ended his life insane, locked up in a loony bin? What doesn't kill you can also turn you into such a head-case, the nice men in the white coats come to collect you one day!) Which isn't to say that I went bonkers while cutting DEATH'S HEAD. (Okay, I almost did; but enough sanity hung on by the proverbial thread for me to get to the post office with the manucript!)

the header art for the new NARC site

Incidentally, if the writers among you would like to know more about how the whole thing was done, you can find the story on the NARC page, on the website.

Speaking of the website, it's actually up at this moment ... still under test in a couple of places, but it's been debugged and is running smoothly enough for me to invite you to visit. The address hasn't changed:

the main page.

The official launch will be in a couplre more days, because there's still a few details to be added in; but it's looking very, very good.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Computers, plumbing, and the way of the future

Update on the Great Vanishing Acrobat story: AVG Antivirus reports nada, so there's no Trojan responsible for the complete disappearance of Acrobat Reader 8 ... which is what I was a tad-bit concerned about yesterday. Not that I actually wanted to find viruses in the system, but -- it would have been nice to know what caused a program to vanish utterly. Hmmm. Interesting, no? Good one. Gremlins?

Winter is meandering toward spring, with native trees in bloom wherever you look, and the air thick with pollen. Tis the season to be seezin'. In Australia things tend to happen backwards -- which is not to say it's not beautiful down here (it is) or that tourists don't love the place (they do). But even after having lived here since I was a little kid, I'm still noticing that things happen backwards.

Sure, winter is in June, July, August; everybody knows that. But the native trees don't shed their leaves, they shed their bark. And they don't bloom in summer, they bloom in winter. The only thing that does NOT run backwards (no matter what you saw on The Simpsons) is the toilets. Sorry to disappoint, but the whirlpool effect you guys are seeing in the US is the product of the mechanism. Our loos use a different mechanism ... ain't no whirlpoor effect at all, going in any direction.

And that's a whole lot more than you needed to know about toilets, right? (Anybody used the loo in a really big international airport, and chanced a peek into some of the stalls designed to accommodate folks from Asia and the mid-east?! Man, there's some weird porcelaine out there.)

Work continues on the new website: it's in the aggravatingly slow debugging stage, where eyeballs get fried as code is taken apart line by line, and the general consensus is that the guy who invented Javascript should be taken out and strung up by some part of his anatomy ... and we'll leave which part to the person who's been taking apart the coding!

Having said which -- the site is almost done and ready to launch. My own thoughts are turning more and more to new projects, and it seems I'll be working on two, in tandem. One is obviously the haunted house story. That one should almost write itself, since I have a prior version to work from and a pile of notes and research spanning the last couple of years. The other project is something that just came my way, and it's ... interesting.

I've been asked to participate in a kind of teaching venture, though it's nothing as structured as 'course materials' and 'lesson plans.' It's more like a wide-scale information sharing, on the subject of (duh) writing. This one will be interesting to watch as it unfolds. Writing is a field that's been close to my heart since I was a little kit (to wit, the typewriter story I was telling the other day. What other six year old do you know who actually asks Santa for a typewriter?!)

The way website projects work (especially 'group builds' like this one), it's probably going to be a couple of months before I can point you at a web address, but I'll keep you posted. Turns out, a lot of readers are either already writers or would love to be; and of the writers, a good many are wondering how to make the breakthrough and 'go pro.'

There are so many options, these days. It used to be that if you couldn't scale the heights and sign with a company in New York or London, you were doomed before you began. in 2008, the whole picture has changed utterly: publishing isn't what it used to be. Some of us would say, it was time for a change! But the sheer proliferation of ebooks out there is bemusing --

We were uploading a few more to Payloadz just today, and our recently allocated numbers are up over the 470,000 mark. That's 20,000 ebooks hitting the Payloadz lists in a matter of days. Gives you pause to reflect.

Of course, I can't imagine what the quality is like; and some of those 20,000 items will be software, too. But the vast majority of titles going up are ebooks, to be privately sold through personal websites everywhere.

Speaking of ebooks, I have a URL for you: Diesel Ebooks. That's an impressive pile, and they have quite an impressive gay list. It's nice to see gay books, gay publishing, right alongside the mainstream, and Diesel is an 'equal opportunity' storefront.

Some of the best gay writing, lately, isn't going through the meat-grinder system of traditional publishing, and if you take a look at Diesel, you might glimpse the way of the future. The truth is, it's a little too soon to tell which way the industry will go in the long term, but one thing is for sure: the reading public is driving its direction, not the power-publishers. The power of choice is in the hands of writers and their readers, as never before. I have to approve, yet a part or me is on tenterhooks, waiting to see how it turns out! Five years ago, ebooks were just making their real debut, and many people (myself included) had little faith in them. Why? Because I'll always like a real book; paper. I like the feel of it in my hands, like the way it sits on the shelf -- and looking at paper doesn't fry your eyeblls.

Ebooks are just -- mind you, just -- starting to come of age, but like anything that's growing up, there's something of a mess happening too. There are conflicting formats (reminiscent of the Betamax and VHS war of yonks ago, and of the DVD v. BlueRay wars which are about to begin). And there's one hell of a lot of dross out there. People are publshing their own work before it's ready; before it's been properly proofread, much less edited. Which is fine, if these works are free; but some of these ebooks are forty bucks! One would hope that if writers are going to charge (and get) high prices for their books, they'll have the integrity to make sure they're well written and edited. Or at the very least, proofread. Don't get me started on the subject of proofreading ... yet, it's a major part of the writing process, and without a thorough proofread and a good edit to fine-tune things, most writing suffers.

And this is why I'm so interested in the 'want to write a novel' project, in which I've been asked to participate. Publishing is heading in new directions that could barely be predicted a few years ago. The key point will be to maintain quality in the published work -- and this is a writer's duty, especially in a publishing scenario where no one is breathing down your neck to edit and proofread, and where, increasingly, sloppy grammar is becoming not merely common, but accepted. Typographical errors seem to be taken for granted whereas, before computers and texting over phones, you'd get your knuckles rapped for a typo! (One idiot called typos 'spelling' mistakes, as if you didn't know how to spell c-a-t, and thought it was spelled cta. Take a deep breath Keegan. Count to ten. There's at least half a dozen born every minute ... the birth rate's faster than it used to be, you see.)

Ciao for now,

Friday, June 27, 2008

Riddle me this, Batdude --

Got a good one for you today: solve the riddle of this one, somebody! Last week I downloaded and installed Adobe Acrobat 8. The installation process took about 40 minutes (which I thought was a little excessive, since it was over a broadband connection), but seemed to go smoothly enough. The prog worked excellently for several days, and then --

Today I needed to read a PDF. I noticed that the usual icon had been replaced with the generic 'bitza,' '57-varieties' icon, but since this old computer tends to struggle these days I didn't fret too much about it. But when I clicked on the PDF to read it, the computer asked me to choose a program to open it with. Wondering if the system was having another hernia (it often happens), I rebooted. But no ... same thing: What would I like to open the PDF with?

Suspicious now, I noticed that the Acrobat shortcut had vanished off my desktop. Uh...huh. Then I troubled to look in the Adobe folder, in the program files ob Drive C:/, and --

Yep, you guessed. Acrobat Reader 8 had vanished without a trace. I'd been running the old version 6 till last week. It used to fall over a lot but at least it never vanished. The installation of 8 auto-deleted version 6; and then 8 ... vanished into the ether.

My question is, how in the hell is it possible for a program to uninstall itself? Because I sure didn't tell it to uninstall. Friday evening finds me wondering if I've picked up a virus that's doing the gremlin routine, causing mostly-harmless mayhem ... so as soon as I'm done for the day I'll be running my virus software, and if I do find a virus in there, which is making programs vanish, I'll let you know what it was.

Now, the virus software I use is the one recommended by DreamCraft -- AVG, by Grisoft. It's the best I've found; Norton wasn't too good, and Net Vet was a waste of money. I made the change to AVG after Vet failed to find the gremlins in the workings a few years ago, and have stuck with it ever since. It's never let me down to date, so here's my conundrum:

If AVG is so damned good, how did a virus get through? It takes over two hours to virus scan this machine and its companion harddrive, so by tomorrow I'll know if it's some kind of Trojan deleting programs at whim. If this is the case, it's an easy fix. What concerns me is the possibility AVG hasn't let me down, and I don't have a virus ... and Acrobat 8 just deleted itself. Sends chills down your spine, doesn't it?!

A friend-of-a-friend is grumbling lately about the condition of her computer. She's done some kind of a scan on it and found (get this) 150+ Trojans hiding in there. That's what you get for giving your kid license to surf the Net and download willy nilly, after the little twerp fried her own computer. With 150 Trojans aboard, it's a wonder any computer starts up at all.

Still on the subject of computers ... am STILL waiting for that dad-blasted monitor to arrive. It's being shipped from Victoria. You'd think they were bringing it from Mongolia by mule train. The new Dell system is just standing under the desk, waiting like me; and the gay cables are still languishing like so many wallflowers at IT Warehouse. *sigh*

On the bright side of things, my fingers are starting to itch to get back to work on the haunted house novel. As soon as I have the thorough proofread and light edit of AQUAMARINE finished (give me a week or so; the new covers have been designed, and are a source of inspiration. Serious wow factor), the haunted house story is my next

And I've been viewing the new Flash animations for the NARC website. I'm amazed ... and yes, the website is done, finished. There are some new feature articles, including a couple from contributors, and the whole thing has a design 'feel' I like a lot. It goes up and is open for business next week. Very exciting.

There'll be a newsletter from DreamCraft next week to announce the new website, and at that time I should have more news about AQUAMARINE, which is going to look very handsome in its new covers.

The final proofs for NOCTURNE and TWILIGHT arrived today, and you have to hand it to the Australian digital printshop which has partnered with The turnaround time, from placing an order to receiving it ... five days. That's great service, and cheers to for their efforts. Our font "issues" are solved, and shouldn't reappear in future projects ... sounds of profound relief from all concerned down here!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Spacetime, delivery dudes, and gay cables

Since 8:30 in the am I've hd one ear turned toward the frondoor, doggedly listening for the bell. Against all odds, by 11:41 it still hasn't rung, and I'm conscious of experiencing genuine Einsteinian time dilation. Time is definitely slowing down -- but Einstein got it wrong: you don't have to travel at high velocity in a direction at right angles to the 'arrow' of time (this is what you get for reading Brian Green late at night). All you have to do is sit tight, try to get some work done and listen for the bloody-damned doorbell --

Needless to say, I'm expecting a truck, delivering a 7kg box, containing my new monitor screen. I just ordered up a 22" LCD flat panel, to go with the Dell desktop which will be giving this overworked old laptopa break, as soon as the monitor arrives. (I have weird eyes, and can't look at a 'normal' monitor screen. They cycle at 25 frames per second, and I can actually see the flutter with one eye, but not the other one ... which means my vision wil split while you cound three, two one, and the next thing I know, I'm taking migraine pills. Big fun.)

(Off topic: I think they found the cure for migraine. At least down here, *some* doctors are prescribing beta blockers to inhibit them, and they work. Low doses of beta blockers don't seem to have any dire side effects, and I haven't had a full-blown migraine in about 18 months, since taking the first pill. Now, there's a thought to conjure with, if you're a sufferer.)

Time definitely slows down when you're waiting, which I don't think Einstein ever noticed; or if he did, it was not germaine to his theorem way back when. Of course, Einstein lived in an earlier age, and most of his groundbreaking work was done in a decade which still moved largely at the speed of the horse.Their horses were therefore overworked, slowed down, and the pace of time slowed down with them -- with intricate relativity to the animals' workload. If Einstein had lived in our modern age, he would have had the same insatiable thirst for instant gratification we all suffer: I wannit, and I wannit NOW! (Well, you can't have it now, Keegan, because it's still on a truck, probably still halfway down the Princess Highway, so just shut up and get some work done.)

And that's another point Einstein would have gotten to grips with, had he lived in our era: the inverse angular square law of the propogation of worklesness during time dilation caused by waiting.

I realize that's an inexcusably technical term for a blog intended for the consumption of normal people, so let me put it into layman's terms: The longer you have to wait for something, the slower time runs, and (which is the counter-intuitive part) the less you get done. For example, I've waited at least three weeks for this monitor, since 8:30 this morning. In the real world, only about three hours have passed by. In my world, it's been fifteen working days (we won't count weekends; delivery dudes take weekends off). But have I ripped through three weeks' worth of work? Have I slogged through three HOURS' worth of work?!

I think I've done about an hour's worth, and --

Got to go listen for the doorbell, hold on.

Back. Damn. All my imagination.

Soon as the thing gets here, we can have a look at the connections and figure out what kind of cable it needs. And this is where the process gets fascinating, because cables (in case you're unaware of this) are gendered. There are male plugs and female plugs. Monitors also are gendered, mostly with female sockets requireing male plugs. The other end of the cable fits the back of the PC's brainbox, which is also a female socket.

I guess I need a male/male cable. And I fully intend to walk right into IT Warehouse or OfficeWorks (same as OfficeMax in the States), accost the first unsuspecting little assistant and ask where they keep the gay cables. Lesbian cables won't do for this job; and bi cables are out of the question. It's a gay cable, or forget it, I have to find another store. I'm dying to see the look on the assistant's face.

Seriously, I do need a new computer, and this laptop needs a break. It'll probably be reformatted, after I've transferred everything off it and got the new system up on its feet. This laptop is a Compaq Presario, but it's getting along in years; the incoming desktop is a Dell build-up, much faster in every way, though still far from the top of the line systems.

Speaking of cutting-edge computers and interfaces, one of the elements in IRON MAN that I enjoyed the most was Tony Stark's computer system, with the holo display. About six months ago I saw part of a show (on SBS, I think ... but I could de dead wrong) hosted by Michio Kako, in which they depicted these interfaces and set the date of 2040 - 2050. What you're seeing in IRON MAN is a special effects preview of what we can fully expect to be using in bout 30 years' time.

Thinking of IRON MAN also drags my protesting brain back onto the subject of the NARC riot armor, and reminds me ... I have an appointment with destiny. A half dozen new helmet designs are waiting for me to look at, and I acknowledge the fact that, yes, sooner or later I'll have to make a decision and say, "THIS is what the NARC armor looks like." Trying to get this thing right is a fracas almost like the scenes you see in those 'Making of STAR WARS'-type documentaries, where someone like George Lucas is stuffing his designers around for the tenth time, saying words along the lines of 'I'll know what I want when I see it.'

Hold on --

Is that the doorbell??

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Poofredding. Pruefreadig. PROOFREADING, damnit!.

Have you ever noticed how typographical errors hide among the pixels on your screen? No, seriously. They lurk there, close to invisible. When you're looking at the monitor you don't see them -- but as soon as you send them to the printer, WHAM! The little buggers have no place to hide on paper (because it's a static medim, unlike the computer, which is entirely dynamic). Having no place to hide, they're instantly visible. Anyone and his uncle can see them. A chimpanzee can see them on paper ... but on the screen, the little darlings can hide, and they do.

Now, I've put this to the test in exhaustive experimentation over many years, and it doesn't matter what kind of monitor you use, they always find a way to hide. I've tried using cathode ray tube type monitors, and LCD type, and crystal brite type things ... typographical errors evade the human eye with enviable aplomb.

So, if the type of monitor has no effect on their hiding capabilities, yet they're instantly visible on paper, the result of this research program is so obvious, we should have seen it all along. There's only one possible answer: When you and I are looking at the cursor, or out the window, or at the time, or the cat ... the typos, fleet as a toupe of performing fleas, jump behind the images, and underneath the menu bars, and sit there shivering in glee, trying not to give themselves away with audible chuckles --

And regular readers of this blog know, by now, that when Keegan rabbits on this way it means the topic of today's column is probably unutterably boring.


Damnit, I hate proofreading. Not because what I'm reading is boring (it better not be; I wrote it, and if I'm boring myself, what chance does the reader stand?!) but
because every typo points out what a lousy typist I am.

I got my first typewriter for Christmas when I was about six. It was something called a Petit Elite, and though it was actually a toy it typed nicely on bright blue ribbons, where the ink only came off all over you if you deliberately smeared it. I got my first real typewriter when I was 12 ... a big, ages-old Remmington office model, cold steel, massive, would have made a good boat anchor. A few years later I got a newer model (still a big office job), a Facit, made in Yugoslavia or one of those countries that no longer exists. When I was 16 I bought myself a neat little portable, an Olympia Traveler de luxe. I loved that typewriter. Then came an IBM Selectric II (anybody remember golfball fonts? Ever had one jump off the machine while you were trying to fit it, and hit you in the eye?? My Prestige Elite was always jumping off. I learned to duck).

I got the IBM Selectric when I was about 20, and I beat it up till I was about 30 and it was (in comparative typewriter years) about 140. One day it made a monstrous clunking sound and quit forever, but by that time I was glad it had died, because then I didn't have to use it anymore. Around about then, I bought an electronic typewriter by Brother, which lasted several years (doubled as a computer printer too), and also a portable Adler, which I ended up selling to an elderly lady who, in her retirement, wanted to learn how to type. (At which point in the conversation my jaw went slack, and I wisely made no remark.)

The Adler was the last typewriter I bought, and if you actually want to buy a typewriter today, you have to go a long way to find a new one. Brother still makes one model, but it's one of those with a small LED display, where you can take a crack at PROOFREADING your ramblings before you hit RET, ENT, or whatever, and your sentiments are immortalized.

All through these years of typewriters and paper, the typographical errors were easy to find. You could lasso them with an elastic band or skewer them with a toothpick, or bash them with your coffee mug. They breed a great deal faster than one can hunt them down, of course; in fact, one imagines the world would be suffocating in them by now, if it were not for dedicated, intrepid proofreaders -- hunters so determined that rather than stalking the little buggers among the pixels, they hit PRINT, corner them on paper, and then subject them to mass extermination. From the typos' point of view, it must seem like a kind of ruthless ethnic cleansing, but the proofreader assumes godlike characteristics and proportions, winkling them out of their world of pixels and electrons, herding them onto paper, and then -- WHAM! Letting them have it with both barrels.

And there are some beauties out there. Typos that can change the entire gist of a sentence. Typos that could invalidate the constitution of one's nation, and undermine one's literary heritage. Finding them is critical.

Also stultifyingly boring. What I want to know is, when is Micro-whomever going to get on the stick and invent a proofreading program that WORKS? I don't mean a grammatical checker, one of those dim-bulb rote-read things which tells you to insert a comma and a 'that' every six words through every sentence. I mean a program capable of reading a language contextually, building sentence structure ... in other words, understanding what it's reading, and able to pick out one's typographical booboos.

Guys, there's a billion dollars out there for the company that comes out with a program designed to rescue people from the hapless, vile oblivion of profreading.

Speaking of which, I still have 20 pages to do, and I'd best get on with it!

Ciao for now,

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Plot? What Plot? You wanted a plot?!

It's inevitable to face this question, sooner or later, if you're a writer with a halfway decent booklist. "Where do your ideas come from?"

The truth is, I'm clueless about where my ideas originate. They seem to generate themselves and pop into my mind almost fully formed. I've heard other writers say they saw the whole thing in a dream, but this never happens to me. (Or, almost never ... I did get the inspiration for one very large, very dark and werid novel from a fever dream, about ten years ago. The dream was so pervasive and overpowering, the novel was actually written, in part just to get it out of my head and shut the characters up. But this was a singular fever dream, and can't possibly count toward answering the question of where the endless torrent of ideas come from.)

Other writers will tell you they sit down and laboriously thrash out their plots, and I've no doubt this suits some people. Some writers like to spend six or eight hours a day at the typewriter or computer, writing and rewriting segments until somehow the final draft comes together. I can grasp how this would work inside a computer; the prospect of making it happen on paper, with your actual typewriter, mystifies me. Still other writers claim to have the whole story in their minds before they sit down and type a word -- prose and all. (It might have been Harlan Ellison who works that way ... all well and good; but you'd need a virtually 'trick memory' to be able to make his system go.)

For myself, I suppose I work in a kind of gray zone in the middle. A scenario floats into my head -- from where, I know not. I don't write anything at once; I think about it for days, weeks, months, until a viable storyline comes together, complete with the ending. (There's nothing worse than having 75% of a plot written, and you can't find the ending for love or money. It represents a sheer waste of time -- and also a fair amount of discomfort suffered, if you're like me, and have a back and hands that have seen somewhat better days.)

If or when a coherent plot comes together, then I'll probably jot it down. I have notebooks filled with undecipherable scrawl. Daydreaming can make plots flow together quite quickly, but the result can be pretty tacky: daydreams also lend themselves to wish fulfilment, and improbable characters. As a writer, one of the first things you learn is how to filter out the dross, dump the krudd, detect the crap and chuck it, and then weave what's left into a viable story which would be enjoyed by other people. In fact, this ability is probably the first major skill a wannabe writer needs to learn. You can worry about your grammer later -- you can always pay a fully qualified drone to proofread and copy edit your prose; but if the subplots and character development underpinning the work have too high a krudd factor, a crap quotient beyond acceptable parameters, well, brilliant, flawless prose will be warped into something like satire, or spoof. The end result might easily be hilarious.

(Incidentally, no offense intended to paid copy editors and proofreaders: they also serve who groan in sheer disbelief and correct witless grammar. The point I'm making is simply that copy editing is a learned skill which will one day, very soon, be performed by machines, whereas plot wrangling, birthing characters, world building, are the province of a very small fraction of human minds who have the latent ability. Those born able to do this are as blessed as those others who can dance, paint, sculpt, sing, and so on.)

So the writing process is cumulative. The idea happens -- how, I don't know. It sloshes around inside my (or any writer's) head for weeks or months, and when it starts to make sense it's written down or typed in. By this stage, the characters will already be playing the key parts. They might not have names (sometimes a character's name can be changed over and over, right up to the final draft), but they'll surely have faces and voices.

This one reminds you of some actor or other; that one looks like the goal keeper from the 1982 Manchester United soccer team. (You think I'm joking, right? I'm dead searious, kids!) This character looks like a batsman from the 1984 West Indian cricket team ... that one reminds you of an actor from a 1953 movie. Their voices are the same ad hoc mish-mash -- timbre, accent, 'color,' all flowing together into new forms.

By now, the whole process is starting to get that certain feeling about it: you're restless to start writing the damned book. It's daunting, though; you're looking at 100 - 200 hours of work ahead of you, most of it staring at a screen. But one day the first sentence, even the first paragraph, will float into your mind from dimensions unknown, and -- that's it. You start writing.

But, all right, the original question was, where the hell do the ideas come from?

Now and then I allude to some dimension at right angles to this one, from which ideas just slip through. This might be hopelessly off-topic, but I recall reading in TIME Magazine about eighteen months ago, that recent research into human brain activity, using scanning methods that have only recently become available, show that the brain goes into overdrive as soon as the eyes are closed. There's a kind of 'dark neural net' which kicks in a soon as audovisual stimuli are closed out. The brain generates its own content, without pause. Hence, dreams, and daydreaming, trace-like states ... and maybe story ideas?

We have, essentially, no real idea where fictional material is 'made,' and it's also interesting (though absolutely off topic!) to note, the evidence to 'prove' that the mind and the brain are the same thing is as lace-curtain thin as the evidence to the contrary. The only fact is -- there are no facts. So if someone were to suggest that the 'dark' neural net which slams into high gear when you close your eyes, accesses some other, intersecting plane of existence, and ideas, stories, plots, leak through osmotically from somewhere, somewhen, else in an extremely quantum-driven spacetime ... don't be too quick to pooh-pooh the idea. (In fact, grab a copy of Brian Green's THE FABRIC OF THE COSMOS, and swiftly unlearn everything you ever thought you understood about life, the universe and, uh, everything ...)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cultural landmarks ... like Bambi. And Vegemite

I was looking at the product ID numbers of the ebooks we've been uploding to Payloadz, and confess to being somewhat gobsmacked. The first upload we did was number 464810. The last one we did was number 468107. That's 3297 ebooks which have been added to the Payloadz list in the couple of days it took us to process through the Mel Keegan ebooks. Or, about 1650 a day. That's a hell of a lot of ebooks, especially when you remember that around as many are being added to the Lulu list, and a dozen other DIY lists, before you even get to those entities which characterize themselves as third party ebook publishers, and undertake to market books on one hand, and pay out royalties on the other.

One can't help wondering if the mainstream publishers are a tad bit worried. It doesn't seem to matter what you want or need these days, you cn get it online, and often at a fraction the cost of store prices. In this country, books are an appalling price. A garden-variety paperback can be $26 -- we're not talking about trade size here; just your ordinary 'pocket' size paperback. And the same book, used, will be up around $10. Hardcovers? Put it like this: if you have to ask what they cost, you can't afford them. You do tend to start looking at book exchanges for hardcovers.

The best used book store I ever found is in Anchorage, AK. I used to do a lot of shopping at Title Wave, and still would, if I was traveling to and fro the way I used to between '97 and 2001. (Not that it's affordable these days. Gas prices have gone through the ceiling and dragged ticket prices after them.) I have fond memories of Title Wave. Bought so many books there, I used to mail them back rather than trying to carry them.

These days, though, when you're looking for books, the first place you look is online. I bought the new(ish) TROJAN WARS hardcover, used, via Amazon for something like $17 all up, including postage; it was $60, new, in this country. Ouch. I can only guess that the online shopping trade is hurting local, domestic retail. A while ago, I wanted to download the soundtrack to MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD. I fond it at iTunes for $9.99 ... great. Then I discovered I was looking at the US store. The system forced me to login to the Australian store -- fair enough; but the price shot up from US$10 to A$18 for the same item. The exchange rate is way under 10% right now, the price is way too high to be 'right.' So I went to Amazon and got a brand new, shrink-wrapped CD, airmailed to my door, for the greenback equivalent of A$13.

Something somewhere isn't gelling yet, and one hopes it will be made to gel soon. I realize that a lot of pricing is an almost cultural thing. When a motion picture soundtrack will cost about A$34 (!!!) in a local store, iTunes Australia probably figures they can't charge much less than 50% for the download, or they'll get run out of town by some chamber of commerce.

It's an almost cultural thing, like Vegemite in Australia, or reindeer sausage in Alaska. A great many people outside Alaska have heart failure when they imagine grinding up Bambi for sausage. A great many people outside Australia think you can use Vegemite to clean the driveway -- and it's definitely responsible for killing the septic tank.

The whole thing is definitely cultural. Vegemite should come with Special Instructions for North American Users, to stop it being the subject of substance abuse. I've seen Americans actually retching after trying it ... and I also saw why.

I think I saved a life. I was in the States, visiting friends in Seattle, who had very kindly (and I mean that sincerely: I like my Vegemite for breakfast, like twenty million other people down here) laid on a jar. In the nick of time, I stopped my friend actually spreading it on the bread.

US and Canadian residents, take note: no matter what it looks like, Vegemite is nothing remotely similar to chocolate spread, or hazlenut spread, or peanut butter. You don't put several ounces on with a trowel, level it out roughly and try to eat it. Caution: this practice can result in a dash to the emergency room!! Vegemite is a yeast extract, very rich, very salty. As rich and salty as anchovies ... thicker than peanut butter ... darker than dark chocolate. VERY tasty and VERY high in nutrition, if used correctly. Follow these instructions with care:

Butter a slice of bread. Go on, BUTTER it, don't just wave a greasy knife over it. Butter tastes better than the other stuff anway, and there's no transfats. Now, if you spread on 10g of butter ... spread about 3g of Vegemite, over the top of the butter. The more butter you use, the more Vegemite you can use, but notice the ratio: three or four to one, guys! Get it just right, and the flavor is -- ah! Beef bouillion!

All of which has absolutely nothing to do with the price of books and the proliferation of eBooks.

But, the next time you're confronted by someone demanding you try Vegemite, there's absolutely no *need* to panic. (By all means panic if you want to, but there's no actual requirement for it.) Just assume a smug expression, firmly take charge of the knife, the big yellow jar, the butter, and a loaf of fresh bread. And then show the smart-alec a thing or two, because when it comes to the Aussies' edible drain cleaner, you know your stuff. Remember -- you read it here first.

Got to get some work done now.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Merrie Solstice!

As the title says, Merrie Solstice to all. As I was saying a few days ago, it's Christmas dinner tonight, pork and applesauce, the works. It's midwinter, cold and dark (or at least as cold and dark as it ever gets in Australia; all things are relative), and 'Chrissy' in winter sounds like a good idea to me.

Seems to have been a good idea to many other people, loooong in the past. Every culture appears to have a 'magickal childe' who was born at, or near, the solstice of winter (which was a great reason for having a party) -- among them, Horus, and Mithras, and the pagan archetype whose name is lost in the mists of antiquity. Little wonder that when the church began to ovehaul the ancient world in its own image, they set the birthday of their particular messiah at midwinter: most cultures were already accustomed to partying to mark a special date.

(Interestingly, they seem to have fudged the actual date to make it fit ... there were flocks in the fields in Palestine on The Big Night, if you recall. Turns out, after September it was too cold to have your flocks out by night, with or without shepherds to watch them. So it's a safe bet Christmas Eve should actually be September 24, and kids should be ripping the wrappings on the 25th. Which is a lot more information than you needed, I suspect. Intresting, though. Curious, the things you learn when researching for a new book. Much will be revealed in the haunted house novel I'm working up right now.)

A few items of news on the website front:

The ebooks are all transferred to Payloadz now, and be doing the file management. Payloadz is one of those providers who hit you up for the $5 or whatever, then prepare the download page for you. The page stays viable for something like 48 hours, I believe. If you have any problems with the new system, let DreamCraft know , and if all else fails, leave a message on the blog here. Payloadz has been massively recommended to us, but this *is* the first time we've taken it for a spin. We're hoping to avoid teething troubles, but if it does happen, we'll catch it.

The Vampyre novels (NOCTURNE and TWILIGHT) are back in the pipeline. Proof copies are on their was from and should be here by the end of the week ... the big news there is not that we finally fixed the font 'issues,' but that Lulu now has an Australian printshop partner. They're using a Melbourne digital printshop, and the work is very good. I'd give the local product about 95%, if the American print product is 100%, and the differences are, really, trivial. The paper stock is the same off-white color as used in the US shop, but it's lighter (80gsm rather than 90), and the cover stock is slightly different. Colors are just as vivid, but it's a tiny fraction lighter. However, this might be a Very Good Thing, becuse of the way Australian postage rates are calculated.

Is it still the same in the US -- postage is calculated incrementally in 'brackets' of just an ounce, or a few ounces? Down here, Australia Post uses brackets of 500g (more than a pound), and it's so easy for a book to tip over into the next bracket which means, literally, you're paying for a kilo's worth of postage while you actually weigh 503g. Not good news, esp. with postage rates rising all the time. I have an intuition the Aussie digital print shop which has partnered up with only in the last few weeks, is using lighter stock to stay on the lean side of the Australia Post schedules. In which case, 'go team, go.'

Many thanks to all who have supported this effort via's online boostore and our own bookstore on Mel Keegan OnLine ... the new website is still a week or so away from making its debut, and book sales are rising. We're extremely optimistic.

The members' zone has been fully redesigned and recut ... and it's moving. You'll need to 'sign up' afresh -- but the new system is 100% automatic. Click a link, and an autoresponder pings you back an email with a URL to bookmark. Takes seconds. Nothing to remember, no passwords to lose. The new system works much better than the old. The words 'instant gratification' trip off the tongue.

A few things remain to be done before the site goes up, but we're actually ahead of the job, for the first time in living memory. Looking good.

Merrie Yuletide to Aussies, Kiwis and our visitors from South Africa, Singapore and Malaysia ... Happy Summer Solstice to all from 'up over' in the north!

Cheers for now,

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Calling Red Adair! And possibly International Rescue.

If you haven't already, go over to Google and search on something along the lines of 'door to hell gas fire.' There's more than enough keyword specificity in those five terms to get you there; and at least three pages (besides this one, now) show up in the first ten results, featuring what looks, at first sight, like nothing so much as the pit of hell itself.

From time to time something comes along which knocks you flat on your backside; you don't know whether to be impressed or appalled. I saw this yesterday, and was both:

[Looking at this, I was reminded forcibly of the scene in SCORPIO, where Jarrat and Stone are on the job in citybottom, Mostov, the old city under modern Thule, when the missiles fell in the wrong place. This is exactly what I described. At the time, I was halfway concerned that I was describing something so way out in left field, I'd strayed into the parking lot without realizing it. Turns out, something very like Mostov has been blazing for a long, long time...]

Photo Credit: haven't a clue. I obviously didn't capture these images ... they're popping up all over the web, so I'd like to thank the photographer, and would be delighted to put a credit on this, if only someone would tell me what!

The story goes that a company in Uzbekistn, in the region of a town called Darvaz, was drilling inside a mineshaft ... they might even have been drilling for gas. If so, they certainly got their wish, and a whole lot more. If they were hoping to find a source of natural gas that could be capped and exploited, they would have been thrilled -- for the .45 seconds they lived before the whole operation, mchinery, mine and all, fell into the pit. They had struck an unspeakably vast cavern full of gas that must have been right under the mine. When the whole operation caved in, there was the quite understandable fear that the gas would escape and poison the town, and -- perhaps not surprisingly -- someone high in the old Soviet chain of command decided the best, fastest, safest thing to do was ignite the gas, burn it off before it could kill people, in the same way natural gas used to be burned off at the waste stacks on oil platforms at sea, and oilfields on land.

Burning the gas probably seemed an excellent idea. In 1973.

But 35 years later, the fire is still burning, the gas supply seems limitless. And nobody, nowhere, ain't doing nothing about it.

In fact, as awesome as the fire itself is, more awesome still is the fact this inferno could be raging since the latter days of the Vietnam War, and it was only 'discovered' a couple of months ago, and even then it was publicized so narrowly that folks like myself just stumbled over the story by accident.

You want to know what a gas fire that size is doing to this planet's atmosphere? You have to ask how many more of these little jewels are hiding out there ... and why gas fires or oil fires, the size of this one in Uzbekistan, were not seen from space by the satellites that were scanning for Soviet missile sites. This one must have been seen. The US Air Force and NATO must have known about this inferno, because they had spy satellites over every square inch of the old Soviet Union.

Which leaves you with the question, why is it still burning?

I quite understand why it started: basic ignorance accounts for a lot of the apparent evil men do. (Who knows what stupidity lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows, but he can't get anyone to listen to a word he says.) Sure, the Soviets decided to torch the gas and save the town, and in 1973 it probably seemed like an OK thing to do. Bruce Lee was the smash hit at the box office that year, in ENTER THE DRAGON. Mick Jagger was a young man. Everybody was kung fu fighting, even though they had no idea what they were doing, and were mostly flailing around for the fun of it ... and it *was* fun; STARSKY AND HUTCH had never been dreamed of, the cameras wouldn't roll on it for another two years. Elvis wasn't due for his ultimate rendezvous with the aliens for another four years; the news was full of Richard Nixon and Watergate. American boots were still on the ground in Vietnam. STAR WARS was so far in the future, if you said 'R2D2' people thought you were commenting on their arty decor, and started babbling about their new curtains.

In 1973, nobody (well, not in Russia, anyway) would have bothered to ask, "Uh, how much gas d'you reckon there is down there, komrade? Just before we set it on fire. Y'know, just so's we can figure out how long she's, uh, likely to be burning." (Or if anyone did say that, he's still pushing a boulder up a mountainside. In Siberia.)

Many, many years ago (oddly enouh, back in the 70s, I believe), I read a statistic which rocked me. Two thirds of the world's supply of natural gas was thought to have been burned off as garbage, at the waste stacks on oil rigs and fields. Only later did we wake up to ourselves and realize natural gas is at least as important as oil to our future. Uh huh.

Fast-forward 35 years, and we're looking at such a crass waste of energy, I'd say I was speechless if I hadn't just written this column. We're also looking at such a source of atmospheric pollution, you'd be forgiven for saying, 'what's the use' and starting up the old car, with a gastank full of high-octane leaded and one cylinder out of eight not firing! Millions of us across the developed world take the train, and switch to green electricity and drag our own canvas bags to the grocery store, and meanwhile, they let monsters like the Darvaz hell-pit burn on. And on. And on. As I said, one understands how it got started. What's impossible to rationalize is why it's still burning, over thirty years after the aliens made off with Elvis.

(Don't get me started about the leaking Siberian oil pipelines, and the fact that the very ground beneath your feet in the arctic is flammable ... or about the real story behing bio-diesel fuels ...)

Cheers to all,

Friday, June 20, 2008

Just shoot me. Please. Somebody.

If you had a window open four or six hours ago, and heard assorted and random screaming sounds coming from the general direction of the Adelaide hills ... that would have been me. A mob of crazed, mad-eyed loonies had abducted me, staked me out over the nest of bulldog ants in the backyard, and were rummaging through the pantry for honey, treacle, strawberry jelly (ants don't seem to go for Vegemite).

Or at least, that's what it felt like for several hours. Not quite on a par with having burning bamboo skewers jammed under the fingernails, or taking the written test for your driver's license, but -- you get the picture. All kinds of fun.

[a sneak preview of the new TWILIGHT cover. Dave modeled for the Nick Crane figure, and the rest of the pic is an amazing composite of images from all over the globe]

We were trying, for the THIRD time, to solve what calls 'font issues' in the prepress stage of both the vampyre novels, NOCTURNE and TWILIGHT. Basically, you embed a Too Tripe, sorry, a True Type, font, send the document to, and various parts of it come back printed as gibberish, for no reason that can be easily discerned from your own end of the pipeline --

Notice I said EASILY discerned.

Which is the same as saying, if you tear out enough of what little remains of your hair, bash your head hard enough against whatever walls happen to be handy, suuuuure, you can get it figured out. Eventually. By the time you have it sussed, of course, you're both concussed and bald, but what the hey, it could turn into the new metrosexual chic look.

Turns out, there is a world of difference and exquisite incompatibility between Too Tripe fonts and EPS fonts. EPS stands for (the) Extraordinary Psychoanalysis Society (Inc.) and the story of how they became involved in fonts, typesetting, and independednt publishing makes grim reading. Their 2001 Special Committee on Research Analysis Models (SCRAM) found that it was 4.73 times easier to render perfectly sane individuals into drooling vegetables by making tiny, secret adjustments to their fonts (changes so subtle that not even the computer itself can tell anything was done -- until the document is printed, at great cost, after monumental effort) than by, say, tying them to the railroad tracks just ahead of the Indian Pacific.

So, if you're intending to make professional-quality PDF documents, intended to be produced by Post Script printers on the other side of the world, be aware that your favorite, cherished TT fonts may or may NOT work properly, and if they don't ... well, the reason is most likely a basic incompatibility with the world of EPS printing. The question being: what the [expletive deleted] do you do about it?

The most thorough fix is to buy some new fonts (which we're doing at this time); but in the short term you can also download some to get you going again.

I have a favorite place to go for free font downloads: ... and the best place I know for software of almost any description is ...

Still, 'font issues' and all, we're well on pace to have the new Mel Keegan OnLine site up on the first of July. Just a handful of jobs to be done for it now. I admit, I'm looking forward to having this done, because I can then sink my teeth into a new project. I'm working up a haunted house novel, which I would love to see published this year. DreamCraft has been after me to get another novel done for the last few months, and the fingers are starting to itch to write again, so...!

Cheers for now,

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Australian Graffiti

Thursday finds me wondering how much echinacea tea you have to drink to beat an ear infection. I hate echinacea tea; it tastes vile. It also works. One has to wonder if it would be effective used as a douche in the aural cannal, or if you HAVE to swallow the stuff. I suspect the latter.

To divert myself from the fact my left ear is killing me, I turn my threadbare attention to the few pages I have left to prepare for the upcoming website relaunch; and today I tackle the subject of gay science fiction. (It's either that, or proofread AQUAMARINE, and right now I think the virus in my ear is trying to get into my sinuses, and since I'm seeing double I wouldn't trust myself to proofread a laundry list.)

The gay SF I've ben talking about for the last hour or so is print-media ... books. I'd been wondering if I would take on the challenge of gay SF in movies and TV, but decided to leave it alone for the moment, because it can be such an aggravating topic. For example, don't get me started on Star Trek. It's very easy to blow breakers on that subject ... which is to say, how is it possible to do 28 full SEASONS of an *SF* show, and never have so much as a single gay guest character, never mind a series regular?! Then again, STARGATE is up to 14 seasons, counting SG1 and Atlantis, and if there's been a gay guest character, I must have blinked when s/he bolted through.

Speaking of Trek, cheers to George Takei, everyone's favorite starship driver, who is wedding his partner of many years, with the welcome shift in California's gay marriage laws. Wonderful stuff.

So, I stuck with novels for the Gay SF discussion; but the 'research' I did for the backgrounding did land me on some interesting websites ... which just pointed out how thin on the ground gay SF heroes are, because in order to get to Ten Favorite Gay SF Heroes, they had to count Frank N. Furter and Bunny Wigglesworth! Well, you could list them, I guess; but is ROCKY HORROR really SF? And I'm fairly sure ZORRO THE GAY BLADE is a comedy western. Will we stretch a point and call them fantasies? Hmmm.

All of which brings me around to wondering if any TV network in this state is going to be carrying the rest of TORCHWOOD, or if they've abandoned the show. It premiered in the 9:30 timeslot, migrated to past-midnight, and vanished without a trace. South Australia is notorious for this kind of reception of TV science fiction. Even STARGATE, which is smash-hit by local standards, is late-late-late-show fare. FIREFLY was marooned in the same slot, and most of STAR TREK VOYAGER didn't seem to air down here at all ...

I hear you asking what South Aussies actually watch. There's a lot of football (by which I mean Aussie Rules, VFL, NFL, that sort of thing). If you're lucky, they'll squeak in a rugby game between the endless tennis tournaments and the reality TV, but only if it's Rugby League. Heaven help you if you have an insatiable lust for Rugby Union. The All Blacks versus the Springbocks? Be still, my beating heart ... not that any such game is likely to be seen on local free-to-air TV. Because the Wallabies aren't on the field. Fishing shows. Cooking. Lots of cooking. And one show where they yank the fish out and cook them right there on the boat -- I kid you not. It's called OUT OF THE BLUE, 'starring' the senior brother in the big local private fisheries company. The longer, warmer, dryer days of October bring a welcome end to the Aussie Rules season, and the beginning of the cricket season; TV becomes the pixelic equivalent of the Sargasso Sea, with reality TV reruns, rained-off test matches which cause Channel 9 to rerun 10-year-old games, and reruns of old cooking shows.

Yes, Keegan owns a TV set. Also a DVD player. Thank gods for DVDs.

And now, I'm on my way to the kitchen, to brew some more echinacea tea.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Attack Koalas from Mars

I'm sure we've been invaded by aliens. They're using some kind of cloaking device, because you don't see them, but you know they're there. To begin with, someTHING disabled the doorbell. That kind of thing doesn't just happen by itself, so you KNOW there was alien involvement. Then ... the weather has been even stranger than usual. The skies are low and brooding, but it won't rain. Can't rain. Like something out of a Stephen King novel.

And how else do you explain the gradual disappearance of all your ballpoints, and your pencil sharpener? I swear, I can't find a pen that works, and as for my pencils, you could feel confident about poking yourself in both eyes with them.

Further evidence of alien invasion: the telescope is missing. I mean, it's GONE. Now, what little nieghborhood ratbag would come creeping into a person's backyard and take the telescope? So you KNOW it's nothing to do with nasty little neighborhood thieves, because rotten little local brats wouldn't have a use for a precision scientific instrument, and the only possible culprits are --


I mean, nothing else makes sense. It has to be aliens, and I've got a sneaking suspicion I know who they are, and where they come from.

Several years ago, a subterranean race from our neighboring planet, Mars, became disenchanted with living in caves, and salivating over the earth. They began to suck our space probes out of the sky before we could get data from them; they reverse engineered them, and developed both the technology to invade the planet Earth, and to build television receivers, via which they have been monitoring us. And kids, we're in deep doodoo.

They've seen ALIEN V. PREDATOR, and HOGAN'S HEROES, and SKIPPY THE BUSH KANGAROO, and the American Presidential Election broadcasts. They know us. Intimately. And we are wading in it ... they figure we deserve everything we get, and they have been among us, dishing it out, for a while now.

They purloined the telesocope because they're having mechanical problems (the Earth's atmosphere is denser and wetter than they imagined); the same proess of atrophy has taken out their automatic writing devices, so they crept in here under cover of their cloaking gadgets, and every pen and sharp pencil, not to mention the pencil sharpener, followed the telescope. (Damnit, I'm PO'd about that telescope).

Worst of all, they've stopped the rain, to prevent any more of their delicate mechanisms from going bung...

But they've been sussed. I've seen them. They were lurking in the trees the other night, and they look like KOALAS. Now I don't imagine subterranean creatures from Mars really look like koalas, but it doesn't take much brainpower or savvy to work this one out.

Having steeped themselves in multiple seasons of SKIPPY, they figure they'll use their cloking devices to make themselves look like koalas, to lull the humans into a false sense of security while we get robbed blind and invaded. It makes perfect sense ... and their plan is progressing with marrow-chilling ease.

NORAD knows nothing about this! The armed forces are not even on coffee-break standby, let alone a full alert. The leaders of nations are blithely going about their idiotic business, while the aliens are among us, the invasion is happening, and the evidence is concrete and terrible!

Tonight, we arm ourselves and WE will be on alert, even if the armed forces are asleep. Cricket bats to the fore, we will stand guard upon the premises.

Further reports in due course.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

'Tis the season...

Midwinter is upon us, which always makes me feel a little 'off,' because I spent the first dozen or so years of my life in the northern hemisphere, and of course the winter solstice down under is in the middle of northern summer. A large part of the human brain can acclimate to the reversal; another large part ain't never likely to get used to the idea of winter in June.

Flaming June is all about Royal Ascot, and garden parties, and strawberries and cream, and camping out, and twilight till midnight, right? It's about being suffocated by the rush of tourists, baking in the sun in a couryard- or sidewalk cafe and watching the folk go by through polarized glasses.

To be fair, we do the same things down here. Australians just do them with tinsel and holly wreaths and a lot of 'ho-ho-ho-ing' going on at the same time. You sit in the shade of a big umbrella, in a sidewalk cafe, watching the sun-bronzed hunks heading down to the beach, while the tinsel bobs and sways in a scorching wind, and some idiot is singing Christmas carols on the radio.

I like having Christmas in the middle of winter. Christmas is all about short days and long nights, lighting a fire that crackles up the chimney, drinking brandy with your mince pies, wrapping parcels, and watching the pile of gaudy boxes stack up under the tree and come spilling out, and seeing colored lights sparkle through the gloom of a cold, mauve twilight.

And yes, we do the same things downunder (with the exception of lighting the fire; I think you'd be taken away by some nice men in white coats, if you tried that), but we do them while sweating. You sweat buckets while wrapping gifts; while putting up the Christmas tree (whose stpuid idea was it to do this in 100 degrees??), while dragging three tons of groceries home for the holidays, and while drinking your brandy (because you damned well earned it, and you're going to drink it, even if it's so damned hot, a pure soda water and six ice cubes would be a better idea). The colored lights don't tend to sparkle, because it's daylight till ten in this part of Australia, at the summer solstice, and the pavement radiates heat till midnight ...

Which brings me back to where I began. Midwinter is upon us, it's dark early, it's cold, the deciduous trees are bare (just ignore the eucalyps and gums which never shed their leaves. Actually, they shed their bark. Yes, it makes a mess). It's cold and gray and wintery, and it makes you feel like Christmas.

The solstice comes up on Saturday/Sunday, a few days from now, and I'll give you three guesses what's on the menu. CHRITSMAS DINNER.

I have the overpowering urge to make eggnog.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Getting artistic on you

We're working hard to put the last finishing touches to the new website before it goes 'live' in a couple of weeks. This afternoon's endeavor was the 'send an e-card' segment, which works beautifully, is extremely friendly, and colorful. Check this out:

We did over thirty 'cards,' which use the artwork from bookcovers and the calendar. They're quite eye-catching. I'm impressed ...

...and this is also a chance to show around some of the very new artwork, such as the cover for the 2008 edition of AQUAMARINE. Oh, yes, I'm proofing it. Even after all these years I can't believe what happened with the Millivres edition. Put yourself in the writer's shoes for a moment (or his hat, if you prefer), and imagine that the manuscript you turned in was published just as-is, without even a fresh pair of eyeballs to proofread it and pick up whatever typos! I'd been waiting to get the galley back, so I could go over it myself, and what did I receive? A box of presentation copies! Jaw hit ground, heart stood still for a moment, and then I do believe I screamed. Hmmm. [sound of sighing]

The chance to go back into AQUAMARINE and take another crack at it is very welcome. This will be the next Keegan book online, and it'll be up in July. (I have a mammoth amount of work to do on other projects, but this one is easy, and I'm actually looking forward to it. The last time I read this novel was about seven years ago, and I always liked these characters a lot.)

One of the jobs I have waiting for me is to sit down and talk lucidly (ha!) for an hour or two with the designers from DreamCraft. Subject: the NARC armor. The bloody NARC riot armor. Which has become another cause for screaming. No matter how the helmet is drawn, it's not right ... it's weird; I can 'see' it in my mind's eye, but the instant it drops to two dimensions on paper, it's wrong. Or at least, not right. What I see is something oddly graceful and yet deadly with menace.

A few folks have wondered if the armor from IRON MAN is close to what I see as the NARC armor ... and it is, and it isn't. (Incidentally, I liked the movie a lot. If anyone was asking moi, I'd have to say it's the best Marvel movie since the first X-MEN, and Robert Downey Jr. is so perfectly cast as that dissipated heap of debauchery, Tony Stark, the casting could have been done in heaven. If you haven't seen the movie yet: see it on the big screen if you can. It'll look great on DVD, but this is one film which really uses the massive screen, and is advantaged by it. And yes, it's a power trip. I get a very similar kick out of it as I do from the NARC stories ... and that's saying a lot. Kudos to Marvel on this one; cheers also to Robert D., who pulled a neat trick of acting with the character change in the middle of the picture. You really dislike him in the first reel, and the fact is, you don't have a lot of sympathy for him when he gets caught by his own weapon and taken prisoner. Rather than have him change utterly and become a moralizing goodie-two-shoes, the writers had him LEARN, and WAKE UP. In the last couple of reels, the character of Tony is still an SOB, still dissipated, but he's also a nice guy. I found the character very believable. As for the suit -- it's fun. It's only meant to be fun. Leave your grasp of physics in the bottom of your coat pocket, along with the turned-off cell phone and the cough candy (yes, it's mid-winter here. Cough drops. Donte leave home without them).

I'll paste in one more picture here, and leave you for today ... got to get some work done...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Bard strikes back

No sooner had I uploaded my last post than I got a challenge. Nothing to do with the topic of movie violence, or whether I'm right or wrong to have reservations about it. I halfway imagined somebody would be upset about my not worshipping the ground Steven Spielberg walks on ... or something. But, no. Or, not yet anyway. The challenge was along the lines of, "All right, Smarty-pants, if you're so clever, how DO you write a sonnet?"

Okay, kids, since I've never been one to run away from a challenge, here goes:

Sonnets 101.

A sonnet is a rhyming poem where the lines and rhythm (metre) are set in exact patterns. Just (duh) take a look at an existing sonnet, and reverse-engineer it. I'm going to paste in the sonnet I wrote for THE SWORDSMAN, and we'll pick it to pieces right here...

How shall I say that I have never known
A thing more fair than life, than love, more rare?
Yet must I say, more precious, still, than these
Is friendship's very soul, and mateship's care.

A lie would pass these lips, were I to claim
That I have never wooed — nor loved, nor lost;
Yet all my lost affections leave me thus:
Cherishing friendship's pleasure ... and the cost.

For, seldom do the years design this joy:
Two hearts, two souls, around one cause entwined,
Where friendship, courage, joy and all the rest
Yield such sweet sorceries as soothe the mind ...

All this is surely true. Yet, still I say:
When friendship turned to love, I bless'd the day.

THE SWORDSMAN is a kind of 'court of the Medici' gay fantasy novel, so the 'sound and feel' of the sonnet reflect this ... and it's why I chose to use a sonnet instead of another poetic form. This pattern was 'The In Thing' for a long time, in exactly this era, from before Leonardo till well after Queen Elizabth I.

Notice it has 14 lines: 3 sets of 4, and two danglers.

Notice that the rhyming lines are 2 and 4 in each of the three 'verses' and then the dangling couplet rhymes.

Notice that EVERY line has 10 syllables. Not one less, nor more.

Lastly, notice that the 'punchline' to the whole piece is in the couplet at the end.

The sonnet form is uncomfortably like the limmerick. A limmerick is five lines, where the 'punchline' is saved for the last line, and lines 1, 2 an 5 rhyme, and lines 3 and 4 rhyme, albeit differently with each other:

If one caught a Chinchilla in Chile
And shaved off his beard, willy-nilly
It could rightly be said
That one have just made
A Chilean Chinchilla's chin chilly

Welllll ... the sonnet is distressingly similar in form, but I've never yet read a funny one. Now, there's a thought! (Can you imagine Shakespearean limmericks??)

How do you write a limmerick? First think of three rhyming words where the third one has the potential to be used as a punchline. Then, use the other two to frame the setup in Lines 1 and 2, and you're only short of the bridge:

On the chest of a barmaid at Yale
were tattooed the prices of ale,
and upon her behind,
for the sake of the blind,
was the same information in Braille.

(and yeah, okay, that's the 'printable version,' I know. Young children might be reading this. Although I can't imagine why.)

How do you write a sonnet? First, grasp the GIST of it. What's it about? This gist is the punchline, though the poem isn't funny. (I would LOVE to see a hilarious sonnet ... and a heartbreaking limmerick...) Once you know what the sonnet is about, you explore the concept and then have the inestimable joy of beating it into the format of 4x 4-line 'stanzas' plus one rhyming couplet...

Take it away, Bill, let's have Number 57! What a belter that one was:

Being your sad slave, what could I do but tend
Upon the times and hours of your desire?
I have no precious time at all to spend
Nor services to do, till you require:

Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour
Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you,
Nor think the bitterness of absence sour
When you have bid your servant once adieu:

Nor dare I question with my jealous thought
Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,
But like a sad slave, stay and think of nought
Save where you are, how happy you make those;-

So true a fool is love, that in your will,
Though you do anything, he thinks no ill.

...and yep, that was one of the two sonnets from Shapespeare's pen, rather than my own, that I used in FORTUNES OF WAR!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sonnets from the peanut gallery

I was asked a strange question a while ago. "How do you write a sonnet?" As a person who's been known to rattle off the occasional sonnet, I suppose I was as qualified as the next bod to answer ... and I assume the question had something to do with a college paper.

What jogs my memory about this is that I was juggling the type for the new eBook version of FORTUNES OF WAR yesterday, and of course there are two sonnets from Shakespeare himself quoted in the book. Which got me thinking about Shakespeare, and about the upcoming Macbeth movie (with Sean Bean as Mac). If they do it justice, as is understood by moviedom in 2008, it will be bloody indeed. I'm thinking of both 300and PATHFINDER: Legend of the Ghost Warrior. I imagine Macbeth will be a gore-fest ... and appreciating Sean Bean as I do, I expect to have a ringside seat at the carnage! Yet I ask myself, do I really need to see a guy's head get cut in two, to afford a high-resolution view of his bare brain? Hmmm.

A long time ago (must be ten years; I was in Alaska at the time), I got myself into some coniderable trouble by starting to talk about the violent aspect of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. I was actually going somewhere important with the argument, but didn't have long enough to get there before a complete stranger, who'd overhead what I was saying to a friend, rounded on me and put me very firmly in my place for having the temerity to say I didn't need the gore the movie had loaded up into my memory cache. Acording to this stranger, I DID need it, and DO need it. All right, let's look at this soberly.

Now, for all I know that stranger might be a film director; he might have gone on to work on the GHOST WARRIOR movie, which is even more gruesome than RYAN by a factor of about ten years' Hollywood development. That stranger was certainly an advocate of movie violence -- and to a point I do understand his argument, which goes like this: In order to appreciate the suffering, trauma and horror undergone by soldiers in the field, civilians have to see the real deal, in gut-leaking, brain-spattering detail.

And herein lies the real question. Do we need to actually see it? Are we so dense that we don't know, on an instinctual level, what it's all about?

And, as valid as the stranger's point is, it's deeply problematical. There's an inescapable downside to brutalizing the audience. Psychiatrists call it desensitization. You can think of it as habituation, or acclimation.

It happened to yours truly, even INSIDE (and well inside) the running-length of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN itself, and it's a big problem. In the first reel, one was shocked and sickened by the dismemberment depicted in stark, raw, detail. One felt the crawling skin, the odd hot-cold sensation, the prickling scalp and rapid pulse --which was the exact reaction Steven Spielberg intended. He scored, big time.

But 90 minutes later, I (and the rest of the audience with me) was so habituated to the gore, the effect had faded away. I watched the last-reel dismemberment without turning a hair. Ten years on, PATHFINDER: Legend of the Ghost Warrior, didn't upset my equilibrium at all --

And it should have. Seeing a guy's head cut open and his brain laid bare should make any normal person retch. Seeing, in closeup, the tip of a blade slice right through someone's face and take out his eye, and then the eyeball falls out, kersplat, into the muddy puddle at his feet, in another closeup shot, should make a normal human being shudder, or maybe even heave.

My point is this, kids: we're habituated now. We got used to it. It's a decade since PRIVATE RYAN, and in that time, the audience has been 'educated' to PhD level in realistic battlefield violence ... we've seen it all in closeup and technicolor. And the horror factor is so diminished, scenes that should be traumatizing bounce off even the most sensitive of us.

I ask myself, is this a good thing? The stranger who put me down at the cafe in Anchorage, AK, in 1997, desperately wanted to have the civvy audience 'educated' ... exposed to the real deal, in clinical detail. One would hope his motives were pure -- ie., so that they know at firsthand the horrors of the battlefield.

Hollywood obliged, over and over, in always-increasing detail, until we're now face to face with a kind of cynical 'yeah, so what?' attitude.

I look back on the mystique of the warrior, at whose bloody secrets the civilians could only guess, and who was revered, nursed of his wounds, even worshipped, by lesser beings like we, who fully believed we would have folded at the knees if we were faced with such horror.

Right now, there's a whole generation of kids out there to whom the soldier's trade, and his trauma, have been demystified, and they know for a fact what denuded brains and torn-out eyeballs look like ... and they ain't bothered by it.

I ask myself, this is a good thing? And you have to wonder, just a little bit, about the next generation of soldiers coming of age just now...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Security blues, and other eBook adventures

Spent a thrilling afternoon on the web, tracking down info that seems to have no interest whatever to Microsoft, but is critical to any artist.

We've been finalizing the eBook kiosk on the new design of the Mel Keegan OnLine website, and we had originally intended to offer Microsoft Reader files, as a courtesy to the gazillions of readers who use Pocket PC. The fact is, Microsoft Reader is a great application. It's easy on the eyes and gives myopic readers the chance to re-re-resize the text; also, you can build up a library within the Reader's own frame of reference. Great.

There's just one thing you can't do with Microsoft Reader files ... there's no way, from within the system itself, to secure, protect, lock -- call it what you will -- the file, to make sure the text can't be copied over onto the clipboard, willy nilly, and pasted into ... well, whatever else.

Bear in mind, we're talking about the NARC books here. We're talking about Jarrat and Stone, the whole cult thing, at its most grassiest-roots. It's in the creator's best interests to at least make it a bit more difficult to copy the whole thing out and republish it in some pirate version.

I must be naive. I imagined it was just Keegan getting slow, not seeing the tools in Word to do the job ... so I went to Google and searched on a dozen permutations of 'protect microsoft LIT document' (LIT being the file extension Reader documents use), and after an hour of reading it slowly began to dawn on me ...

There's no way to do it, from within the system itself. Mind you, if you download a third part addon, which costs US$120, you can add some protection to the document ... but I don't feel like juming through the hoops, paying the money, and climbing another learning curve, just to end up right back where I started --

PDFs work just fine.

So, at least for the moment, guys, you'll be using specially-formatted PDF files for your Pocket PCs. In fact, why don't we call this a shakedown, or an experiment? Drop us an email and let us know how it works out for you.

Incidentally, the new eBook store has been changed utterly. We're using Payloadz now, to handle the file management. You don't downoad the files from us, you download them from Payloads, and the checkout system is handled by PayPal (where you can use whatever credit card, obviously).

Each day brings us closer to having the whole job DONE, and at this point (Friday the, uh, 13th on this side of the dateline), we're well on pace to be launching the new site on July 1st.

Got to get back to work...

Cheers for now,

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Balanced on one foot at the crossroads...

Most folks who read my work ten and fifteen years ago must have come to the conclusion Keegan’s given it up and gone into something more lucrative and appealing to the soul ... like selling fish and chips, or vacuuming swimming pools on a professional basis. Not true. Though I admit, there have been times when it crossed my mind that I was swimming upstream against and current and was likely to drown!

It’s been ten years since GMP was taken over by Prowler, and then Prowler was promptly taken over by Millivres, and not-so-suddenly, Keegan was high and dry without a publisher. It’s been eight years since Dave and Jade at DreamCraft suggested POD manufacture, and marketing books on the Internet...

The tricky, sticky words in the previous sentence are ‘marketing books.’ In fact, you can track the sticky content to a single word. Marketing. ‘Books’ are simple enough. You write them, edit them, print and bind them, and then people buy them ... if they know where you are, and what you’re publishing!

That’s where the ‘Marketing’ part comes in, and it’s been a process of trial and error as we explored what worked, what didn’t, and what should have been brilliant, but wasn’t.
Any writer who is in the business of marketing his or her own books knows this, but every one has to go through the process for him- or herself, because all genres are different, and even inside the same genre, two books will perform differently. And yes, you tear our your hair. Sometimes you do ... almost ... quit. Then something great comes along, like a fantastic review on another website, or a letter from someone who deeply appreciates something you wrote. You keep going, and new solutions to the enduring problem do suggest themselves --
Internet marketing. Of books. Of GAY books. Of KEEGAN gay books.

This is where we are right now (mid-2008), and for myself, I’m highly optimistic. A mammoth task has already been accomplished, silently and invisibly: the whole MK OnLine website has been rebuilt from the ground up. It goes ‘up’ in a couple of weeks, accompanied by a ‘campaign’ something like Wellington at Waterloo, and what happens next will decide where DreamCraft and Keegan are headed in the future.

To me, it seems gay publishing is at a crossroads. Specifically ‘gay books’ are certainly a niche, but Keegan novels have always hovered in the vast gray zone, where the characters are gay, and some of the issues ... but the setting, the action, and the ‘bigger issues’ (you know, things like war, death, survival, justice, political reform) belong to the wider field of publishing. I imagine Keegan books have been the kind to give distributors nightmares. They’re difficult to pigeonhole, and if you can’t fit a book into niche, it has marketing problems.

But recently we’ve been seeing an increasing trend, where the publishers that actively solicit submissions (always genre, pulp, and frequently in the ebook market) have been asking specifically for what I’d term ‘genre with a twist.’ It’ll certainly be a romance, but this particular publisher is looking for ONLY romance with a supernatural storyline, and so on.
So, the years when niche marketing made a ‘crossover’ book difficult to sell are passing. And the Keegan books have always been crossovers between gay, and [X], where x = science fiction, historical, sea story, fantasy, thriller, or plain old romantic adventure. In other words, it’s always been a bear marketing Keegan. But the market is starting to swing around, and we’re in an excellent position to plug right into it.

So, where will the future take us? Depends on many factors, but I’ll tell you what the DreamCraft group and ol’ Mel would like. We’re ‘rediscovered’ by the readers who genuinely believe I’ve been selling fish and chips or vacuuming swimming pools since 1999 ... and we’re freshly ‘discovered’ by a lot of new readers to whom the name of ‘Mel Keegan’ doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot. (Something to do with a boozy actor who used to make Aussie movies twenty years ago? Or that soccer player who was the best all-rounder in Europe, even longer ago?)
Five years from now, we’d like to be at the helm of a publishing house that might just be able to give a start to new young writers. Three years from now, we’d like to have the Internet book marketing puzzle so well worked out, we can do a book about THAT, and put smiles on the faces of the armies of writers who are trying to crack this nut. One year from now, we’d like to be well on our way, with three brand-new Keegan titles in print and three more on the way, as we look forward into 2010.

Right now, I’m looking at the new website design, and also the NARC sub-site design (yep, it’s done, the whole show goes online in July), and I’m feeling not merely optimistic, not merely delighted, but also damned proud.

In fact, let me share some screenshots of the new website design with you here. You won’t see it online till July, but I want to show it around...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mel's First Post

It's strangely appropriate for this blog to begin at this time, and with this subject. A package just arrived in the mail ... the proof copies of the new editions of the HELLGATE novels. I hadn't expected them to reach this address for another 2 - 3 weeks, because I'd assumed the printshop was in the US or possible Europe. Since Christmas of 2007, DreamCraft uses the facility, and books have always been mailed out by manufacturers in the States.

Imagine my surprise to see a Port Melbourne, Victoria postmark, and to have the books in my hands in five days after the order was placed!

To Australian readers who have been doing some serious tooth-grinding because of the costs of postage to get parcels down here from 'up yonder' -- take heart. is currently working hard to revamp their postage calculators on the order pages, and very soon they will reflect Aussie postage. This will save Australian readers quite a few dollars, and we'll all be grateful.

The new editions of the HELLGATE books are impressive, to say the least. Since can handle books up to 700+ pages, there was no need for DreamCraft to super-compress the type, so the books are 'comfortably' up there at about 360 - 370pp.

And I'm very, very impressed with the new covers. Our digital artist has hit new heights here. In fact, let me share the covers:




At this moment we're just thrashing out the last 'font issues' in the vampyre books, and then the whole Mel Keegan OnLine site relaunches.

Redesigned. Recoded. Rewritten.

The website is a tribute to the efforts of DreamCraft. Guys, I only provide some text, and the inspiration for various images. I tip my hat to DreamCraft for the rest.

Gay publishing never had it so good.

(Incidentally, 'font issues' is what calls it when your fonts vanish, drop out, go haywire, and generally get screwed up for no reason a human can understand. Personally, I think the hamsters go on strike and stop pedaling, causing the computers hiccup. They should try feeding their hamsters pistachios or macadamias. A little bribery goes a long way.

And speaking of gay publishing, next post I want to talk about where DreamCraft and I are headed (or believe we are) in the future!

Cheers for now,
Mel Keegan, waaaaaay downunder.