What Am I Up To? Oh, You Know, Spy Stuff

It’s been a while since I told anybody what I’m up to writing-wise so hear goes. Just now, I’m rewriting Red Coat Running. If you have one of the old World Castle Publications editions, I’d recommend holding on to it…it may be worth something someday.

That old version got twenty-two reviews on Amazon with an average three and a half star rating. Not bad for my first attempt at a spy novel. Unlike my science fiction, Red Coat Running is the story of fictitious U.S. Army Counterintelligence Special Agent Shawn Riggs during the very real Berlin Blockade and Airlift of 1948. As a retired special agent myself, I’ll say this book is as accurate as I can make it without going to jail. Besides…I wasn’t even alive in 1948!

The novel is also intended as a tribute to all the men and women who’ve served in the oldest American intelligence agency; U.S. Army Intelligence (the C.I.A. came much later). Although well-received on the first pass, Red Coat Running was only 64,000 words and most major publishers want to see a manuscript of 80,000 to 100,000 words in length. I am determined to expand the story by making it deeper and richer without adding fluff or filler. As of today, I’m at 76,234 words and am pleased with how it’s shaping up.

Hopefully, I will have it done by summer 2020, and then I intend to go shopping for an agent. So, if anyone out there knows a good literary agency looking for spy fiction by an ex-spook, feel free to let me know 🙂

By Clayton J. Callahan

 

 

 

George Takei: Science Fiction Actor & Real World Hero

Image result for captain sulu

I’ve got to tell, ya’…I love this guy.

No, I’ve never had the honor of meeting Mr. George Takei (known as “Uncle George” to his fans). However, his reputation has traveled far and wide. In Willian Shatner’s autobiography, he described Takei as the “official Star Trek cheerleader.” By that, he meant you could always count on Takei to be the first to greet fans lucky enough to tour the set,  embrace them, and to be sure everyone was having a good time. His warm-hearted, and accepting nature is especially impressive when you learn he was sh*t on most of his life by guys like me.

What do I mean by “guys like me?” Well, I’m a straight, white guy with a military background that suggests that (had I been born in another time) I could have found myself guarding one of the concentration camps that housed his Japanese-American family during World War II. Does that make me ashamed to be what I am? No. Because I personally have never gay-bashed anybody, nor have I (to the best of my knowledge) treated Asians any differently than anybody else. In fact, it makes me proud to look at a fellow American like Takei as an example of what is good about my nation and my culture and I’d love to shake his hand.

And he still stands tall after all these star-crossed years. Obviously, he’s opposed to Trump (as am I), but instead of attacking what Trump is, Takei defends what Trump isn’t. Some seventy years out of the concentration camp, Takei fiercely defends a diverse and accepting vision of America that embraces all of us and hopes we are having a good time.

Why am I fan-gushing over Uncle George just now, you ask? Because the Washington Post just published an op-ed by Takei that you’ve just got to read:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/01/25/george-takei-star-trek-vision-was-hopeful-trumps-is-mirror-image/

And no, I am not plugging my books with this post. Uncle George’s message is too important to add such a distraction.

By Clayton J. Callahan

Tales of The Screaming Eagle in Flux

As my long-time fans know, Tales of The Screaming Eagle was my first book. Five years ago, I sold it to Double Dragon Publishing of Toronto, Canada and they have published two of my other books since. Well, all good things must come to an end. The contract has expired, and I requested the book to be removed from Double Dragon’s inventory.

I have submitted it to other publishers who I think may give it a higher profile in the market, so with luck, it may be available again. For those of you who already have a copy, know that you now hold in your hands a rare book, an exact edition of which will never be seen again in this world.

Happy collecting.

Clayton J. Callahan

 

Orycon 2019

(Author Chelsea Nolen, my wife Shelley, and Clayton J. Callahan)

This weekend was the 41st celebration of Orycon, Portland Oregon’s premier science fiction convention. Oh sure, we have not one but two Comicons every year (Rose City and Wizard World), but those are huge commercial events. Orycon is different.

It’s a smaller, more intimate affair where fans can connect with other fans without having to stand in line all day for autographs or other such nonsense. In this way, it’s a more authentic fan experience than the overhyped Comicons will ever be. For instance, the great CJ Cherith (Left) was in attendance this year and it took no autograph fee of hours-long wait in line for me to speak to her (much like the last time I saw her at Rivercon in 1985, and yes, I’m that old).

Costumes are also welcome at Orycon. And although Comicon has a lot more participants in that department, one can still strut one’s stuff in the halls of the Red Lion Hotell just as well as at the Portland Convention Center.

Now, to be fair, I do go to both conventions and enjoy them. But as in all things people are allowed their preferences–and I prefer Orycon.

By Clayton J. Callahan

Seka Strikes Back With New Moorcock Novel

Savage Swordsmen of The Lost Kingdon is now available on Amazon. Dirk who has been a space adventurer and a World War I flying ace, is now a barbarian out of the time of legends.

Once again with a beautiful and capable woman by his side, Dirk must save the world from an unspeakable evil while engaging in as much…uh…extracurricular activity as the plot will allow. He’s bold, he’s savage, he’s Dirk Cock of The Moors and he’s reasonably priced for your reading pleasure.

And remember, Seka Heartly is NOT Clayton J. Callahan. They are two different authors entirely–I swear.

By Clayton J. Callahan

Okay, Sounds Weird But…I Recomend “Crimes Against Humanity”

Susan R. Matthews is one of the great science fiction writers of our time. Don’t believe me? That’s you’re choice, but if you don’t at least give her work a try that’s also your loss.

Since her first novel, An Exchange of Hostages,  came out in 1997 she’s been hitting science fiction in the face with her brutally hard dystopian galaxy “Under Jurisdiction”. It’s the story of one Andrei Koscuisko, medical doctor and torturer for the state. Ironically, these books became popular just as my country was deciding if the post 9/11 world required us to abandon our values and adopt torture as a weapon in the fight against terrorism. Matthews no-holds-bars approach to the subject is, I think, a cold slap in the face to anyone who considers torture a good idea.

In Crimes Against Humanity, her usual protagonist has walked away from the state and taken up his former role as doctor and healer. But times are still uncertain and moral lines remain unclear. When faced with an antagonist who really has it coming, will Koscisko revert to his old ways? I must say, this was one of the better books I’ve read this year, and I do recommend it…but it’s also not for the faint-hearted.

Clayton J. Callahan

Warnings To Writers

The publishing industry is fraught with desperation and peril for the new author. You have finished your first manuscript and you clutch it tightly in your mitts as you wander into the dark forest of agents, publishers, and scammers all alone.

To be honest, it sucks.

Having wandered in that forest for a while now, I’d like to share my experience with some of the pitfalls I’ve fallen into. The mistakes I’ve made are easy to avoid and a little knowledge can go a long way, so here it is; my insights for dealing with the publishing industry.

  1. Do not, for any reason, go to small press publishers.

Personally, I was excited when I got the e-mail informing me that a small publisher out of Canada wanted to acquire my book.  I took it as confirmation that I had finally arrived and was now a “real” author. The contract I signed even sounded reasonable. My publisher promised to edit my book, design a cover, and publish my book online in exchange for 70% of the sales revenue to be paid every six months. In return, I gave him the rights to my book for five years after the publishing date (and it took him a year to publish).

“This is great!” I thought. Now, I could get to work on my next novel and leave the messy bit of selling to my publisher. But hold the phone here, buddy. First off I have to say, the editing was pretty terrible. It seems the publisher was simply willing to contract with any schmuck on the internet who would provide editing services. Long story short, I spent a month frantically correcting all her mistakes before the publishing deadline…fun. Then came the little detail about selling the book.

The publisher, it seems, had no intention of spending any time or money on promoting any of his author’s works. And as the contract didn’t say he had to, there was no obligation. Naively, I assumed that he’d promote it as he was to receive 70%, but sadly no.

Folks, believe me when I say that promotion matters. There are hundreds of thousands of books on Amazon and no one besides your mother is going to buy yours unless it’s well promoted. Advertising costs money, blogging takes time, and conventions are expensive. The small press publisher counts on the author’s ego to promote his own book…while the publisher collects 70%!

It’s been four years since I published that first novel and every six months I do get a check from that publisher. And when it arrives, I take my wife out to dinner, and I say to her, “Honey, you can have anything on your hot dog that you want.”

2. Beware of scammers.

For all the pitfalls of my first experience with a small publisher, it pales in comparison to working with a scammer. How do you know that a supposed publisher is actually a scammer? Well, it can be tricky I’ll admit as they try their best to look legit. But in general, any publisher who asks for you to pay them money at any time for any reason is a scammer. Remember, your selling the product to them, not the other way around!

3. A word on self-publishing.

It takes about twenty minutes to upload your e-book on Amazon and that includes brewing the cup of coffee you’ll be sipping as you do. Hire your own editor if you can, and then do a few favors for that artist friend of yours to get her to do your cover, and boom, just like that you’re published. Now all you have to do is promote your book yourself (which you’d have to do anyway with a small press publisher but this time you get 100%).

Since your reaping all the rewards from your efforts, it can be worth the expense to buy those ads and such. However, unless you know a lot about marketing, this can be a real pain in the butt. Pimping your book ain’t easy, and it will take a considerable amount of time and money to reach an audience.

4. Big-time publishers still exist.

Sure, you can pitch your book to an agent or go directly to one of the big New York publishing houses. These companies have been around for generations and have survived for a reason. They do not want to put out any sub-quality book as it may tarnish their reputation. Therefore, they use in-house editors, professional cover artists, and do all they reasonably can to promote their books. However, the downside is they are extremely risk-averse. If they take you on, they will have to spend a lot of money doing all the above things and they are barely hanging on in this digital age as it is. New authors with no audience are a great risk and your book is just one of thousands they get every day. Getting published with these guys is still possible, but it’s certainly not a sure thing.

Are you good and depressed now? I hope not. Every year new authors manage to somehow cut through this jungle and emerge with money in their pockets. Write the best material you can and know you have as much chance, and as much right, as anybody to make it as an author.

Good luck.

Clayton J. Callahan

George Takei Has Somthing To Say

If you know science fiction, you know George Takei–Sulu from Star Trek. Of course, no one is more than their job. The man has lived a fascinating life both on-screen and off, and I do consider him one of my personal heroes (fanboy much? Maybe).

Well, apparently, Mr. Takei also had an interesting and extremely difficult childhood. No, not like a lot of us who struggled with less than first-rate parents. In fact, Takei describes his parents as nothing if not loving and supportive. Sadly, it was his country that made little George’s childhood such a struggle. Born in the USA to US citizens, he was classified as an “enemy alien” just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

At five years old, along with his entire family, George was sent to live in a concentration camp right here in America.

Now, let me be clear, American concentration camps were not death camps. It was never the intention of the US government to exterminate Japanese people at home. However, when the British Army set up the world’s first concentration camps during the Boer War of 1899 to 1902, it was not their intention to exterminate the Boers either. Nevertheless, to deprive a group of people of their freedom due strictly to their ethnicity is the central idea behind any concentration camp and that definition describes the Japanese American “Internment” to a T.

Now, Mr. Tekei has just released a graphic novel about his childhood/wartime experiences titled, They Called Us Enemy. It is a gripping story and one that must be listened to. The compulsions that drove Americans to allow our own government to lock up human beings out of fear of what they may do rather than for things they had done are not unique to that period in history. Sadly, we have acted this way before and if left uneducated can and are acting this way again!

This book was written as a graphic novel to make it as accessible as possible. And I applaud Mr. Takei for that decision.  I will also say that the book is well written and well illustrated. It makes for a compelling read and does not try to sensationalize the experience of internment. Little George had good days and bad behind the barbed wire and I’m glad he told the whole story. I highly recommend you add this book to your library as an important part of any book collection whether you’re a fan of science fiction or not.

By Clayton J. Callahan