Friday, August 19, 2011

Ink In The Skin

When I'm not obsessing over a word or turn of phrase on a manuscript, or the word count on a short story of mayhem and suspense, I'm busy at my day job sticking needles into people. While ink on paper is my obsession, ink in the skin is also something I'm passionate about. But if you've ever read my blog or you're following me on Twitter, you might notice I don't tweet about tattoos or have tattoo artist followers (okay, maybe a couple that slipped in somehow). I don't blog about tattooing either. I do occasionally post a photo on Facebook of a tattoo that I did if I particularly like it.

The reason I don't talk about tattoos is that I find I have to leave the job at work. I have to get away from it. And that's simply to save myself from burning out, which periodically I go through degrees of after ten years in the business. And when my brain is fully immersed in writing and all things fiction and writerly, (which is all the time) ink on the paper and not ink in the skin, is where I want to be. But today, I'm going to deviate a bit from talking about words on paper and talk about....'gasp' tattoos of all the darned things in the world! In particular how it's changed over the years from when I was a miscreant kid, sneaking down to the local tattoo shop and watching my friends get inked.

So just for fun, lets take a look at tattooing today in the year 2011 compared to tattooing in the 80s. And I'll post some photos of my favourite pieces that I've inked....

The tattoo industry has evolved light years since the 80s when I was a kid, in the same way technology has. And that evolution has been almost simultaneous with technology, although the two are really unrelated in that the traditional coil tattoo machine hasn't changed all that much since its invention in the late 1800s. While there are newer types of machines that artists uses these days, the traditional coil still dominates. What has evolved though, in the last decade in particular, is the caliber of tattoo artists themselves and thus the quality of their work. The ability to create life-like images of photographic quality that was unheard of in the 80s, is now commonplace.

You Want It When? snicker...

Prior to the surge in tattooing, before it was fashionable, before all the rock stars had sleeves and when they dressed like girls with their poofy hair and spandex, tattoos were just for clubbers and criminals. But if you really wanted to get one you could walk into your local tattoo shop (every town had at least one and it was usually run by a biker/clubber), and if you weren't too intimidated, you could pick a design off the wall, then you were sitting in the chair getting it inked. Where I grew up in small town Sarnia, Ontario on the shores of Lake Huron, we had one guy in the entire town doing tattoos. Happy Jack's Tattoos. Happy Jack worked out of his basement and he was a miserable son of a bitch. But I suppose he had aspirations. And that's how it worked back then, you walked in, you picked your design, you sat down, wam-bam! Your coolness factor just skyrocketed.

Now, fast forward roughly 30 years into the future and things in the tattoo industry are quite different. Tattooing is no longer underground. It's even mainstream. We have conventions, hordes of magazines, companies providing all kinds of industry products from specialized chairs and equipment, to tattoo machines, and lines of specialty pigments. Shows like Miami Ink and LA Ink allow the average person a peek into the tattoo world to see that we all aren't degenerates but just people like everyone else. Nor do tattoo artists have horns and breathe fire. Well, maybe some of them the Master Of The Macabre, Paul Booth from Last Rites And the customers are average people from soccer moms, to grandmothers and every one in between, all backgrounds, races, religions, professions and levels of education. But the days of getting your tattoo on the spot are long gone. The artists at the good tattoo shops are booked ahead, often months ahead. There are even world renowned artists in the industry who are booked years in advance. Jeff Gogue (my personal favourite) is booked nearly 2 years in advance and currently not accepting any more clients.

Still the average person who hasn't spent a lot of time inside a tattoo shop is always shocked when they ask to book an appointment for a tattoo and we start flipping the pages in our calender until we're in the next season. Sadly we're not like McDonald's, we don't have a drive through window. But like Mama used to say, "Good things come to those who wait". And a good tattoo is always worth the wait. Just ask the people who went for a quickie-cheapie job somewhere less experienced and thus less busy, and then came back to us to get it covered up because it was crap. It always costs so much more doing it that way too. But alas, a lot of people have to learn things the hard way. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't drown them if they don't want to drink. Put a bullet in them maybe... snicker But I digress, we were talking about tattoos, no?

But Mom, I Don't Want A Tattoo!

When I was a teenager (way back a bazillion light years ago) as an act of rebellion you would skip school and go get a tattoo. If you were a girl then the standard was a butterfly, a rose, or a little hot stuff devil, usually on your ankle, your boob or your pelvis. And it meant you were bad. Now, in the new milenium parents are bringing their kids in, helping pick out their tattoos and flipping the cost on their credit cards. In the same way you have the family doctor and the family dentist, you can now have the family tattooist. And we do go through entire families; kids, parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles. In fact some parents are so eager to have their kids tattooed that we regularly have them trying to bring their under age kids in to get some ink done. We've even had parents get all hostile when we refuse them. So acts of teenage rebellion, while it can still be getting tattooed for some, others have to get a little more creative and have some other body modifications in order to feel independent, like 3D implants.

Cross-contamination Barriers, Autoclaves, And Other Strange Words...

Happy Jack's fingers looked like a mechanics, except instead of oil discolouring his fingernail beds, it was pigment. Gloves were unheard of back then. So was sterilization. This was prior HIV and Hepatitis and other blood born pathogens, when tattooers didn't always need to change their needles. The innocence of those days are gone. Now, professional tattoo artists take the health and safety of their customers very seriously and are educated in cross contamination practices. Needles are always single use only, and any tubes are properly sterilized in an autoclave that is subject to regular spore tests to ensure it's functioning properly. Here in Ontario tattoo studios are governed by the Ontario Health Board, are subject to regular inspections and required to comply with certain codes of practice to ensure sterility. So tattoo shops operate within the same guidelines as dentists and medical practitioners.

Let Your Fingers Do The Talking, And Your Neck, And Inside Your Bottom Lip...

It used to be that tattoo artists would not tattoo certain areas of the body. Below the wrists, the feet and above the neck was off limits. This was primarily for two reasons. First, the quality of the skin is not ideal to tattoo. It's not smooth, the skin gets lots of wear and exfoliation, the ink tends not to go in very well, it tends not to heal well, and therefore it might not stay well. Secondly, it's a highly visible area that's difficult to hide and it can pose problems with future career choices and eventually become a source of embarrassement, especially on the hands or the neck.

Now a days, we get more requests for finger tattoos, neck and foot tattoos than ever before. Even for first tattoos, people are asking for something on their fingers and on the side of their neck. But when I see a fresh-faced kid barely out of high school asking for Love/Hate across his fingers, the mom in me takes over. "No you can't get that tattooed son, what the hell's the matter with you?" Smack, smack goes my hand up side their squash. Okay, not literally, but believe me I want to. So no, sorry kids no ink on the fingers and definitely no gangster stamps on your necks. Go buy a Sharpie, that way you can just wash it off when you don't like it in the morning when you wake up and realize what you've done! Smack, smack, smack.

Go Big Baby, Or Go Home...

Straight up, little tattoos look dumb, especially on a big guy with a big arm. Even worse is a lot of little tattoos in various places on the body, giving one the "fridge magnet" effect. In the 80s and prior it was common to get small tattoos in a frame of skin. Today, bigger highly detailed pieces are astheticaly superior. Tattoos that wrap around the area, and flow with the musculature and the lines of the body, compliment and enhance a person's appearance in a way that a little hot stuff devil on your butt will never be able to do. If it's a custom piece that's really well done by a highly skilled artist, it will be something you'll be proud to display on your skin for a lifetime.

Check out more of my art and my husband Fabien's at Malefic Tattoos

Trestle Press & QR Codes (what the heck are they?)

Guest Post by Giovanni Geleti from Trestle Press...

Starting today just about every author involved with Trestle Press will have a QR code for their work, not just their novels, novella’s and digital short stories, but also their own blogs, websites….What exactly is a QR Code? Here is a little something from Wikipedia I hope that will help to explain it and then I will go into how and why we are implementing this immediately:

“A QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response code) is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) that is readable by dedicated QR readers, smartphones, and, to a less common extent, computers with webcams. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded may be text, URL, or other data.”
I am going to use one of authors as a prime reason how we and why we feel so strongly in the use of the QR code, Big Daddy Abel. Now if you know or heard of BDA(Big Daddy Abel), then you know besides being the author of the Open Series of Amazon Kindle bestselling stories and one of the Collaborators In The Author’s Lab, he is one of the members of The Amish Outlaws. The Amish Outlaws perform in front of thousands each week. We have provided BDA now with a QR Code for not just his work with Trestle Press, each of his stories, but he also has some of his own work on REVERBNATION:

Now when he is out, he can produce a card that has all his work on it if one of his many fans is wondering if and how to get to his work, BAM! He pulls it out the card; they snap a picture of the code on their smartphone and purchase his work, anywhere he goes. One click, one stop shopping, right from the author, straight to their Amazon Kindle account. He can be anywhere, doing just about anything, and he is able to sell ABLE. I would call that a pleasant customer experience, personal service right from the author; there is no better way to sell.

The uses and applications of this are many and we plan to implement as many of these as possible as quickly as possible. I am also planning on placing them on my cover art that we use in promotions, so you the customer can just zone in on it, and buy it immediately, right from Amazon Kindle, no need to do anything else, it, the QR code ,takes you right to your Amazon Kindle account right from your smartphone. Cutting edge, sure, but that is what we pride ourselves on here at Trestle Press. Our authors are not just getting used to it, but expecting it. We LOVE to build and make connections that bring our authors and their readers closer together.

Here's some codes to books I've got on Amazon:

Paul D. Brazill's Drunk On The Moon series, Fear The Night:

The Devil's Music, Raised In Hell:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Satan's Daughter Is On The Loose...

The Devil's Music is an intense new short story series featuring Sadie, the daughter of the devil himself, who has an insatiable appetite for music, and in particular, musicians. Sadie is a shape-shifter who travels the world to different time periods collecting the souls of all the great musical legends.

In the first story, Raised In Hell, it’s the late 1930s in Memphis Tennessee and The King Of The Delta Blues Singers is reigning in the dingy juke joints. Sadie, has a signed contact with him that’s come due. She’s got a soul to collect. In a blues club on Beale Street, Sadie finds him on the stage and waits for him with a bottle of bourbon, ready to take him to hell. But what happens if he doesn’t want to go?

Excerpt from The Devil’s Music, Book 1 Raised In Hell
By Julia Madeleine

Out on Beale Street I recognized his soulful voice immediately, the cry of the blues guitar chords rising up and swelling around me like a heartache in the Memphis night air. I stepped through the front door and the smell of bourbon, tobacco and sweat crashed into me, igniting my senses. Through the dim light and a layer of smoke hovering above the room, I made out his figure on the stage at the far end of the dingy juke joint. There he was, the King Of The Delta Blues singers himself.

My heart flipped at the sight of him, his onyx skin, the fedora worn low on his forehead obscuring his eyes. Blue light glowed over the angle of his jaw. There was a stirring in my belly and I placed a protective hand over the thin silk of my dress, as if the excitement would leap from me physically. And something wicked that made me salivate and lick my lips, erupted inside of me, a sensation expanding in my chest and throat.

The rich sound of his voice seeped into my body, holding me captive, and for a moment I forgot why I’d come here. Forgot what I was planning to do.

“Early this morning
When you knocked upon my door
Early this morning, oooo
When you knocked upon my door
And I said hello Satan I believe it’s time to go..”

How many times had he sat on the edge of my bed singing that very song, picking on his guitar? I’d fallen asleep to that voice. Heard it merge with my dreams, his foot tapping the wooden floor rhythmically. His music was a heartbeat, lulling me. It seemed so long ago now that I first met him, playing for change in the park. I was in and out of his life ever since, like a migratory bird, making promises I didn’t intend to keep. All except for one promise. To myself. One promise that I was about to fulfill. I regretted what I had to do and at the same time, longed for it.

Through the din, and the sweat-drenched audience swaying as if in a trance, I made my way to an unoccupied chair at the bar, moving in a predatory stride that caused heads to turn, and the crowds to part. Whenever I came here, to the south, I coloured my skin dark, a tone somewhere between caramel and milk chocolate, to blend with the locals. The only thing I could never change, though, were my eyes; they were a brilliant cobalt blue with flecks of gold. A gift from my father. It was how he always recognized me through my perennial shape-shifting that had become my obsession, travelling though the decades, visiting the different eras, picking what I wanted like a child in a candy store with all of Daddy’s money in fist.

I eased up onto the chair, turning on a hip and crossed my long legs, one stiletto-heeled pump keeping time with the drum beat, and stroked a lock of dark hair fallen loose from my chignon. I swallowed the saliva that threatened to spill from my lips.

My friend Lyle owned this place. Ran the pool, dice and card games. Made a shit-load of money. All thanks to me. I watched him approach me now from behind the bar; a big man with molasses coloured skin, slick with the heat. He’d had his hair conked, a style all the black men—still called themselves Negros down here in the 1930s—were wearing these days. It was parted on the side and neatly smoothed back as if he’d had it lacquered. The handle-bar moustache was new, curled at the ends, giving him an odd circus ringmaster appearance, especially now that he was conking his hair.

“Hey Lyle sweetie, looks like you got a full house tonight,” I said, running the backs of my fingers, clad in a mesh glove, along the edge of my cheek. A subtle but powerful gesture that had the effect of twitching strings on a puppet.

“Sadie, you sexy mama. Good to see you. Been a long time. ” He leaned across the bar, and I allowed him to lay a wet kiss on my cheek. His waxed moustache tickled my ear.

I held out a cigarette for a light and he fumbled under the bar, came up immediately with a match. His hand shook as he held it toward me. He grinned in a way that looked as if he might be in some kind of pain.

“Looking beautiful as always,” he said and mopped the sweat from his forehead with a white handkerchief he kept in his pocket. “And in this heat. But I suppose where you come from, that’s something you’re used to. What you drinking tonight, Sadie? You want the usual?”

“Gimme’ a bottle, Lyle. Two glasses,” I said, blowing out a stream of smoke above his head. I looked across the room at the stage and caught Robert’s eye. A lazy smile curled his lips at the corners as the recognition played across his features. His eyes looked so joyful in their innocence. It’s like he had no idea what was coming...

Download it from Amazon for $0.99!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mountains Of Smoke By Frank Duffy

Mountains Of Smoke (e-book) by Frank Duffy
Sideshow Press (April, 2011)

Frank Duffy’s novella, Mountains Of Smoke, is the story of a fiction writer and his wife who buy an ancient gothic castle called Rock Hill that sits on the edge of a cliff overlooking a river. The couple, along with their young son, move into Rock Hill and for years everything is wonderful. But then one winter a tragic death. To cope with his sorrow and loneliness he immerses himself in his writing but not the usual drama type writing, his stories have taken on a decidedly darker tone and morphed into horror as he slowly slips over the edge, into the depths of crazy town. Something is now living down in the river and in order for his books to be successful, it requires feeding, and it’s appetite is most foul.

This is a disturbing and macabre story reminiscent of Stephen King that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck. The atmosphere is dark and truly creepy with the pervasive sense of dread and suspense through out. Frank Duffy’s writing is poetic, evocative and rich in detail. Prose that will make you want to read and re-read them. Like this one: "...and a drowned memory comes finally dragging itself up the sand, the bank, through the marsh and weeds, and stares up at me, the face like a pebble, round and hard and unyielding."

Be on the look out for Frank Duffy’s collection of short stories titled The Signal Block, coming out this fall. I’ve read it and it’s brilliant. Highly recommended.

5 out of 5 stars

Mountains Of Smoke is available from Sideshow Press

Lasting Damage by Sophie Hannah

Lasting Damage by Sophie Hannah
Penguin Canada (Aug. 6, 2011)

While browsing through a real estate website on the internet one sleepless night, Connie Bowskill makes a shocking discovery when she clicks on the virtual tour button of one particular property. The body of a woman lying in a pool of blood. Connie wakes up her husband Kit, to show him. But when he checks out the pictures there’s no body, leaving Connie questioning her own sense of reality.

From there the story takes a mysterious and complex detour through the lives of a plethora of characters that’s full of twists, and often some confusing, turns. Bestselling crime fiction writer and poet, Sophie Hannah, has created a compelling physiological thriller in Lasting Damage. The story is, at times a little convoluted and requires some serious suspension of disbelief, but non the less, it’s an enjoyable mystery.

4 out of 5 stars

Available on Amazon

Dead Line by Richard Sanders: Review

Dead Line by Richard Sanders
Createspace (Feb.2011)

In Richard Sanders latest novel, magazine publisher Trish Fenellosa, is experiencing a break with reality where she actually believes she has being possessed by the spirit of the late prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi. And her psychosis goes back further, right to her early teens with the brutal murder of her sister. Even though her body was never found, Trish was convicted of the crime and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison.

When the sentence was overturned in a retrial, a twenty-two-year-old Trish walks out of prison and begins her new life by starting a magazine which quickly becomes highly successful. But every secret in the dark past comes to the glaring light when a car accident Trish is involved in doesn’t appear to be quite so accidental.

Dead Line is a fascinating and quirky tale full of odd, well drawn characters, especially Trish in all her weirdness and mystery. Richard Sanders does a fantastic job of weaving these characters into an intense, vivid story with all the suspense and mystery of a good thriller. An exceptionally well written thrill ride of a novel.

4 out of 5 stars

Available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle