Tuesday, July 31, 2018

About Mel and DreamCraft

Mel Keegan's first novel, ICE, WIND AND FIRE, appeared with GMP as long ago as 1990. In the following years many other novels have appeared, including the sci-fi thrillers, DEATH'S HEAD and EQUINOX, which have become cult classics. DEATH'S HEAD was nominated for the mainstream "Science Fiction Hall of Fame," and the historical THE DECEIVERS won a Stonewall award. 

At this time there are 40 Keegan titles on issue with DreamCraft; and Mel has completed both the series, HELLGATE and -- yes, NARC, albeit after a long delay caused by a battle with ill health. Most readers were extraordinarily patient, waiting for the NARC series to be completed ... just a few became unpleasant about the delay, but of course, grave health concerns do, and will, interrupt real-life writing plans, and emailing ugly language to the author won't speed up the process by one instant! In the end, NARC was done, finished, and is currently available in Kindle, B&N, iBooks, and also in paperback throughout. 

Following the GMP years, the first first fresh Keegan titles appearing with DreamCraft were THE DECEIVERS, DANGEROUS MOONLIGHT, NOCTURNE and THE SWORDSMAN, and since then many more were issued, spanning the spectrum of creative genres from thriller to SF to Historical and Fantasy. 

For almost a decade the Keegan novels were published by GMP (the Gay Men's Press, London), but after their merger with Prowler and later, Millivres, GMP became more or less 'dormant,' selling only old titles, and apparently publishing only those novels which had been in pre-press at the time of the merger. Eventually, Millivres discontinued its paperback division, and Mel turned to a local South Australian studio, DreamCraft, to manage his intellectal properties. 

DreamCraft was actually a multimedia studio specializing in book packaging and also CD-Rom for PC. Aha. Jade and Dave had seen the immense potential of ebooks years ahead of the impending ebook revolution, and in the 1990s were experimenting with "books on disk." The original plan was for a reader to buy a CD-Rom loaded with all the book formats popular at the time, shipped in a DVD case cover designed to look exactly like a paperback. This was your ultmate file backup, and you would have access to every format you would ever needed, no matter how often you changed devices. Neat idea. 

The downside was, of course, it was "hard goods" which had to be manufactured and shipped. Manufacture wasn't a problem, but the rising cost of shipping airmail was. It didn't take long for the Internet to begin to gallop, download speeds increased exponentially, and downloadable goods very soon eclipsed hard-goods. So ... 

The switch to ebooks hosted online was simple, and DreamCraft's other strength -- book packaging -- came into play. PDF, EPUB, MOBI, paperbacks ... the Mel Keegan digital list was born, with print on demand paperbacks if anyone could afford the postage (always the factor Mel and DreamCraft could do nothing about). In the first five years the books were hand-crafted by DreamCraft, and each copy was personally signed by Mel. A few copies of these rare collectors items are still out there, and they change hands at ridiculous prices. 

From 2002 to 2012, Mel continued to work as a writer, though writing time became limited since he worked full-time and played "den uncle" to his brainchild, GLBT Bookshelf, which was online for seven eventful years until the basic "rot" at the heart of the immense website outstripped anyone's abilities to cope with it. The Bookshelf was a user-generated wiki, with free membership, open to all writers and publishers who produced GLBT materials. Alas, far too many users chose to abandon the pages they had made, never editing them to keep their content current, with the result that after seven years, the site was so corroded with dead links, it would have been a thousand-hour job to fix it ... and no one was on hand to help. It was a great idea ... at first. One prominent writer did refer to it as "faff," however, and in retrospect, MK has come to wonder if she had spotted the weakness inherent in any such user-generated project. If so, time proved her correct, and GLBT Bookshelf went the way of so many privately run, non-profit sites, though it lasted a great dead longer than most! 

As ill health began to overtake Mel, the volume of his writing fell away -- and at the worst possible time. He did produce the 320,000 word finale to HELLGATE, and do it on time, back in the Bookshelf years, but the immense project hurt and he took a much-needed year to recover. In this same time, Jade retired, and to save the digital backlist from vanishing, Mel bought DreamCraft for a peppercorn ... yes, MK has owned DreamCraft since 2014, so all the books at Amazon, CreateSpace, Smashwords and Lulu have remained in place. Then the struggle began in earnest with his health -- while NARC languished, unfinished, on a pivot point! 

He always knew it would take a trilogy to finish it out: SCIMITAR - BASILISK - ENDGAME. It just took time to get the whole thing done, all of a piece -- and MK knew that readers would be reluctant to reinvolve themselves with Jarrat and Stone before they knew the whole thing was finished. The project ran a whisker under 400,000 words, but it was completed in mid-2018 ... 

Next came the re-edit of the website here. Much has happened in the last few years, and the site must have taken on something of an "abandoned" appearance, especially since the collapse of ARe, which was a very major ebook server (last MK heard, they were being investigated by the FBI for something like cyber crime). As ARe went down, something like 150 links acros this website turned into "404 errors," and of course the PDFs and EPUBS of virtually everything became unavailable, unless you wanted to navigate the maze of Smashwords. It was always going to be a monster job to fix this -- 

The job is complete. Jade rode to the rescue, with something like 15 hours of work, threading through the site, tracing and fixing the dead links. Next: the ten (yes, ten!) titles which were never before uploaded to Smashwords have been sent there at last. This brought the PDF and EPUB links back to life. Whew! 

In the early 1990s, the name of "Mel Keegan" soon become synonymous with fast-paced action/adventure thrillers with pivotal gay characters and themes, in paperback with GMP. Almost thirty years later, readers are asking, will Mel continue to write after finishing the NARC series? Nothing is impossible. It's a question of health, strength, energy. Key on those words: "thirty years later," and remind yourself that the GLBT marketplace is neither very large nor very rich (there's money in m/m romance, yes; but Mel Keegan isn't really a romance writer ... that's a different marketplace, as its readers will explain). So crafting such novels can only be a labor of love, to coin a phrase, and it all begins with the aforementioned health and vitality. Keep your fingers crossed. To reiterate: nothing is impossible --

In fact, the first novel after NARC is a haunted house story, and in November 2018 this book is in the editing stages, with a cover being designed. The first omnibus edition of earlier works, FUTURE IMPERFECT, has already been sent to Amazon, Kindle, B&N, iBooks and so forth. More is planned, but this time around MK is playing it safe and not promising anything till it's done and finished.

A self-confessed science fiction and fantasy devotee, Keegan is known for novels across a wide range of subjects, from the historical to the future action-adventure. He still lives in South Australia with an eccentric family and a variety of pets, and for years has actually owned the DreamCraft "brand" after having been known to work as a part-time, standby editor in the "Jade and Dave years," going back two decades now. 

  • Have you just discovered Mel and would like to know more about the author and the novels? Call this our FAQ

Is MK available in ebook form?

Naturally -- and in the popular formats of epub, Kindle and PDF, as well as luscious paperbacks which are the perfect gift solution when birthdays and Christmas roll around. 

Delicious heroes!

Every Mel Keegan book is strong on gay heroes (also, often, on gay villains), and some of these heroes are the most delicious in fiction: Jarrat and Stone from the NARC series, Bill Ryan and Jim Hale from THE DECEIVERS, Neil Travers and Curtis Marin from Hellgate, and many more unforgettable characters. Because Mel's books feature the male/male gay relationship, the partnership at the core of each book is integral: this is the relationship driving the story, and it can be very powerful indeed. "Unputdownable," as HIM Magazine said of Death's Head (the first novel in the NARC series). 

So, these are specifically gay books?

Yes and no! Depends what you mean by 'gay books.' To many readers, a 'specifically' gay book concerns gay characters doing gay things, speaking gay dialog, addressing gay issues, for 300pp. Mel Keegan's novels tend to be a little different. They concern gay characters doing extraordinary things, which may have a gay connection or not; delivering dialog that ranges from the poetic to the technical, and may be gay — or not, depending on context; and while the novels certainly address gay issues (especially the historical novels which get to grips with what it meant to be gay in other centuries), there is very much more in them than 'only' gay issues. Simply stated, MK novels range across the whole spectrum and are about everything ... including being gay! 

So, what has Mel written, and for whom?

"Mel Keegan" is a pen-name which has appeared on around 30 assorted titles to date, with four more titles due in quick succession. This writer has also worked in genres other than gay male fiction, but on the website here, we're focused on these novels. You can catch up with Mel's publishing history, what's in print, and where to buy them, on-site right here. 

And remember, when you get Mel Keegan books directly from this website, you get much more than just a book. On-site here, you can get inside the writer's mind, share the thinking behind the novel, review it yourself, share your thoughts with the publisher and writer, and other readers. Alas, we can't offer you signed copies any longer. For the first seven years of publishing with DreamCraft, the books were manufactured here and Mel would sign every copy. In late 2007, we made the change to using the printshops serving Amazon (which are in the USA/Canada, UK/Europe), and obviously MK can't be signing copies now. 

From 1989 to 2001, MK was with GMP, the Gay Men's Press, in the UK. Following the takeover of GMP by Prowler, which was subsequently absorbed into MPG (The Millivres Publishing Group, which concentrates on magazines), the old GMP paperback list was closed down. MK entered a partnership with DreamCraft Multimedia, in South Australia, in 2001, and in 2011 we're expanding into offshore manufacture. Once again, the Mel Keegan books will be manufactured in the northern hemisphere. Eight novels were published by GMP and Millivres, and the novella, Breakheart was published by Alyson Publications, in the SWORDS OF THE RAINBOW anthology, in 1999. Browse through the booklist to see which titles have been published by whom. 

At this time, every old work on the "Mel Keegan" byline has been reissued. Since 2001, DreamCraft has reissued all of the nine paperback Keegan titles, and published more than twenty new titles. MK has no plans to stop writing anytime soon, but ongoing health issues make keeping to strict schedules difficult, so books will tend to appear as if magically, with little warning ... because Mel has learned the hard way that making promises and not being able to deliver is a pretty dim idea.

So, what kind of novels does Mel Keegan write? 

Every Mel Keegan novel is an adventure or thriller, though it might be set in the past, present or future, and they're all between 90,000 and 210,000 words in length. Each one has a strong romantic element: there's at least one relationship at the core, driving the plot ... and the "twist" or "spin" to the Keegan novels is, without exception, it will be a gay (male) relationship. 

With the exception of Ice, Wind & Fire and White Rose of Night, the books are not what the modern market would term hot, but they can be deliciously spicy. When violence occurs, it is also realistic. Many of the Keegan novels concern paramilitary and military across the centuries, from the distant past to the far future. The books are not recommended for young readers: they were not written for the younger reader! Due to gritty themes (the drug war, armed conflict, realistically portrayed situations, and romantic liaisons), we won't knowingly supply them to young readers. Be aware when ordering of the gritty themes and same-gender relationships at the core of these novels. 

  • Would you like to know more about DreamCraft?

DreamCraft was born in 1996 as a multimedia studio, producing CD-Rom, software, art and photography, enter- and edutainment. Fifteen years later, we worked in the still-new and fairly innovative digital field of ‘POD publishing,’ as well as the innovative and much more exciting realm of ebook publishing. 

As most reader know by now, ‘POD’ is an acronym standing for ‘print on demand.’ With the recent upsurgence in desktop technology, it's now very accurate to say that when a copy is ordered, it's printed. POD publishing was tipped to turn the whole publishing world around ... and to an extent it did. You might have heard that the traditional publishing industry has become a dinosaur, more than likely doomed to extinction. The situation was brought about by a combination of POD and ebooks. 

POD books are developed digitally and laser-printed at the very highest quality, on quality cream-colored ‘bond’ papers, so the quality is superb throughout. High-gloss covers or matte are printed in full color, and the perfect bound (glued spine) books are usually ‘trade size,’ measuring 6" x 9". The books are manufactured to astonishing standards by companies like CreateSpace and Lulu, and at DreamCraft we used both services. Years ago we used to manufacture the books in-house, but volumes became too great for us to handle, and we inevitably outsourced the work. 

The hardcovers are especially beautiful, with sturdy, glossy dust jackets. All the Mel Keegan hardcovers are printed and bound by Lulu.com, but the books will always be written and published in Australia. The paperbacks are produced by either Lulu or CreateSpace, and in fact CreateSpace is the easiest possible gateway to the wonderful world of Amazon.com, which is the reason it's so popular. 

Around 2010 we were very excited about the move into eBooks. Very soon you could get every Mel Keegan title, formatted for virtually any machine, desk- lap- or palmtop device. If eBooks are the answer to your prayer (are you reading on the train, on the way to work? In your lunch break, in the staff lounge or the park?!) then you're in good company — and we had you covered. After Mel joined DreamCraft, around 25 new titles were published and the entire backlist reissued. 

Then, in 2014, when Jade and Dave retired from this line of work, Mel Keegan bought DreamCraft "for a peppercorn" in order to perpetuate the whole list, keep all titles online. So, since late-2014 MK and DreamCraft have actually been the same entity -- and of course the original DreamCraft website, which featured other writers as well as the business's many services, closed. Jade and Dave went on to other things, and Mel entered a long-term health struggle from which he's enjoying a little respite in mid-2018, at the time of this website update. 

  • About the cover art 

All the art you see on the site here, and at DreamCraft's own home site, was produced by Jade, who is an avid CG and 3D artist working mostly in DAZ Studio, Photoshop, with occasional forays into other less well known systems. Jade has been a working photographer and artist for more than 20 years. She has a gallery online, but but you'll need to be viewing on desktop or laptop to make the most of it. It's just barely navigable on the larger phones. 

This mobile friendly version of MEL KEEGAN ONLINE created and posted by webmaster JADE.

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