Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Two Wrongs That Make A Spite

I recently spent an episode of my Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing podcast reflecting on two of the negative things that writers unnecessarily inflict upon themselves. The episode is entitled "Two Wrongs That Make A Writer Spite."

The two things are COMPARISON and REJECTION.

These two seemingly little things can eat up a significant amount of a writer's time and convince them that the good fight of continuing to write and publish might not be worth it.

It's not fair to compare yourself to others; there will be times when the comparison makes you feel less worthy and other times where it'll fill you with a false sense of grandeur. Either way is not a good thing. The only thing you should be comparing yourself to is YOU yesterday.

Also, I pause to think about how a writer friend (Kerrie in Episode 31 of the same podcast) doesn't like to use the word REJECTION when talking about writing. Drawing inspiration from Kerrie's thoughts on that, I reflect on what "rejection" most likely actually means.

You can listen to me ponder these two things in full frontal audio here:

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Books Don't Go Bad, They Just Page Away

As a life-long book nerd, I'm pretty pumped to be part of a bundle of novels and stories all focused on books and bookish things.

The BOOKS GONE BAD BUNDLE, from BundleRabbit, is a collection of nearly 260,000 words of 2 novels and 10 stories from 11 authors and is certain to be an excellent 24 hours or so of reading for those who revel in book-themed tales.

Using the catch-phrase "Speculative Tales about a Uniquely Portable Magic" (in reference to the quote from Stephen King), the bundle, which is available at all major eBook retailers, contains:

  • "Clockwork Lives" by Kevin J. Anderson and Neil Peart (Novel)
  • "Quest for the Three Books" by Dawn Blair (Novel)
  • "These Chains" by Dayle A. Dermatis (Story)
  • "Warning! Do Not Read This Story!" by Robert Jeschonek (Story)
  • "The Page Turners" by DeAnna Knippling (Story)
  • "Active Reader" by Mark Leslie (3 Story Collection)
  • "Guardian of the Grimoire" by Karen McCullough (Novella)
  • "The Story for the Letters" by Kate MacLeod (Story)
  • "Petra and the Blue Goo" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Story)
  • "Invasion of the Book Snatchers" by Ryan M. Williams (Story)
My own collection of three bookish themed stories, Active Reader, is a part of the bundle and was the genesis for the idea for the bundle. I love bookish themed stories and I wanted to see if there was a way to collect a bunch of them together to give other book nerds like me an easy way to read a bunch of book-centric tales of books, booksellers and librarians.

The bundle, as mentioned, is available at all major eBook retailers. You can get to it by following any of the links below:

BundleRabbit Page: With full synopsis of bundle and each individual eBook - and retailer link (links to all retailers, including Kindle, Kobo, Apple and Nook)

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Inside, Outside, Loving All Around

Earlier this morning I was hit with one of those Facebook pop-ups. A memory from last year.

When I saw the picture I was reminded of an awesome time last year in a picture of Liz and I on our way to the Romance Writers of America conference in Orlando last summer. It was a crazy and fun road trip adventure driving from Ontario to Florida.

This is a great pic of Liz and I, and one of my favorites. Look at those two smiling kids. Fresh air, sunshine, an awesome beer spot. The world belongs to them.

But it was also an interesting reminder that, when I took this picture I was suffering from a nasty bout of food poisoning. The painful side-effects of the food poisoning was hitting me in repeated waves that morning, and just wanted to curl up into a ball and leave the rest of the world behind. I should NOT have eaten those raw oysters the night before. I haven't been able to eat raw oysters since then. Such is the post-effect of food poisoning.

The last thing I wanted to do was be in a car for 10 or 12 more hours, to be heading to a conference where I had to be on stage, on panels, conduct business meetings and Facebook live videos with various folks.

I remember the usual side-effects, combined with sweating profusely (not just the heat, but the fever of my body trying to get rid of the poison inside) that began that morning and lasted for days. But I was committed to this road trip, we had plenty of fun things to do on our way, and, arriving in Orlando, I needed to go on to do my usual work at the annual RWA conference with nobody I hung out with or had business meetings with knowing the internal physical pain I was suffering. 

Fortunately, I was a-okay mentally and emotionally, so was able to apply a "mind over matter" element and make the best of it. But not everybody is so fortunate. And some pain and internal suffering is not something where "mind over matter" works.

Reflecting on this was a reminder to me that perhaps, while we share the "perfect picture life" sometimes on social media, with big grins and a "smiling" exterior, there might be internal turmoils (mental, emotional) that aren't shared so cavalierly.

Maybe the "moral" of me sharing this (and apologies to anyone who thinks that my food poisoning experience is a little TMI) is to pause a moment to consider those you care about and others around you.

Even if they are posting happy and positive things, it never hurts to let them know you are there for them or that they are important to you. They might be experiencing pain that is invisible to the rest of the world. They might be suffering from an unseen anxiety or turmoil that isn't being shared.

Heck, maybe even strangers or others you encounter in your day to day. You know that jackass that pissed you off because they said something or did something in a way you don't agree with? Perhaps they were struggling with something you aren't able to see and perhaps it came out wrong. It might perhaps, be worth a moment or two of pausing to reflect on that and not jumping all over them.

And, even if that person you care about, that friend, or that stranger that rubbed you the wrong way isn't suffering, isn't it a good thing to just take a moment to spread a little bit of kindness, or love, out into the world?

The cost, to you, is virtually nothing. But the worth, to them, could be priceless.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Essential Edits / Interview with Terry Fallis

Quite delighted to see this recent review about my latest Stark Reflections podcast interview.

Essential Edits / Interview with Terry Fallis: Fabulous interview by Mark Leslie Lefebvre with Terry Fallis about going from self-published writer, to Stephen Leacock Medal winner, to b...

Friday, July 13, 2018

Humor Can Be Really Serious Stuff

I recently interviewed my friend Terry Fallis for an episode of the Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing podcast.

Apart from gushing over how much I adored Terry's novels, I had Terry take a journey through his unique publishing path, from self-publishing and podcasting his novel, to winning awards, landing an agent and a publisher, and then winning more awards and having his book The Best Laid Plans made into a musical stage show and a mini-series for CBC Television.

Among the many great things we spoke about, here's a clip of Terry talking about the use of humor to address a serious subject matter (while speaking about his novel Poles Apart)

You can watch the full video interview here.

Or you can listen to the entire audio of Episode 29 of the Stark Reflections Podcast here.

“Terry Fallis has written a delightful book about a young man inspired by feminism to contribute to the cause. . . . Funny and engaging, Poles Apart is a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening read.”
Judy Rebick, founding publisher,, and former president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Two-Sentence Horror Stories

I recently spotted a few two-sentence horror stories and was enjoying reading them. So I wanted to try writing one of my own.

One of the first that came to me was based on a poem I wrote and had published years ago. I suppose it's okay to re-adapt my own writing into this new form.

So, here's the first two-sentence horror story I came up with:

"She has her daddy's eyes. In a jar up in her room."

This two-sentence horror story is derived from a poem I wrote called "Daddy's Girl" and which was originally published in Everyday Weirdness in 2009. The two first lines of the poem came to me many many years ago as a quick and dark humor punch-line that I later morphed into a poem (below) - but I figured: why not re-adapt it back to those first two sentences?

Daddy's Girl
By Mark Leslie

She has her Daddy’s eyes
In a jar up in her room
It took a while to dig them out
Because she’d used a spoon

She has her Daddy’s hair
And with it his whole scalp
She hacked it off with a dull steak knife
But knew a sharper one might help

She has the rest of her Daddy’s parts
Stored in an air-tight drum
She fancies herself a Daddy’s girl
But she looks more like her Mum

But enough of the original poem and back to the two-sentence horror tale.

Do you have a favorite two-sentence horror story to share?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

All We Used To Know

I have long been a fan of Alicia Witt's music. Many people know her as an actor; but it's her music that I am fascinated with. And yes, she started her acting career in 1984 as a child actress in the movie Dune. Her television and movie credits are almost too numerous to mention with some of the TV spots alone including Friday Night Lights, Cybill, Twin Peaks and The Walking Dead.

The first time in more recent memory that I recall paying attention to Alicia was when she appeared, on perhaps half a dozen episodes of Law and Order as Detective Nola Falacci, the temporary partner of Mike Logan (played by Chris Noth) in the mid aughts.

It was a couple of years after that, I think, that I somehow stumbled upon her cover version of Paul Simon's You Can Call Me Al. Simon's Graceland is among my all-time favourite albums, and Witt's piano-forward stylistic rendition of the song made me sit up and take notice. I wanted to know who that was; and when I saw, I recognized her from Law & Order.

Alicia Witt in a still from her "Anyway" music video
At that point, I started to check out the self-titled album the song came from, bought it on iTunes and fell in love with the powerful song Anyway. (Her talent as an actress helps with the dramatic presentation of that video as well)

Since then I have been following along and purchasing all of her music. She is a fave of so many of the indie musicians that I adore.

Her song "I'm Not Ready for Christmas" which she wrote to accompany a Hallmark Christmas Romantic Comedy of the same name that she starred in, is among my favourite Christmas songs. (And not just because of lines such as "I don't give a sh*t how many shopping days are left" and "I need a f*cking holiday" - BTW, here's the "radio safe" version of that song if the explicit version is too much for your sensitive ears)

And not all that long ago, when I saw she was launching a Kickstarter for her 15,000 Days EP project, I knew I wanted to be among the fans who contributed to helping make it happen. (15,000 Days was a reference to her age at the time of initially planning and recording the album)

It has been exciting watching Witt in the lead up, the process and the forthcoming EP release, particularly since, as a Kickstarter supporter, I've had the pleasure of regular updates on how it was working. It was so fun to get a behind-the-scenes look.

A few weeks ago, the first single, "Younger" was released. And just yesterday, the official music video was released.

The song itself is a beautiful one and alludes to the incredible power, adventurousness and spirit of youth. Something that we all either lose, or allow ourselves to let go as we embrace the restrictions and cages and chains that apparently come with maturity. I have listened to it multiple times and I do quite love the song.

And then the video was released. And the video, directed by Paula Kay Hornick, adds in a heart-warming lifelong love story visual that brings out a unique flavour to the song. It opens with the brilliant magic of imagination and youth, which, on its own is pure and delightful, but then, as the video moves along, you see these children who have grown up, have married, had children, and have lost that magic they once had.

As the song and the story ends, I will admit to shedding a tear of happiness at the beautiful story, and I marveled at how, though I had already thought the world of the song, that the video could allow me to re-appreciate it on a whole new level.

Compilation of images from video for "Younger"

The song, written by Alicia Witt, Catt Gravitt and Tofer Brown includes these following amazing lyrics . . .
let's be honest
   it's not too late
to fade away
and disappear into the stars
  above the noise
and rise the silence like a wave
you have the choice to
     reveal the quiet that you're hiding in your voice

let's take the world and discover
all we used to know.... I
wanna find a way to the wonder, like
when we were younger
It is a great look at the importance of so many of the things that make our youth so magical, which include open-ness, acceptance, imagination and all that comes with that. Perhaps the reason I write speculative fiction is my desire to want to continue to capture and share that sense of wonder I first experienced when reading that type of fiction in my youth.

Of course, part of the brilliance in this song isn't that it's "when we were young" but "when we were younger" - meaning it's never too late (which the song also says) for us to use any of our previous experiences, and not just the earliest ones, to learn and grow and reflect. After all, we always have that choice no matter how old we grow.

With these introspective lyrics that make one reflect back on the power and magic of our own pasts, with the beautiful accompanying music and the powerfully produced video, I have to say Kudos to the amazing collaboration of talent that made that happen.

And I can't wait for the rest of the EP's release and to enjoy more of Alicia Witt's incredible music.