Saturday, September 12, 2020

Imagine, If You Will, A Man Obsessed With Sharing Thought-Provoking Stories

I am about half-way through writing up the introductions to each of the stories in the Obsessions anthology that is currently part of a Kickstarter project. One might also think of these bits as interstitial pieces.

I learned how to do this effectively from mentor Kristine Kathryn Rusch while editing titles in the Fiction River anthology series. And I liken those bits to the role that Rod Serling played in The Twilight Zone, where he would walk out and set up and introduce a story.

In my case, each introduction, or interstitial, will include a bit of biographical information about the writer, my own teaser about what you're about to read, as well as some notes and direct quotes from the author on the inspiration, genesis, or other "behind-the-story" details. I write them immediately after going through a detailed read-thru and line-edit of the text, looking for typos or other formatting elements that might need a small tweak.

These bits run from anywhere between 300 to 1000 words. There's no specific formula. I liken them to me talking a long walk with the reader, and sharing some amazing stories that dear friends (the amazing contributing writers) have shared with me. And, as I relay each tale, I first introduce who that writer is and why their story is important to the overall theme I'm sharing.

Similar to that long walk, the other fun part is determining the order of the stories. Because they span multiple genres, and each has its own unique mood, cadence and feel, the order is important so I can keep my walking/listening/reading companion on a path that is interesting, offers plenty of different fascinating, entertaining, and thought-provoking bits of scenery to enjoy along the way.

What should be a riveting, entertaining, inspiring, and ultimately thought-provoking walk that stayed with them long after we both returned to our respective homes.

Have I mentioned how much I love this part of the process?


Friday, September 11, 2020

19 Years Later - 9/11 Reflections

For me, 9/11 will always be a day of quiet reflection about a terrible tragedy.

And, via something called Project 2,996, also a celebration of the lives (not the deaths).

Here's a post of celebrating some of those lost lives on the 10th anniversary via my own participation in that project.


Now, 19 years later, my reflections aren't just about those beautiful lives, because in the US alone this year, we are dealing more than 190,000 deaths, more than 9,000 deaths in Canada, and just under one million deaths world-wide due to a global pandemic.

In September of 2011, we were anxious, frightened, and mortified about deadly terrorist attacks. We responded by coming together, trying to focus on celebrating the lives of those tragically lost, of comforting those around us, and holding our loved ones close.

This September, the attack, we realize, hasn't come from a single calculated physical assault, but something far more deadly, far uglier, far more pervasive and far more difficult to over-come.

And I'm not just talking about a virus -- or at least not just about covid-19, a deadline virus transmitted through contact. That is part of it.

But we're also suffering from a much deadlier virus bred on hatred, fear, and lies -- a virus of intense and impassioned divisiveness, of anger, of fear-mongering, of objectifying and dehumanizing the "other" -- a virus of a belief that one's opinion and ready-made meme and confirmation bias is far better than actual science, that one's beliefs about race, about religion, about sexuality, are more important than basic and fundamental human rights, that a completely artificial construct and adhering to the "party of choice" is far more important than basic decency, compassion and respect.

I reflect on the words of a leader I long admired, a man whose own life was cut short. Jack Layton said it best in his final letter to Canadians when he said this:

"We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world....

".....consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world."

No, it's not going to be easy to pick up the pieces, find ways to focus on what unites us, what we have in common, but it usually begins with the way we cherish and honor our loved ones, the way we seek to nourish and support rather than objectify and destroy. And seeing how we can extend that compassion beyond our our units.

If we can start with love, if we can start with respect, if we can have those difficult, painful, and awkward discussions that lead to growth rather than doubling down on our own confirmation biases, we can have hope and optimism.

[Please don't comment with hate, anger, finger-pointing, blame naming, conspiracy theories, or any such ilk.This is not the place for it, and I will delete those comments. Go spread hate, fear, and anger on your own digital wall.

And if you feel that this post is a threat to what you believe, or where you stand, consider why you feel that way. What about what I said made you uncomfortable? What about what I said made you self-identify? You might notice that I haven't called out any specific persons, or groups, or political parties, except to quote from a man whose vision I respect and admire.

On the other hand, if you self-identified with the idea that compassion, that hope, that optimism, that love, are a good place to start, that is also worthy of reflection. What makes you optimistic, hopeful, respectful?

Also know that I see myself as being hopeful and optimistic, but I also see myself as being flawed - fixing that is an ongoing and never-ending process. I have made countless mistakes; I have done plenty of wrongs. I will, I know, inevitably continue to err, to fail at times, despite what I believe are positive intentions. But I try, in whatever small ways I can, to continue to be open to listen, to learn, to grow, recognizing that every day I am battling with so many pre-existing confirmation biases of my own. As we all are.]

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Writer Workshops at Waterloo Public Library

I'm going to be running a series of weekly workshops in Sept for writers at the Waterloo Public Library. It's part of a virtual series of events.


Tues Sept 15 - 7:30 PM - Learning About Publishing Options for Writers

A basic introduction to the various options available for writers, including finding an agent, or publisher, selling/licensing your writing, and leveraging DIY self-publishing options.

Tues Sept 22 - 7:30 PM - Step by Step Digital Publishing

I'm actually going to walk writers through step by step of taking a manuscript in WORD format and using free online resources, tools, and services, to make their work available internationally. I'll be  sharing the multiple options, direct publishing, and distribution platforms available, but will be demonstrating, in detail, the steps using Draft2Digital's awesome free tools.


Tues Sept 29 - 7:30 PM - Basic Book Marketing Strategies

Regardless of how a book is published, the most common questions writers have is how to market their work. I'll walk through a number of options, opportunities, tools, and strategies they can use with the goal towards helping get the right book in front of the right ideal audience/reader eyes.


Here is a link to a PDF of the September IN THE LOOP guide from Waterloo Public Library for this and many other great programs and services.

Saturday, September 05, 2020


 There are a couple of audio/video teasers for the first story in my "Canadian Werewolf" series which introduces readers to my main character, Michael Andrews.


The first one is a basic audio with animated audio waves and transcription on it which I made using Headliner.


The second one is a collection of videos and still images with an appropriate soundtrack to accompany the opening text of the story. This is one I made using Camtasia from TechSmith.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Planes, Trains and Automobiles meets Logan

 My latest book in the Canadian Werewolf series, Stowe Away, which launched today, has been described as "Planes, Trains and Automobiles meets Logan."

Perhaps because it's about a man with enhanced strength and senses (a la the character of Wolverine) on a cross-country road trip with a young girl who is he trying to protect; but with some of the misadventures, detours, and slight humor of the John Hughes classic.

Stowe Away: A Canadian Werewolf Novella

Stowe Away (Book 1.5) is a novella length story that takes place about one year after the events in A Canadian Werewolf in New York (Book 1), and about another year before the events in Fear and Longing in Los Angeles (Book 2), which is releasing in Feb 2021.

Michael Andrews is an Alpha Wolf and Beta Human trying to live a normal life in the Big Apple while living with the side-effects of being a werewolf. During the right phase of the moon, he turns into a grey wolf, with no control, or memory of the experience from his human brain.

In the novel, Michael is desperate to get to Stowe, Vermont, to be there for his best friend, Gail. Without a driver's license or a passport, he is unable to rent a car or fly there, so he boards a train. Only, there are a couple of challenges in his way:

  • The train arrives about half an hour after sunset, and it's "that time of the month" for this werewolf
  • There is a young woman being stalked by a human predator and Michael being Michael, is obligated to ensure her safety and escape from harm 

The book (and the previous titles in the series) is part of a re-branding, and is available in Print (Hardcover and Trade Paperback), eBook, and Audiobook simultaneously. The audiobooks are read by Scott Overton.

Stowe Away and the other books in the series, are available to order through most online bookstores, through your favorite local bookstore, as well as via your local library.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

The 2020 Aurora Awards

 On Saturday August 15, 2020, I had the honor of being the Master of Ceremonies for The Official 2020 Aurora Awards and Hall of Fame Inductions.

It was supposed to take place in Calgary, Alberta during this year's When Words Collide conference.

But it was migrated to a live online broadcast, where I hosted, with the sealed envelopes in hand, and a good number of the nominees and 2 of the 3 Hall of Fame Inductees (Heather Dale and Cory Doctorow) appearing live to accept their awards and offer their thanks. 

The evening went of mostly without a hitch as Liz and I were crammed into my home office (me wearing my tux for the occasion), with two dogs and two cats that I only tripped over once.

One of the great things about virtual presentations and meetings is that you can't tell that I'm only wearing the tuxedo top. Not so fancily dressed below the waist.  ;)

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

It's funny that, for most of my adult life, I'd always wanted to have a place like Cheers, a local bar that I could go to where everybody knows your name.

I didn't find one that truly felt like "my Cheers" until I discovered The Winking Judge on Augusta Street in Hamilton. And the place only came onto my radar because I wrote about it in my 2012 book Haunted Hamilton. (Here is a video of me sharing some ghostly tales from the bar).

But not long after, and, particularly after I ended up moving into an apartment on the same block as that bar, practically "upstairs" from it (as I could look out my living room window down onto the back patio of the Judge), I became a regular there and everyone did know my name.

I was home.

Heck, Liz and I had our second date at The Winking Judge, and that was the date that pretty much clinched it for us. Actually, our first date, which had been at a brewery in Toronto a couple of weeks earlier, was quite awesome. But it was the second date that confirmed it hadn't just been a single spark moment of our first meeting.

Even after moving to Waterloo, I would still visit The Judge on almost every return visit to Hamilton. Because it was always so good to walk into a place where everybody knew you.

The song, written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo, has long been one of my favourites. And I love the entire song, not just the short snippet of lyrics that are used for the show's theme. (Heck, I bought the vinyl single of the song, with Portnoy's other great song "Jenny" on the flip side when I was in University and Cheers was still on the air)

These are the full lyrics for the song "Where Everybody Knows Your Name."

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you've got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?

All those night when you've got no lights,
The check is in the mail;
And your little angel
Hung the cat up by it's tail;
And your third fiance didn't show;

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.

Roll out of bed, Mr. Coffee's dead;
The morning's looking bright;
And your shrink ran off to Europe,
And didn't even write;
And your husband wants to be a girl;

Be glad there's one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to go where people know,
People are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name.

Of course, since the global pandemic, I hadn't been able to get to The Winking Judge to fulfill that lifelong desire to hang out in a Cheers-like atmosphere.

But we do have a home bar.

And I had been making music parodies with Liz as well as silly Dad Joke short films on my own as a method of creative expression. One of those short dad joke films was called "The Things We Miss Most" and it featured me playing three different people sitting at a bar (my home bar) - in that film one of the Marks is wearing a Winking Judge hoodie. But making that short made me think that my home bar should have a name.

I made a joke sign that read "Mark's Tavern: Serving Marks Since 2020" and imagined it being a place where I could share some of the silly dad jokes - a consistent setting with recurring characters.

Not long after, I was reminded of my affinity for Cheers.

So I schemed up a song parody of one of the coolest songs in the universe as well as a scenario for Mark's Tavern.

Heck, I even went and bought a license for the two fonts used to create the Cheers logo (Candice and Flamenco), and spent some time crafting a logo that conjured up a similarity to the Cheers logo.

My re-written lyrics, which were set to piano from my friend and fellow writer, Joe Cron, went with the shortened version of the Cheers opening.

Getting through isolation times
Takes everything you've got
Having a laugh and a craft beer pint
Sure would help a lot
But you just can't get away

Sometimes you've got to go
Where everybody shares your name
And they're always spelled the same
You wanna laugh and see eyes roll
Where dad jokes are awful lame
You wanna go where everybody shares your name

And then I wrote a 1000 word script for a short episode, complete with cold opener, the title song, sequence, and a scene between Mark the bartender, Mark the new patron, and the Norm-style Mark who was the main regular.

I shot most of it in a single evening, but once I got through just the opener bit, I realized how much work it was, so I cut the entire episode down to what was supposed to be the opener. As it was, it was six minutes. But still a heck of a lot of fun.

Because I got to tell a few jokes, parody a classic sitcom, and show off a picture of me having a beer with Norm (or rather, George Wendt, who played the loveable barfly on the series)

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Music Parody of "Fever"

The other day I made a short video on how to pronounce Lefebvre.

I couldn't resist adding in a joke at the end about the funny ways people mis-pronounce my actual surname. (This blog is under "Mark Leslie" the name I use for most of my writing).

One of the comments on a share of that video used the "Lefever" version of the name.

And for some reason, I got the old Peggy Lee song "Fever" stuck in my head.

Which lead to writing parody style lyrics to the song.

Which then lead to the recording of the song.

Which then lead to the music video.

You might say that I sometimes get a fever and the only curse is not necessarily more cowbell, but it's actually turning that creative energy into a project meant to make people laugh.

I learned that the song was actually written by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell and was originally recorded by American R&B singer Little Willie John in for his 1956 debut album, Fever.  Peggy Lee covered it a couple of years later and it remains the most notable cover of the song.

Of course, Elvis Presley also covered the song - and it was his vocal styling I was attempting to reach when I made my own parody music video.

My pal Julie Strauss, her husband, and daughter, and a couple of their friends quickly recorded silly mispronunciations of my name that I used for the video's opening.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Virtual Guide Ghost Walk (Safe Social Distancing)

Last summer I wrote and produced, with the help of the awesome people at VoiceMap (who create immersive GPS audio tours), a ghost walk of downtown Hamilton, Ontario.

The stories for this tour were drafted out of files of research I had compiled to write the book Haunted Hamilton, which was released in 2012 and was nominated for a Hamilton Literary Award.

The half hour route can be purchased through the free VoiceMap app on virtually any smartphone device, and takes you through central downtown Hamilton and includes several interesting downtown locations, historic landmarks, dark history and fascinating ghostly tales certain to bring you a few shivers.

This tour begins at The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry building located at 200 James Street North, in Hamilton, Ontario. It takes you south down James Street, and past the sites of the Hamilton SuperCrawl, the historic Tivoli Theatre, Gore Park, the Royal Connaught, the former Wentworth County Courthouse and jail, Hamilton Club, Whitehern Mansion, The GO Station, The Pheasant Plucker, and The Winking Judge. Tales involve ghosts at these locations, as well as Hamilton's connection to Jack the Ripper, the Torso Murders, and Hamilton as a location for the filming of horror movies, including one from a Stephen King novel.

I've long been a fan of historic ghost walk tours. In fact, much of the research for this book was thanks to the good folks from Haunted Hamilton and Ghost Walks. I highly recommend their tours and events to people, and continue to be a huge fan of the work they do.

But what happens when you want to explore a historic haunted locale and the timing for the official tours don't jibe with your own schedule, or perhaps the tour is sold out?

Of course, during these more recent times of physical distancing, social distancing, and avoiding hanging out in groups, a virtual tour like this allows you the option to explore those same locations on your own, at your own convenience.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

How to Pronounce Lefebvre

I have long written under the name Mark Leslie because of the fact that most people don't know how to spell or pronounce Lefebvre.

However, because I've been a book industry representative and part of the speaking circuit on a regular basis for well over a decade now, my actual surname is used. I also have a number of books (with more to come) about the business of writing and publishing published under my full name Mark Leslie Lefebvre.

One of the many things I have learned from the awesome folks at CAPS (Canadian Association of Professional Speakers), is to add a pronunciation key into the bio you provide to the folks running the conference/workshop/keynote address that you are speaking at. This helps ensure the person introducing you can easily pronounce your name.

I also thought it might be handy to create a brief video that helps explain how to pronounce Lefebvre.

I could not, of course, resist adding a little humor to it.

Because that's also part of my brand.

Under Attack

I've been having fun making short videos inspired by stupid dad jokes.

The first "action spoof" one that I've done is a short called Under Attack: A Stupid Dad Joke Short Film.

I've also long been a fan of the movie Die Hard, so I thought it might be fun to make a silly thumbnail for the YouTube video in the style of the movie posters from that film.

The "film" is just a little over 1 minute long. Just long enough to set the scene, and then make you rolls your eyes.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Demonic Dolls, Screaming Skulls, and Other Haunted Objects

I'm currently soliciting stories for a book that I'm working on.

This is the cover.

I plan on releasing this book in the fall of 2020.

I already have a file folder stuffed with a bunch of tales that I have collected over the years. But I'm looking for new ones to add to what I already have.

If you have a tale to share, feel free to let me know by using this handy online form

Friday, June 05, 2020

Hey Bartender

Last week a new single and accompanying single was released by a talented musician from my hometown of Sudbury, Ontario.

Ashley Joanisse is a Canadian singer-songwriter of country and pop music.

Her new single is called HEY BARTENDER.

I love how she did the video, duplicating herself to be both the patron and the bartender.

But she also used images sent in from other musicians, friends, and even strangers like me.

It's a great song and hilarious video.

But be careful, it might just inspire you to ask to have another drink poured.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Coast to Coast AM with George Noory - Haunted Hospitals

I'm pretty pumped to be returning as a guest to Coast to Coast AM with George Noory.

Coast to Coast AM airs on more than 600 stations in the U.S., as well as Canada, Mexico and Guam, and is heard by nearly three million weekly listeners. With hosts George Noory, George Knapp (weekend), and guest weekend hosts, it is the most listened to overnight radio program in North America.

A media phenomenon, Coast to Coast AM deals with UFOs, strange occurrences, life after death, and other unexplained (and often inexplicable) phenomena. Coast to Coast AM is overnight talk radio with daytime ratings.

The show I'll be on runs three hours and airs from midnight to 3 AM Eastern on Friday June 5, 2020.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Dramatic Exit: A Stupid Dad Joke Short Film

I have long enjoyed sharing Dad Jokes. Heck, long before I became a father I had been a connoisseur of eye-rolling puns and stupid humor.

I'm also fascinated with adaptations of elements from one form into another.

The first example of this is a cartoon from Leigh Rubin.

My cousin sent it to me. It's a funny cartoon, but the guy in it also looks a little bit like me. (Same head and hair facial style, at least - I'm not quite so thin).

I thought it might be funny to translate the cartoon into a short video.

And came up with a new series that I'm calling A Stupid Dad Joke Short Film.

Yes, that's 35 seconds of your life that you'll never get back.


Monday, May 11, 2020

Making an Omelette from Broken Egg Yolks

Liz and I have been enjoying writing parody lyrics, recording them to old karaoke tracks, and then making a music video to go along with them.

There's nothing like knowing that you've inspire smiles and laughter from others.

We'd only done it once, but it came from a half dozen ideas we'd been kicking around during quarantine.

Image of couple on stairs looking bored with text: Stuck in This House Here With You
"Stuck in the Middle with You" Parody

So we looked for a duet that we could do.

One of my favorite all-time duets is "Islands in the Stream" written by the Bee Gees but made famous by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.

We toyed with the lyrics, wanting to tell the tale of a couple that learns how to share their home workspace, and their often struggling home internet connection.

It was, to us, a nice parallel to the previous parody we'd done "Stuck in This House With You" where a couple comes to terms with being isolated together. Whereas that one was about personal relationships, this new parody would be about discovering that same respect for the other person's new "work from home" life.

The song was titled "Sharing Broadband Streams."

Sharing Broadband Streams comic style panel of screen shots from the video
Sharing Broadband Streams stills from video

We recorded it a few weekends ago, but we couldn't get over the fact that there were parts of the song that, no matter how many times we tried to re-record it (and trust me, we re-recorded it dozens and dozens of times), we just couldn't get it.

I tried to do some audio enhancement to adjust the lyrical tracks, to at least try to slightly mask my off-key caterwauling, but not even auto-tune programs could resurrect this "The Singing Dead."

Liz wanted to scrap the entire project.

She is a perfectionist. I take more of a "it's good enough, let's throw it out there and see if it sticks" kind of guy.

We clashed creatively. As we do. I relented.

I was frustrated; because I felt the song was pretty good. (And by that, I meant, the parody lyrics were pretty good. The singing - well, it was my singing after all, it almost approached what one might say "not too nauseating.")

But then Liz came up with an idea. A brilliant idea.

She said that there were parts of the main chorus that weren't that bad. She wondered if we could use that, and also create a few other songs and present them together in a medley format.

As we brainstormed further, the idea of doing a K-Tel spoof commercial arose. We must have watched about twenty minutes of those hokey commercials from the 1970s and 1980s.

Then we set about recording the different tracks, and Liz began scripting out how the corresponding video would work.

We came up with Kay-Tell (a fake imprint based on the original) and a compilation album called STILL STUCK, STILL WITH YOU, STILL IN THIS HOUSE.

Kat-Tell Parody Album Cover: Still Stuck, Still with You, Still in This House
Kay-Tell Presents: Still Stuck, Still with You, Still in this House

It's something that turned out not that bad, in my humble opinion.

I suppose the lesson in this creative exercise is that I had initially been wasting energy being frustrated with the broken egg yolks I had when I'd planned on preparing a dish of over easy fried eggs. It was difficult for me to see past that, until Liz, looking at those eggs, looked around the kitchen for a few other things to throw into the dish, to turn it into a marvelous omelette.

Hope that you enjoy this omelette, and also that the lesson inspires you to think to look around your own kitchen for how you might be able to do the same thing with your own creative projects.

(Oh, and the original title for this used the term "broken egg yokes" because I was trying to layer in a play on words. Yoke as in an alternative term for a joke. But then I changed it because I was worried the mis-spelling might be too confusing.)

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Spud Wars: A New Hopelessness (A Star Wars Parody)

As a writer, I have, lately, been recognizing the value of recycling, or re-using, old material into newer forms.

Come to think of it, perhaps I have regularly taken that approach. I'm only just starting to recognize it now.

"I, Death," a 1000 word short story I wrote in the mid 1980s in my second year of high school was re-imagined into a serialized horror story in blog format in 2006. That same story was slightly revised and rolled out again in 2012, and then it was later adapted into a novel that came out in 2014.

A ghost story that I made up to scare students when I was teaching drama as part of a summer program at Carleton University (Prospero's Ghost) was re-adapted over the years to be set within the context of almost every new bookstore I worked at between 1992 and 2008, to entertain and frighten fellow bookstore employees. That story then got re-envisioned to take place at McMaster University when Kimberly Foottit and I co-authored "Prospero's Ghost" to be included in the anthology Campus Chills, which was released in 2009.

And yesterday, for May the Fourth, 2020. I released a silly parody video called Spud Wars: A New Hopelessness.

Spud Wars: A New Helplessness Title Image
Spud Wars: A New Hopelessness

I spent a few hours on Sunday May 3rd working on the parody, which basically stars me playing every role, with not much in terms of costumes, makeup, or even acting ability, a Darth Tater Mr. Potato Head, and our dog, Maya. I then added in a few visual effects.

It is, of course, silly, and self-reflective, and produced with virtually no budget and a hastily written outline.

Of course, the parody video was based on the Spud Wars series rolled out on this blog, originally in 2006, and then re-vised and re-edited/crafted in 2011.

Text SPUD WARS: A NEW HELPLESSNESS in a Star Wars style font
Spud Wars: The original text/photo story

That original Spud Wars series was a text and photo based serialized story inspired by a a simple photo I'd taken of myself unmasking Darth Tater.

Picture of a man unmasking a Darth Tater doll

The original storyline, of course, actually had somewhat of a plot, which involves Darth Tater wanting to get revenge because I ate his father (as a plate of French Fries the night before) - he attacks, I am knocked out. The story continues in The Carb-Eater Strikes Back where I seek help from the wise old Yoda-figure mentor, Mister Bunny. He advises me to "use the forks" which I do to defeat the spud. The story continues in Return of the Spud-Eye where Darth also seeks help from the same old master, who advises that he clone himself.

At that point, the story devolves in terms of storyline and trying to parallel the original Star Wars movies, because the next chapter is Darth Comes Knocking - and then trying to adapt cloning into it (in recognition of the Star Wars prequel movies), with titles like Darth's Revenge Part I and Part II, followed by Mark's Last Stand where I am defeated by the clone army of Taters.

I then, of course, adapted a picture of Alexander man-handling my camera when he was about 18 months old . . .

The story continues with Alex Attacks and then more episodes, including images of Alexander fighting a bunch of the Tater clones in The Final Standoff, then coming to a truce and playing video games (because all this violence makes them want to play video games) in All This Violence.

It was supposed to end there, but I'm a sucker for cliffhanger endings, and so had someone creeping up on them at the end of that one, and the story ends with Spud Wars: The Conclusion and Spud Wars: Epilogue.

It was a fun 12 part serialized story.

Of course, writing a parody script to a few images and shooting an entire sequence of these things are two different things. Alexander most certainly wouldn't participate in it with me, and he's no longer 18 months old. He is 15. Most of the additional Star Wars Mr. Potato Head figures are in Liz's office at the school, so I only had the one Darth Tater in my office at home to use. Not to mention, I had less than 24 hours from conception of the movie trailer parody to wanting to release it on May the Fourth, Star Wars Day.

That is why the recent adaptation is so different than the original scrip.

The lesson, of course, is a concrete example of why the movie version and the original text-based version are so different.

No wait, the lesson is that re-adapting and re-imagining an idea can take many different forms and formats, over the years. It's all part of the creative process of being a storyteller.

Well that's neat. I started writing this thinking there would be a lesson about re-using and re-cycling ideas into different forms and I also ended up exploring one of the many reasons why a movie adaptation of a book, or comic can't possibly be the same thing, that it has to become it's own unique  entity, it's own unique experience.

Two conclusions for the price of one.

I'll take that as a win.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

A Skeleton Walks into a Bar

Two skeletons walk into a bar and say to the bartender: "We'll have a pitcher of beer and a mop, please!"

Me and Yorick
At least, that's one way to tell that joke.

I love that there are so many different ways to spin a joke.

Front yard joke sign for April 29, 2020

I mean, you start with a skeleton of an idea on how the word play can go, and then you flesh it out a bit, add a little muscle here, a little nuance that gets under the skin there.

The other day when Liz was online and I needed to stay off the computer, I shot a few stupid dad jokes on the skeleton theme using Barnaby Bones and Yorick. I later compiled them into a video.

See, I'm helping you exercise your eyeballs with all those eyeball rolls.

Barnaby and Yorick are jealous that at least YOU have eyes to roll.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Ministry of Silly Walks

Someone recently shared an image of a man walking silly in front of a sign that read:


There was also a bunch of smaller-print text, which I couldn't read.

But the image said it all.

Image traced back to Bored Panda Article

It is, of course, a reference to the classic Monty Python sketch about a fictitious ministry.

A still of John Cleese in that classic role

 If you haven't seen the sketch, it is embedded below.

We have regularly posted silly dad joke style puns in the front yard on a daily basis, something we started well before the global pandemic. But, ever since the self-isolation phase of this lockdown, I have made sure to update it every day.

It's great to see people pause to read it, and then either laugh, or exercise their eyes with a good solid eye roll.

So when I saw that image of the sign on Facebook, I decided to craft my own sign and post it in the front yard. I added a few silhouette images of Cleese to the sign and a bit of color, covered it in plastic to protect it from the rain, and fixed it to a board, so it would be a bit more solid.

The Silly Walks Ministry Sign in front of our house in Waterloo, ON

The sign I crafted, inspired by that first one, reads:

NOTICE: This property is an official jurisdiction of  THE MINISTRY OF SILLY WALKS. Commence silly walking immediately!

Then, in smaller text below that it reads:

No FINES for non-compliance, just potential FUN if you give it a try.

My home office is on the second floor and looks down on the front yard. From my standing desk I have a pretty good view and have delighted in seeing the smiles it brings to people's faces. And also, for those daring enough to give it a try.

I've seen countless folks give it a shot over the last week. The young, the old.

And, in the past few days, with the weather getting warmer so I can open the windows, I can now also hear the laughter.

Yeah, most of us who aren't on the front lines are pretty helpless to do anything but self-isolate and try to help with flattening the curve.

But if I can help make a few people smile and laugh, then that's not such a bad thing.

I have since read that this hilarious trend was started by a woman in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan, named Liz Koto. Here is a Bored Panda article about it. So three cheers to Liz for starting this awesome movement. There's also an Instagram account showing video of people trying the walk. under the name Yorkshire Silly Walks.

If you wanted to make your own sign, I created a PDF of the one I used that you can download.

Click here to download PDF of this sign

Because, so long as Graham Chapman doesn't show up as The Colonel and tells us to stop that, lets spread some more much needed laughs and smiles.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Stuck In This House Here With You - A Parody

The other day, I posted a picture to social media of Liz doing something silly.

A friend commented that it was probably a side effect of being stuck in self-isolation with me for so long.

The song "Stuck in the Middle With You" by Stealers Wheel came up. And the suggestion for doing a spoof version of it.

It bounced around in my head for a bit. The way things do.

Long enough for me to quickly pen some parody lyrics to that original 1972 song.

I read the lyrics to Liz. She thought they were funny.

She rolled her eyes, appropriately when the song mentions poo.

I said we should try to record a duet version of the song.

She looked at me like I had just suggested we create a video tape of an intimate moment between us and upload it to Pornhub. That's because I'm the one in our relationship who is "all out there." Humiliating myself publicly is par for the course. Liz prefers to be the creative force "behind the camera."

But less than twelve hours later, she mentioned that she had some ideas for visuals that could go with the song.

You see, for years, she has been producing these amazing videos. Mostly in relation to her work. And the majority of the time she stays out of view of the camera.

Lately, however, she has had a bit more exposure, collaborating with a co-worker on producing a "morning show" style live show as a way of doing a combination of team-building, information sharing, and humorous distraction for her staff. It's a private show, meant for this specific team. But I've watched a number of episodes and, like so many of the things Liz does, I think it's fantastic.

So we started talking about how the video might look.

After relaxing one evening after watching a few episodes of the first season of Cheers, we did a dry run-through of a revised version of the parody lyrics to a karaoke version of the song.

Then yesterday morning, we went into our studio (okay, my home office where I record my podcast and do other video/audio related things as an author and book industry guy), and we did a number of takes, collaboratively revising the lyrics, then laying down the track.

We used the Ameritz Karaoke version of the song for the background track. Then we shot the video using an iPad, which Liz edited and produced right on the iPad using iMovie. After she finished, I imported the video into Camtasia 2019 to add the titles and annotations.

I'm proud of the short, cute story this parody version tells.


It was an awesome collaborative project. Yes, it was work, but for the first time in days, neither of us was spinning and spending the whole day either working or thinking and worrying about work stuff.

And perhaps also, more importantly, for the first time in days, we finally got a song stuck in our heads that has replaced the hilarious parody created by Brock Tyler of our Prime Minister using the words "speaking moistly."  (Fun fact, BTW, the original lyrics of the song included a nod to that:)

"...and outside, the germs are crawling so moistly in the air - we say.....Please....."

It's enriching to collaborate on something creative and fun with the person you love. When you realize that there's nobody you'd rather be stuck in isolation with.

Here's hoping that the song inspires at least one much needed smile or laugh for you.