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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Fool Me Once

I'm the type of person who would rather show up for something 3 hours early than 5 minutes late. Therefore, every year, on March 31st, I'm tempted to start playing April Fools tricks on people. It makes me wonder if perhaps somewhere out there are procrastinators playing their own April Fool jokes on people on April 2nd.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Attack of the Carpet Critter

I was recently trying to describe the way that my son gets around and the best way I could come up with describing his lurch-crawl pattern is that he reminds me of some sort of creature from a horror movie as he drags himself along the carpet with one arm, occasionally making a shrill bleat of excitement and joy as he moves towards his intended target. It's not unlike the way that the Terminator dragged himself forward near the end of the first Terminator movie, a single arm clawing forward and dragging the severed upper torso forward slowly but surely -- Alexander is just cuter when he does his thing . . .

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ol' Four Eyes Is Back In Town

After about twenty years of wearing contact lenses, I'm now back to wearing glasses. A recent visit to the eye doctor revealed a not-uncommon side effect of the "hard" or gas permeable "Boston Lens" contacts I've been wearing. Apparently, at the edge of the contact, there can sometimes be a space where the eyelid doesn't always properly make contact with the eye, and thus doesn't provide proper lubrication. I've got one very visible dry/damaged spot on my right eye and two other tiny spots on each eye. The doctor told me it would be a good idea not to wear my contact lenses for at least 6 months.

So I ordered in a new pair of frames. There's nothing wrong with the giant George Burns/Sophia Loren style glasses I've had for the past ten years now, but I thought it might be worth trying something a little different, especially if I had to wear them out of the house. So I ordered in a pair of frames with a black tops and rimless bottoms. At first I thought that they looked a bit like the pair of glasses that Michael Douglas wore in Falling Down but my frames aren't quite as bold as the ones he wore in that movie.

Let's hope that when the daily grind gets to be too much that my reaction isn't quite so bold as his character's in the same movie.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia

"I looked in the mirror today
My eyes just didn't seem so bright
I've lost a few more hairs
I think I'm . . . I'm goin' bald."
- Rush (I Think I'm Going Bald)

Actually, I've realized for years now (maybe 1o or so), that I'm going bald, so it's no big shock. The hairs on my forehead have been racing to get to the back of the line for years now, all scrambling backwards as if eager to avoid my big slapping "I shoulda had a V-8" hand.

What I found interesting when looking at myself in the mirror this morning, is a very small group of lone warrior fighters, maybe an inch or so below the rest of the receeding hairline. I'm not sure if they are new lone venturers, pioneers, attempting to re-infultrate the front of my head with hair, or if they are old stragglers who simply didn't get the memo that they should be beating a hasty retreat backwards to meet the slowly growing bald patch expanding in from the back.

Also hard to believe I didn't notice them before, given how long most of them are. It made me think there might be hope, that I could buy a product like Rogaine (or maybe even that paste they use on Chia pets), slap a little on and watch it live long and prosper. Or maybe I could pull a Dean Koontz and just do hair implants (after winning the lottery of course) - he looked pretty decent after the procedure (but didn't look that bad with a bald pan). Of course, if I did get implants, the new hairs, after moving into the neighborhood, would likely be welcomed by the other hairs with a nudge and a quick point at the "condemned" sign written in magic ink that only hairs can read on the front of my head.

"It seems like only yesterday
We would sit and talk of dreams all night
Dreams of youth and simple truth
But now we're all so involved . . . we're so involved with life"

- Rush (I Think I'm Going Bald)

Friday, March 18, 2005

It's In His Kiss

This particular blog is about my pal Taras Shuper - or Shup (pronounced Shoop) - I'm too lazy to put the little funky character above the u to give the proper pronunciation key here. The first time I heard someone call him "Shup" I was reminded of the song that Cher re-did for the movie Mermaids. The song is called "It's in his kiss" but is more commonly known as "The Shoop Shoop Song"

Had a fun chat with Shup yesterday, learning about all the industrious things that he and his wife Shelley (often called Shell by Shup - yes, he has a thing for short names and anagrams) are doing with the new house that they bought. You can check out the floor plans and exciting details at Shup's Website

As I was dithering over what keg refrigerator to get, Shup informed me that Shelley had bought him the Danby model, one of the models I was considering getting from Home Depot and that he's absolutely enjoyed it.



I've been wanting to have and bar and beer on tap in my home for years now. (Strange the things that a man yearns for). With the recent bar that Francine and I put into the basement, I'm feeling that the beer tap would actually make the basement complete. Of course, I need to get off my duff (yes, reference to the beer that Homer drinks was completely intentional) and actually finish the trim for the family room and stairs as well as the fireplace mantle first, to really make the basement complete. If I don't do that first I might make it past the bar when I go into the basement........

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Miss You, Dad

It's been two years since my father died. Hard to believe. I still think of him often, especially now that my life has been enriched so much with the arrival of my son. When Alexander and I are playing, or watching one of his videos or just looking out his bedroom window at the sights, I often think about my dad and how much he would have loved his grandson, who we named after him. Okay, since my father's name was Eugene, we didn't quite name Alexander after him - we used his father's name instead - basically, we just extended the "honor" a generation upwards, but in our hearts it's still a connection to my dad who developed his endless love of fishing and the outdoors from his father. I still think my dad would have been proud, and I think he would have understood that as much as Francine and I cherished my father, our baby just doesn't look like a "Eugene" - he does look like an "Alexander" or an "Alex"

In any case, I'm sure that my dad would have loved hanging out with his grandson. And I'm sure that Alexander would have cherished the time spent with his grandfather as much as I cherish the memories of times spent with him. I miss you, Dad.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Try, try again

Returned home from the trip to Sudbury to find a very nicely written R.S. in the mail from an editor at Doubleday Canada for my novel Morning Son. While I wasn't expecting that they'd actually buy the novel, it's still no fun to get a rejection. The comments made by the editor were helpful in easing the blow because they indicated that he actually read the novel and did like it - just not enough to reccomend it to the next level in the selection phase. Oh well, got to get off my duff and send another query package out to another publisher. The book isn't going to publish itself.

The reading/signing at Chapters Sudbury went really well - in terms of participation and a full house of kids and parents listening to me read my story. The kids loved the story of Paul and Uncle Zak and were eager to answer science related questions and participate in the light bending demonstration. I didn't sell a single copy of Stardust or One Hand Screaming, but, as always, the staff at the store were phenomenal. I think that, even knowing in advance that I wouldn't sell a single copy, I'd still do such an event again. It's fun and I guess it never hurts to get out there and promote your writing.

The long drive back from Sudbury is always good in terms of planning things. Francine strongly suggested that the next writing project I seriously work on (besides editing the North of Infinity books, and working on my novel Define Pain) would be the book of short plays for teachers based on the successes that my play The Show Must Go On has had at several Ontario schools. I've continued to put that work on the back burner, but really need to be realistic about putting together a query package for it.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Me old stompin' grounds

Will be heading up to Sudbury this weekend to visit my mom and also to do a book signing/reading at the Sudbury Chapters. It's part of a March Break event, so I'll be reading my story "Looking Through Glass" from Stardust in the Tales From the Wonder Zone series by Julie E. Czerneda then doing some "so easy you can do this at home" science demonstrations for the kids. I haven't done a Wonder Zone event in a while - it will be fun to return to that again. Reading for kids and working with kids is always a fantastic experience.

My mom mentioned that there was a blurb about the event in the Sudbury Star yesterday, which is great. When I launched my book One Hand Screaming there in Oct 2004, both the Sudbury Star and the Northern Life did articles about me and my book - and a whole bunch of people showed up to the signing that afternoon.

It was so heart-warming to be welcomed by my old home town in that way. Sudbury is certainly a community with heart. (Okay, okay, so I grew up in Levack, a small town about 45 minutes NW of Sudbury, not actually in the city of Sudbury itself, but I still think of Sudbury, which, at the time, was the great metropolis that me and my friends aspired to venture out into, as my hometown). Northern Ontario will always have a special place in my heart.

The staff at the Sudbury Chapters are also phenomenal people. They treated me like a "name" author, made me feel important and promoted my event. I'm lucky to know so many supportive people like that.

Francine and I are thinking of leaving for Levack tonight (weather permitting, of course) instead of Saturday morning - it's always a bit tricky between Barrie and Parry Sound. Alexander isn't fond of travelling in the dark (perhaps he's afraid of the dark like his father), so this would only work if he's sleeping.

We'll see how it goes...

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Subway with Norm

Chatting on the subway this morning with Norm (whom I normally commute in from Aldershot station on the GO train with), I realized that this would be the last time in a while that I'd be taking the subway. I've had to take the subway the past 3 out of 5 weeks for some work-related SAP training courses at 2 Bloor, and have been enjoying the slightly different routine. Rather than walking from Union Station to my job at Peter St, I've been taking the subway from Union up to Bloor. It's a relatively short ride, but I've been enjoying it, enjoying the scenery. I think I've been enjoying it because of the influx of new sights and sounds, and of the people - whenever I have such an opportunity, I tend to try to soak it all in, store the information in the back of my mind that I might one day use in a story. This is the last week of the training, so I won't be returning to the subway. Who knows when I'll be back on it?

I think I'm going to miss that.

I'll also miss getting to see the other part of Norm's interesting morning routine that he's been doing for the past 11 years. Stopping to take a drink at the exact same water fountain on the VIA walkway at Union Station, waiting for friend Nick to arrive, where they walk together for no more than about 100 steps or so, then heading down to the subway and NOT taking the train that's there, but waiting for the second train and always standing in the exact same spot to wait. This of course is on top of his usual GO train rituals that I'm already familiar with. (We've commutted together on GO for the past three years I think)

Come to think of it, I think Norm has provided me with plenty of interesting traits and routine habits to populate a fictional character with. Maybe one day when I don't need to, I'll take the subway again with Norm, only this time, I'll take the connecting East-West train he takes at Bloor, then take the bus north with him. Maybe learn even more interesting things about his daily ritual.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Not the TV show starring Dick

This past Saturday I was shaving with my good old trusty Mach 3 razor, and a spasm in my wrist (or perhaps someone playing with a voodoo doll of me) caused me to slice open my chin. Yes, three nice gashes about an inch long on my chin. Lots of blood on my towel and dripping onto the bathroom tile. I ended up wearing half a role of toilet paper on my chin the rest of the morning.

So I decided I wouldn't shave for a little while (to prevent re-opening the wounds daily), and started growing one of those Van Dyke beards that, like blogs, every second guy seems to have nowadays. I had one last year around the same time and kept it for about a month or so - I remember calling it my SAP-implementation beard. (like an NHL-playoff beard, I didn't plan on shaving until after we implemented SAP in our retail environment at work in May 2004). My son Alexander (eight months old this week) noticed the extra facial hair yesterday when I arrived home from work and was holding him.

I remember no more than 5 years ago how rare a Van Dyke beard was. Prior to them popping up all over the place these past few years, I can only recall a professor in University who had one in the early 80's/late 90's. Can't recall seeing many others. But now? Yeesh!

So right now I'm wondering if the Van Dyke I'm growing will be thick enough to at least look good when I'm doing a reading/signing at the Chapters in Sudbury on March 13th. If the cut on my face has healed properly by then I'll likely just shave it off.

Beginnings

After my buddy Mathew Growden made fun of my website and forwarded me his own site, with its own cool blog, I thought I might finally get started on my own blog. Mathew is good at pushing folks into new and fun technologies.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

101 Things About Me

This list is a work in progress . . .

1. I banged out my first novel on an Underwood Typewriter when I was fourteen. (I actually started it when I was thirteen, that spring, but finished it by the end of the summer)

2. I’ve always enjoyed storytelling.

3. Halloween is my favourite holiday/celebration.

4. In Grade 8 I wanted to be Class President. I didn't get it.

5. In high school, I was President of the Student Council. I didn’t want to be.

6. I wanted to be editor of the school paper in high school. At the first meeting of the newspaper club, someone else was nominated editor. So I started my own newspaper and became editor of that. (Could this have been a really early sign that I would be an early adopter of self-publishing?)

7. My wife fell in love with me when I had an outrageously silly looking mullet. She wants me to grow it back. If I did, based on the receding hairline, it'd be more of a skullet

8. I came close to being crushed to death once because of a decision that Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip made.

9. Although I write violent and twisted stories, I’m actually squeamish and not comfortable with violence.

10. My buddy Steve and I once had a beer in a pub with Robert Plant and not once did either of us turn to him and start to sing “You need coolin, baby I’m not foolin’”

11. I grew up an only child, but have seven siblings.

12. Once while preparing to have work on a “small cavity” performed, I decided to forgo the shot of Novocaine.

13. One night, instead of going to the emergency room to get stitches in my hand, I duck taped a thick wad of gaze over the wound and then duck-taped my hand to the wall above my head to reduce the bleeding while I slept.

14. Although I’m 6’ 3” I don’t consider myself as tall until I bump my head on something that most other people walk under easily.

15. I have a book problem. I can’t stop buying them. I can’t stop reading them. I can’t stop loving them.

16. Between 1999 and 2006 I spent between 2 and 3 hours a day on a commuter train.

17. I completed the draft of a novel mostly during the time I spent commuting for a period of about 12 months in 1999 and 2000.

18. I am terrified of bugs.

19. Despite being terrified of bugs, I am a huge huge fan of Spider-Man.

20. When I was a young teenager, I wanted to grow up to be a stunt man like the character Lee Majors played in the television show “The Fall Guy.”

21. When I was about to go through the sacrament of confirmation, I originally planned on using the name “Colt” as my confirmation name (from the character Lee Majors played on the television show “The Fall Guy”). The priest talked me out of it, saying that while it seemed like a good idea, I might regret that decision when I was older. He was a wise man.

22. My decision to write under the name Mark Leslie was partially inspired by the fact that Piers Anthony’s full name was Piers Anthony Jacob Dillingham.

23. Even though I’ve always liked science fiction, fantasy and horrific tales, I avoided reading any Stephen King books until after I saw the movie “Stand by Me” -- when I found out it had been based on a novella by King in the book “Different Seasons” I bought the book and read that novella, then all the others in it. And became a huge Stephen King fan.

24. Wil Wheaton who played the main character in “Stand By Me” has a blog. I’ve read it once, at least a year ago, and have always wanted to read more of it. I’m considering linking to it and reading it regularly. [EDIT: I now regularly read it and listen to his great podcast]

25. I had always been a bit of a loner and comfortable with spending endless hours of time alone -- until recently. Now, however, when Francine or Alexander aren’t around, it’s just not any fun.

26. I've never eaten Sushi before and have no great desire to try it. [EDIT: Okay, I've tried Sushi and fail to see why people go so nuts for it. Beer, on the other hand, I really understand why people can be so obsessed with it]

27. It's really often just about the beer with me.

28. One of my favourite quotes is from Hugh Prather in his book Notes To Myself: "If the desire to write is not accompanied by actual writing, then the desire is not to write."

29. When I was sixteen, I popped two tires off their rims and ended up putting the car in a ditch while doing “fishtails” on a gravel road.

30. The very first story I sold and had published, a young adult humour story called “The Progressive Sidetrack” was inspired by my own experience as President of the Student Council

31. I still have a huge pile of the comic strips that I created when I was really young..

32. When I was a kid, I loved climbing up to the very top of lower thin trees and “riding” them down to the ground.

33. When I was young, I started a group called “The Three Investigators” inspired completely by the “Alfred Hitchcock & The Three Investigators” mystery books for young readers. We even had our own business cards printed up.

34. Some of the scenes and most of the heartbreak that Peter O’Mallick writes about in my online serial thriller “I, Death” were inspired by the first girl who completed owned my heart through most of high school.

35. I’ve never been much of a ladies man. But there were times in my life when I was actually seeing two or three different girls at the same time, a different date every night. These times, of course, barely made up for the years of “dry spell” times.

36. I like to talk tough and act like a grouchy old man, but I’m really a big softy.

37. Even though I love talking about myself endlessly, I never realized how hard it would be to come up with what I felt might be an interested list of 101 things about me. I’m only at 37 and already feel like I’ve gone on too long.

38. I do most of my blogging while sitting on a commuter train on my way in to work.

39. I ended up writing a sequel novel to the one I’d mentioned in point 1. It was called “The Search for Aaron Boc”

40. As I’m typing this up, I wonder how many readers of this list scrolled up to the aforementioned point 1. when reading point 39. For those readers who didn’t, I wonder if they’ve done it just now. And for those readers completely skimming and who didn’t actually read 39, I wonder if this has caused them to go back and read that.

41. All that I’m trying to illustrate in point 40. is the complex and sometimes bizarre way that my mind works, and how I can sometimes think that I’m being funny when I’m just being obtuse.

42. Whenever I get stuck doing things like, oh, let’s say, trying to come up with 101 Things About Me, I often turn to humour and find that that helps get me through.

43. I've always found the "Teddy Bear Picnic" song a little creepy.

44. I entered this line shortly after Velma, in the comments below, mentioned the list ended at 43. And now I'm about to enter another 10 or so items. I believe in pacing myself.

45. Sometimes I wish that life could be like a musical. That’s why, in the middle of a conversation, to properly explain myself, I'm tempted to break into song and dance.

46. I tend to be brand loyal to the point of annoyance. Like when I used to sing the “Ex Says It All” song from the Molson Export commercials whenever hanging around with my good friends.

47. I really like beer. Have I mentioned that already on this list?

48. As I type this, I’m considering scrolling back up and seeing if I I’ve already stated that I like beer. I’m pretty sure that I have, but I still haven’t bothered to check back.

49. Now as I type this I wonder how many people reading this list have scrolled back up to check (because once the thought came to them they had to double check) -- things like that make me giggle.

50. Three of the very first “records” that I owned were the LP’s Kenny Rogers “The Gambler”, Kiss “Destroyer” and the single “Let’s Get Physical” by Olivia Newton John.

51. Now that I think of it, I must have owned the soundtrack to Grease before buying that Olivia Newton John single. I owned it in both LP and 8-Track format.

52. As I type this I’m thinking it would be cool to go out and buy the soundtrack to Grease on CD. Or maybe even download it off iTunes.

53. Back to my record collection (which I still own), before even Grease, I think I had several different of those K-Tel special albums like Dumb Ditties and Looney Tunes -- the ones with songs like “Please Mr. Custer”, “Transfusion”, “The Streak”, “Shaving Cream”, “You Can’t Rollerskate In A Buffalo Herd” and “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It’s Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight.”

54. I like silly songs. Elton John thinks that sad songs say so much, but I think that silly songs say even more.

55. When I was a kid, I was a really picky eater.

56. I'm not so much of a picky eater any more. You have to do some pretty gross stuff to the food before I'll turn my nose up at it.

57. I grew up in a town with less than 2000 people in it.

58. There were merely two dozen people in my graduating class of 1988 (we were the last Grade 13's)

59. There were more people in my first year University classes than there were in my entire high school.

60. When I was really young I used to think that the SuperStack in Sudbury was actually a cloud maker.

61. I love broccoli.

62. I also love asparagus.

63. I'm not sure if I properly spelled asparagus.

64. While attending Carleton University I started working there in the Theatre Operations department and kept that job on a part-time basis for about 6 years.

65. When I was 37 I returned to work at a University. This time McMaster University in Hamilton.

66. I've gotta have my sauce.

67. I've always loved digging snow tunnels and building snow forts.

68. A new friend, Monica, suggested I get back to this incomplete list. It has been years since I added anything to my "101 Things About Me" post on this blog. Her kick in the pants was just the thing I needed to get back at it. Thanks, Monica.

69. 69 was the year I was born. 1969, that is. There that was an easy one to add. Now on to 70.

70. 70 was the year I turned one. 1970, that is. Sorry, couldn't resist stretching the joke out.

71. I was really tempted to stretch the joke further, since apparently humour does work nicely in threes. But I supposed wasting another line typing this is doing basically that right?

72. I wonder if I'm the only one who might have found the previous three items funny.

73. I like drawing things out (like this list, which is kind of fun to do) Some have speculated that the reason I leave projects hanging is I DON'T want to complete them because they're fun. It's entirely possible.

74. Speaking of drawing things out, I've been working on a novel called A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK in an "exposed" fashion via The Writing Show podcast. It started in 2006 - we just recorded Episode 11 (so I can date this post as May/June 2010) and my deadline to finish the 1st draft is July 31, 2010.

75. I might act all confident about being able to finish ACWWINY, but in truth I'm terrified that I'm not going to complete it.

76. Last year, when I turned 40, I did my first 10K race. It was a 10K Mud Run. A trail run through rivers and streams, over obstacles and finishing with a run through a 40 foot gigantic mud pit. It was a blast. I'm doing it again this year (in one day, in fact) - (there, I REALLY dated this point as June 5, 2010)

77. I'm afraid of the dark. I'm afraid of the monster under the bed. I'm afraid of things that go bump in the night. (Particularly my toes when they go "bump" against the foot of my bed. OUCH!)

78. For a few years now I've been a bit worried my son might ask me about the boogeyman, hoping I'll tell him the boogeyman isn't real. Since I believe in the boogeyman and I don't like lying to my son, I'm a bit conflicted over what to do.

79. So far, I've written two stories involving the boogeyman. One has been published, the other is (at the time of this writing), sitting in a publisher slush pile somewhere.

80. I like adding to this list. It's a lot of fun. But I'm really tired as I type this and really should get some sleep. I'm debating turning in now.

81. I look back at point 77 and wonder if it's a real point ABOUT ME or just me trying to pad this list into another unit by being self-relective. I worry about things like that, but often thing I should just let it ride. Life's too short, after all.

82. I'm one of those writers who benefits tremendously from an editor. Take this list, for example. I just went back and found half a dozen typos that I fixed. That's just one more great thing an editor would have helped me with, never-mind better word choice, structure and flow. A good editor is a writer's best friend.

83. I went back and did some typo edits on this list on June 5, 2010 - fixed some things, updated others, and then I inserted new items between other items. Now I feel like I cheated or something.

84. I became president of Canadian Booksellers Association recently (May 2010) - It's funny because, though I've been on the CBA board for several years now, I didn't think it'd be all that different. But suddenly I realize I'm supposed to be a mature and responsible adult. I hope I can live up to the expectations of that.

85. Speaking of "adult" - even though I'm 41 years old, I don't feel any older than I did when I was perhaps 17. (Except for the balding head, of course, and the fact that I can now look back on four decades of really cool experiences.

86. The older I get the more I come to appreciate songs like Springsteen's "Glory Days" and the Rush song "Time Stand Still" and Mellencamp's "Cherry Bomb" -- ah, I think I'm understanding the feeling known as "nostalgia."

87. In point 79 I mentioned that I'd written two stories involving the boogeyman but only had one of them published so far. Not that long ago, I sold the second boogeyman story that had been sitting in a publisher slush pile. But, just to be fair, the story isn't ABOUT the boogeyman, he just makes a crucial appearance in it.

88. At the time of this writing, it's summer and I have three different "lime" beers in my fridge, and they're all from independent Canadian breweries. Moosehead Light Lime, Red Baron Lime and Stonewall Light.

89. The three different beers in my fridge won't last long.  To understand the reason why, check out points 27 and 47.

90. Since my other "beer" points were 27 and 47, I've seriously considered going back and changing point 87 to a beer point (you know, swap the current 87 for 89), just so that there's a detectable pattern. It's that kind of goofing around that I recognize is just not useful, but continues to tempt me.

91. As a writer, one of the things I have long found most valuable would be a good editor; or at the very least a good proofreader.

92. In 2014 I walked the red carpet at a premier in Los Angeles. It was a book premiere for Writers of the Future. But the black ties, the glitz, the glamour and the 3 hour show gave it the feel of The Academy Awards. I was delighted to give a short talk on the future of publishing at those awards, and present all winners with a Kobo Aura HD.

[THIS IS A MERE PLACEHOLDER - I'LL BE BACK TO UPDATE THIS -- SOON, I HOPE]