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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Careful, careful.....Did It!

Sometimes when I put Alexander down for his nap (it's usually after rocking him to sleep and holding for about 10 minutes, when I can be assured that he's in a deep enough sleep to be put down), I approach the crib with him in my arms and imagine that I'm Indiana Jones in the scene from the first movie, where he's going to take this Idol and quickly, yet gently replace a bag of sand in it's place.



Sometimes I do get it wrong, but rather than a giant boulder rolling my way, I just get a baby tossing and turning, or his eyes open up quickly (suddenly the eyelids fling open like in some sort of horror movie scene), and I've gotta spend another 10-15 minutes rocking him back to sleep.

A much better deal than having to escape the giant boulder, I guess.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Who's Next?

I’m sure not that many people feel sorry for J. K Rowling. (I’m also pretty sure that most people reading this know exactly who J. K. Rowling is without me having to mention she’s the author of the “Harry Potter” books)

But I sometimes worry about J. K. Rowling. I wonder if she might have these great ideas that she’s dying to write, to just get out, but the public demand more "Potter" from her. Perhaps her desire is to write something completely different, a different genre, a different audience (although her audience is pretty darned wide right now), but along come these people with truckloads of money to her doorstep and all she has to do is write “one more” Harry Potter book and the load is hers. Hard to say no.

I feel sorry for her, because, as a writer, I know it would be sweet to see such success, but wonder if it might ever get to be too much (I know, it sounds like a celebrity whining about all the hard work they do, meanwhile pulling in several million dollars for a 6 month film shoot. Tough for folks like us to imagine their pain). I’ve been thinking a lot about this type of thing, though because the novel I’m writing has my character as a successful mystery author who is tired of writing the same series. I’m trying hard to get into his head, imagine what it might be like.

Thus, I’ve started worrying about actual authors who I feel might be in the same boat. Reminds you of the character Paul Sheldon in King’s Misery, doesn’t it? A successful romance author just wants to write something else -- only, in his case, his biggest fan ends up keeping him locked away, forcing him to write one more book just for her. Man, that King guy was brilliant.

Although, while King didn’t have a single successful series with the same recurring character (sure, he’s got the Gunslinger, but that’s just one of a huge number of successful stand-alone novels), he was living with the label “horror author” -- so he exercised his anxiety over this in two ways -- writing Misery and then sneaking some books out under the name Richard Backman.

This line of thought makes me wonder if Rowling has already pulled a Stephen King and released a book or two under a pseudonym just to try to write something different and also to see if she still “has” it (ie, and the books don’t sell just because her name is on them). I’m sure with her cash and influence, she could make it happen.

Now, since King was apparently listening to Bachman Turner Overdrive when his agent asked what fake name he wanted to use, I wonder what music Rowling might have on when asked to come up with her own name.

I’m thinking maybe a Robbie Williams CD in the background, so perhaps she’s writing adult erotica under the name Patricia Williams, or maybe she was reminiscing to a Spice Girls CD and decided on the name Joan Beckham to write her hard boiled noir novels. There’s also the chance that she might have C.S.I. on in the background (they get that show across the pond, don’t they?), with The Who theme song, and pens her historical romance novels under Nina Townsend.

The possibilities, of course, go on and on.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Every Little Thing

A funny and interesting woman that I used to work with at Prospero Books in Ottawa used to utter a curse to people. It was an interesting one, and went something like this:


May you get everything you ever wished for -- next Tuesday
It's an interesting curse when you think about it. Take a moment to pause and imagine all of the things that you ever wished for (and never got). And don't just think of things you are currently longing for -- go waaaay back to unfulfilled fantasies from years ago. Now imagine that all of those wishes came true all on the same day.

Scary, isn't it? Allow me to illustrate.

For me, I'd have a heck of a time explaining to Francine how Sass Jordan, Heather Thomas, Catherine Bach, Carrie Fisher and Cathy Lee Crosby suddenly ended up in bed with us, what Stephen King and Stan Lee were doing sitting at our basement bar with my buddies Steve, Pete, Tom and John, all having a drink and listening to Rush, who are playing live in the other corner of the basement, and why John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John were sitting in Grease Lightning in our driveway, waiting to give us a ride (behind them of course would be Bo & Luke Duke in the General Lee, Starsky & Hutch in their red Ford Torino and Burt Reynolds & Sally Field from Smokey & The Bandit. Not to mention the Millennium Falcon swooping down to take us onintergalacticctic joyride)

After that, of course, Francine would question me as to why I never told her about either my secret identity as Spider-Man nor that I had starred as Lee Majors' side-kick on The Fall Guy as well as his young bionic friend on The Six Million Dollar Man.

And those are just SOME of things I'd wanted by the time I was eighteen that I can remember off the top of my head. There are another 18 years of crazy stuff to throw in there.

It's a damn good curse, though, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Not The Guy Who Played Luke Skywalker

I’m starting to get serious about the werewolf novel -- (yes, so serious that I might start using words like genre). Sure, I’d been working on it the last couple of weeks, kicking ideas around, following my main character through the next couple of scenes I’d envisioned. And while the last few days I've only written a few hundred words, I have gotten serious.

But here’s what I mean by serious: Cancelling stuff and research.

We’ve cancelled our subscription to the Hamilton Spectator. The darned thing is too interesting -- so much so that I’ve gotten accustomed to reading it during the morning commute. It was during the morning commute in 1999/2000 that I finished the first draft of my novel Morning Son -- well, that was back when I didn’t really know anyone on the GO train and we didn’t have a subscription to the Spec. Then, I got to know Norm and Heather and Janette and Lou and Justin, and started reading the paper -- all good morning fun, but I lost my writing time. I’d moved it to the afternoon (splitting my "book reading" time with writing), but soon enough I'd fallen into an interesting group of afternoon GO people -- who got very distracting with their jokes and low brow humour. Yes, low brow humour like "guess the body part" games where the crook of your elbow is supposed to look like a butt crack. Sigh. So I have no choice but to try to split the writing between morning and afternoon and see if I can at least get a little something done during all the distractions.

Research I’ve done includes contacting the Algonquin Hotel in New York. It being a place I love staying at when in the city (with its literary history), I thought I’d have the writer in my novel staying there as a long-term guest, a writer in residence of sorts. The manager of the Algonquin will be calling me today with some details about how that would work and details about the specific room he’d be staying in to make my fiction that much more believable. (And who knows, maybe a special "writer" rate next time Fran and I are in town?)

And on the believability front, I’ve been trying to get some information about the neighbourhood near Battery Park and the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in the pre-dawn hours -- I got a bit of good info passed along to me via Ellen Datlow, a New York-based editor. But this past weekend I sent an email to Denis Hamill (a New York Daily News columnist whose mystery and suspense novels are chock full of a real sense of neighbourhood and community - when you read his books, you’re there with the characters and soaking in the atmosphere, the people, the sights the sounds, the essence) I figured, if anyone could help me with a sense of that area of town at 5:30 AM, he could. Denis emailed me back within hours of my request. Very cool. He not only gave me a wonderfully detailed view of the neighbourhood I was asking about, but he also gave me ideas on how my guy could try to blend into the scenery as well as some great writing tips.

I’ve loved reading his novels for a while now, but now he’s also on my list of people I’d love to sit down in a bar, have a beer and shoot the shit with. Of course, it would have to be a bar in Brooklyn, since I’m sure there would be a lot of great anecdotes and local stories he’d be able to relay. I’m going to end this blog with a little commercial pitch for mystery lovers to check out his “Bobby Emmet” mystery series as well as his stand-alone mystery-thrillers. I've peppered this blog entry with fun colourful images of his book covers.



Bobby Emmet mysteries



Some other great titles

I’m likely not the world’s greatest mystery fan -- my reading skims through many genres, I’m all over the place, but at the top of my favourite detective characters list are Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, Giles Blunt’s John Cardinal and Denis Hamill’s Bobby Emmet. (And recently, Linwood Barclay’s Zack Walker is making his humourous presence felt on my favourites list, too)

Monday, July 25, 2005

Baby Frankenstein

Today is Alexander's first official day in "day care" -- okay, so he's next door at the neighbour's house (and I'm working from home today, paranoid Daddy who wants to be as close as possible in case he needs Mommy or Daddy), but I'm certainly glad that I was off last week to spend the week with him while Francine returned to work.

I did, after all, get to be there for the first big steps. Sure, he'd been cruising around along the furniture and walls for a couple of months, but last week he got more daring and started taking more than one or two steps between objects, going as far as either walking a couple of feet from the couch over to Daddy or even trying to cross the room.

It's a bit like the Frankenstein monster's swagger, arms out, a bit of rocking back and forth trying to establish balance, this wonderfully delighted grin on his face. If the Baby Einstein folks ever did a "Baby Frankenstein" I think they could model it on seeing Alexander taking his first steps.

Of course, I never saw Frankenstein's monster fall on his bum and then let out a scream of delight and come crawling like a demon across the floor to pick up a Peekaboo Block and start chewing on it -- maybe he should have done that -- then maybe the townspeople wouldn't have rallied into a mob and chase him with burning torches.

Speaking of Baby Einstein -- last week I opened up the Baby Shakespeare DVD for Alexander -- wow, I think it's the best one yet. (And I'm not just saying that because I'm a Shakespeare fan -- the poetry is all fun kids poems and doesn't have much of Shakespeare's work in it) Both of us enjoyed the entire show and the really fun special features on the DVD. Gotta love those Baby Einstein people.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Devil With A Black Hood On

The other night at about 3 in the morning, I woke to Francine calling my name repeatedly in a panicked voice. I rolled over, and she was deep in sleep, caught in the throes of a nightmare. It took a minute or so to wake her up, reassure her that it was just a nightmare, then calm her back to sleep.

Then, convinced that her dream was her unconscious mind trying to alert us to something (not sure what), I went to check on Alexander. He was sleeping peacefully, so I moved to look out the front windows -- all clear there. Then downstairs to check the rest of the house, look out into the back yard. Finally satisfied, I went back upstairs and back to sleep.

In the morning Fran told me about her dream. In it, the devil was standing at the back door looking in. He was a man wearing a black robe with the hood up so you couldn't see his face, but she knew it was the devil -- and the door was open. Yikes.

I'm certainly glad that I didn't know what she'd been dreaming about that night because, rather than going and checking out the house, I likely would have been cowering under the bed. Even so, these last few nights while doing my pre-bedtime patrol of the house and then setting the alarm (yes, I'm one of those 'fraidy cat people who needs to ensure the "perimeter" is secure before going to sleep), I now pause near the back door, afraid to peek out, you know, just in case the devil with a black hood on is looking in at me. Gotta use that in a story some day.

Cdn Werewolf in NY
13111 / 70000 (18.73%)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I, Death

I didn't get any writing done on my werewolf novel yesterday, but did accomplish a little something. For the past few weeks on the GO train, I've been converting a story I'd written almost twenty years ago -- it was a tale written as a single long journal entry by a teenager who is trying to deal with the people in his life dropping dead by documenting the situation. I returned to the premise maybe five years later with a sequel story called "Sin Eater" -- I was working on a re-write of that piece recently, and suddenly was inspired.

Why not re-write the original "I, Death" story as if it were a series of blog entries? So I did. My original thought was to do it a la the H.G. Wells infamous radio program "War of the Worlds" without revealing that it wasn't a true event, but decided to add a disclaimer at the bottom of the blog, in case anybody got seriously worried about my hero. I gave the tale a bit of a kick-start by back-dating the entries to April. But I've reached real time with it now, and will be updating the story at points where my character Peter O'Mallick needs to share his grief with the world.

Check out the story of "I, Death" by clicking here: This Mortal Coil.
(Warning, like much of my horror fiction, there are naughty words and adult situations - not meant for the eyes of little persons, nor people who get squeamish)

I'm quite curious to get feedback from folks on what they think.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Stay At Home Daddy

When I was young and imagined life as a married man with kids (not sure why I even bothered wasting my time imagining this, since my inability to even get a date was the big running joke with all my friends), there was this fantasy that my wife would be out there in the work force and I'd be a stay at home Daddy, looking after the kids and pumping out novels, short stories, screenplays, all kinds of great writing.

And even though I now know better, somewhere in the back of my mind I had similar visions about this week looking after Alexander while Fran is at work. At least this time in my imagination, I'd gotten a bit more realistic and broken the "great writing" from an entire 8 hour day into little pockets of 15 minutes here, half an hour there. But there was still this vision of getting writing done.

My vision about this changed dramatically after a single day of being an "at home Daddy" -- by the time Francine got home from work yesterday I was exhausted -- I could barely move (never mind plant myself in front of a keyboard, start up the old imagination and start pounding out stories). Looking after a little person for 8 hours is ten times more exhausting than my typical 12 hour work day. It's non-stop, not a moment of rest. Sure, I've been an involved father ever since Alexander was born -- but something about yesterday was utterly exhausting, yes, more exhausting than other times when it was just him and I. Writing this blog entry, for example, while it consumed no more than about 5 minutes of my time, it took nearly a two hour stretch to get it out.

I have a new respect for stay at home Mom's -- their job is ten times harder than the toughest day at work I've ever had. It's also rewarding, though (don't want to cast a negative light on it) -- it's a long, tough day, but one of the most rewarding a person can have. It's just not for everyone, and I have no idea how Francine was able to do it day after day -- she's a much stronger, tougher, more organized person than I could ever be. And, on top of everything, she also got housework done. The most I got accomplished yesterday was making supper, cleaning the upstairs bathroom and vacuuming the top floor and basement. I didn't even get a chance to do any laundry. (I've got to figure out where Francine hides the superhero cape)

Okay, now it's time to send my Mom a thank-you card.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Shark Has Pretty Teeth Dear

Despite the fact that I'm on vacation this week, I still got up at 5:30 to try to get some writing done. I'm in the middle of a scene between my main character and his literary agent, Mack. I'm really having fun with Mack's character. For the short story, I'd had some fun creating him and having Michael relay his thoughts about the man -- but now that I'm writing a scene with "Mack the Knife" actually in it, it's like a fun trip to an amusement park.

Cdn Werewolf in NY
10626 / 70000 (15.18%)

I'm on vacation this week because it's Francine's first week back at work since having the baby. It was a difficult thing for her to leave Alexander this morning (even though it was with me and not with the sitter -- this week is the "buffer" week to get him used to being without Mommy during the day. Next week will be the real toughie -- no Mommy, no Daddy). I honestly don't know how folks in the U.S. do this. I've heard that in many states the standard maternity leave is 6 weeks. (According to a friend from California) Wow, 12 months doesn't seem long enough. I can't imagine 6 weeks -- Fran and I were still seriously sleep deprived last year at that point. I don't think it was until the 3rd month that Alexander started sleeping through the night and we began to normalize and establish a routine that worked out well for everyone.

DQ Something Different

I received a reminder from Your Scrivener Press to submit a 100 word bio for the upcoming anthology Bluffs where my story "Being Needed" will be appearing in the spring of 2006. Very exciting.

I didn't get much writing done this weekend (except for all the usual stuff that goes on in the back of my head while I'm doing other things), but I did do something fun and creative. I've come close to mimicking the joyous taste of Dairy Queen's Flame-Thrower burger on my home grill.

Here's how I did my version of the wonderful hot and spicy sauce (the toughest part - I found the meat, lettuce, tomato, bun and cheese bit were relatively simple to figure out). While I think I've gotten the taste down to a pretty close match, I think my version is a touch more spicy that the DQ version.

- Two heaping tablespoons of Miracle Whip mayo
- One tablespoon of
Tobasco Chipotle
- 3/4 tablespoon of The Original Louisiana Hot Sauce

Mix all three together and you have enough sauce for 2-3 burgers.


Or, in my case, you have enough for a single burger. Yumm. (I kind of have a thing for sauce)

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Wolfy Wolf

I was able to make a bit of headway on the werewolf novel last night on the GO train. I re-worked the existing piece into the first several chapters, wrote a brief prologue and started on the next chapter. I also made lots of great character sketch and potential plot notes. (Although, I'd like to sketch out the characters, brief plot ideas and just see where the characters take me -- it's how I built the original story -- would like to continue with that methodology.

Cdn Werewolf in NY
10216 / 70000 (14.59%)

To Slay With Pen Or Sword

Alexander has caught a wee bit of a cold. This means he's a little more fussy and tired than normal. When that's the case, he's often comforted when I sing him to sleep. One of the first songs I sang to him, when he was just three days old, was a ballad from Rush called "Madrigal" from their Farewell To Kings album. It starts off like this:

When the dragons grow too mighty
To slay with pen or sword
I grow weary of the battle
And this storm I walk toward

When all around is madness
And there's no safe port in view
I long to turn my path homeward
To stop a while with you.

It's one of three songs that I regularly sing to him to quiet him down. "Tears" from Rush's 2112, another ballad, works nicely. He's also a fan of the Elvis song "Are You Lonesome Tonight."

Other times, I just make up lyrics to existing songs. Last night, as I was getting home from work he was crying -- he'd had a rather difficult day. So, to the tune of "Oh Susannah", I started to belt out this one:

Al-ex-ander
Don't you cry for me
I've came home on the GO train
With a laptop on my knee

Friday, July 15, 2005

Where Wolf?

Despite my best intentions, I didn't get more than 5 words written on my new novel project. I did get some notes, outlines, characters sketches done, though, but that doesn't show in the final word count. Man, but that word count metre is intimidating.

(I'm blaming the afternoon GO train folks for their interesting, and often low-brow humour and conversation -- due to the constant distraction of them yesterday, the only writing-editing related work I was remotely successful at yesterday was reading through a couple of submissions to North of Infinity II: Parnassus Unbound. See, Christina, I told you I'd mention you again. Oh, and BTW, Dawn-Marie, I trimmed my "devil" eyebrow last night when I got home - thanks for pointing that out)

The word count metre I used yesterday, which shows up really cool on other writer's sites (like Michael Kelly's), looked "broken" -- I tried a few different things to fix it, but can't figure out why it looks so nasty on my blog -- am temporarily trying a new one here.

Cdn Werewolf in NY
9955 / 70000 (14.22%)

Of course, there's more to do for my novel than just write it -- for one, I need to fix/validate the opening scene I've already written, and for that, need more information about the volume of vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the Battery Park / Staten Island Ferry Terminal area near South Street on the southern tip of Manhattan from about 5:30 AM until a little after 6:00 AM. I got some great info passed to me via Ellen Datlow but I'm looking for more details. I'd hate to have what I think is a wonderful opening scene's believability ruined because it wasn't properly researched.

So, if you're reading this blog and you're from NYC or have a friend who lives there, I'd love to hear from you. mark@markleslie.ca.

The Night Before Potter


'Twas the night before Potter
And all through retail
The booksellers were anxious
Not a copy yet on sale



Okay, so it's a bad rhyme, but what can you do? Today is Harry Potter Eve across the land -- across many lands, actually. Since the "on sale date" for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is July 16, 2005, and it can't go on a sale a moment earlier (with a few notable exceptions already of course, typically from non-book retail outlets), bookstores across the land are holding late night Harry Potter events, with the book going on sale at 12:01 AM. Fun. I've already ordered my copy, weeks ago, online. If Rowling is still at the series years down the line, perhaps following Harry and his chums at the Hogwarts Old Folks Home, perhaps Fran and I will be at those midnight events with Alexander.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Canadian Werewolf in New York

With my novel Morning Son currently in the hands of a publisher who'd actually indicated that they liked the synopsis and the first three chapters that I'd sent in my query package, I try hard not to spend every moment thinking about it. I instead try to focus on other things -- (but not things like why would a horror writer's first serious effort at a novel length work be a non-genre story?)

I've recently taken some steps towards reworking a rather long short story I wrote entitled "This Time Around" -- it's a "day in the life" story of a Canadian living in Manhattan who happens to be a werewolf. I'd never written a werewolf story before (having mostly shied from writing vampire, werewolf or other traditional monster stories) A friend of mine at work, Anne Lee, offered to have a read through of it to give me an unbiased viewpoint of where I should cut this 10,000 word story down to make it more palatable to short fiction markets.

A couple of weeks ago, we sat down over a coffee and had a good time going through the story. She raised some excellent points, helped me spot places I could cut the story, and made me think more about the main character's struggle with living a dual life. I went away from our discussion fully charged and ready to start snipping the tale down.

Only, once I started actually working at cutting the piece, I realized that, when writing it -- and this was something that just came out of me one afternoon while sitting on the GO train and wouldn't let me stop -- I was fleshing out the minor/supporting characters in way too much detail for a short story. That, and I liked them. And, when I'd finished the story it was only after telling myself I had to -- that I couldn't just keep writing, though I'd wanted to. I appeased myself with a vague promise that since I'd enjoyed the setting and characters so much that I I might one day bring my hero back in another story.

Then it hit me. Why cut it? Especially since the story raises several questions and leaves them unanswered (my intent with that was to illustrate the frustration my main character faces due to his duality). No. I wasn't done with watching the characters I'd set up interact with each other -- I wasn't done exploring the mystery I'd set up and had yet to answer. Why not expand it?

So, while holding my son and rocking him to sleep (a time that I find is perfect to just relax and enjoy the moment -- which often immediately spirals into an inspirational jackpot. Hey, I'm cursed with this writer thing that often just takes over. Can't control it) I started speculating more about the questions I'd left unsolved. And then I had the pieces I needed to turn this into a novel length work. I'm abandoning the title and simply calling this the "Canadian Werewolf in New York" story - a title will find itself by the time I finish the first draft, I'm sure.


Novel Progress - Cdn Werewolf in NY
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
9,950 / 70,000
(14.0%)


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Vanity Project

This past Saturday, on the day that we were expecting a few people over to celebrate Alexander's first birthday, I had an errand to run at the Mountain Plaza Mall, which is just around the corner. Well, wouldn't you know it, but they were running their "most beautiful baby" contest that day, and the winner received a $75 gift certificate to be used at any store in the mall. Francine and I thought that we might as well exploit Alexander's cute charm for money (after all, doesn't every parent think that their baby is the most beautiful one?) and so I planned on entering him in the contest when we got there.

As we approached the area of the mall where the contest was being held, I was suprised to see a rather large line up. Then it struck me -- of course, every parent thinks that their baby is the most beautiful (though they're wrong, of course, because our baby happens to be the most beautiful). So it made sense there were a lot of people here.

Finding the end of the line proved to be rather challenging. It snaked down to the end of one entire "wing" of the mall, then looped back almost to the beginning. As Alexander and I got in line (finally), a baby held in the arms of a daddy in front of me made googly eyes at me and flashed a rather charming smile. My vanity wavered a bit. Wait a second, this kid smiling at me was rather cute.

I started looking around at the other kids. After all -- and this may sound mean -- in my travels I've seen plenty of not so attractive looking kids. Not necessarily kids whose pictures you'd put in the attic to scare away mice, but kids whose looks weren't all that pleasing on the eye. But most of the little people in the vicinity were quite cute, charming, some were even delightful and beautiful. And even the children who didn't knock you over with striking conventional good looks still warmed my heart. Just looking at a child, I discovered, any child, was a marvel in and of itself. There was no such thing as a child or baby that wasn't beautiful. Every single smile I saw, every single yawn or even cry, was the unfettered, untarnished splendour of the innocent child. Wow. This might change my view -- perhaps my baby wasn't the world's most beautiful after all. Perhaps that's just a vain parent's perception. All babies are beautiful creatures. I was suddenly free from my previous narrow viewpoint. Wow.

The line moved slowly. After about 15 minutes, we'd moved about ten feet. Should I stick this out? Alexander's afternoon nap was looming and since we'd be having company for his birthday party, we thought it'd be a good idea that he actually got some rest. I called Fran. She reminded me about the deadlines we had and told me to use my judgement. After another five minutes, when Alexander started rubbing his eyes (one of his more obvious signs that he's getting tired), I decided to skip out.

It was a liberating feeling. Suddenly, I could see this line for what it truly was. An exercise in parental vanity. (Sour grapes works like that, no?) All these poor parents, trapped in the belief that their child was the most pleasing on the eye. We strolled past the line, heads high, smiling at each other, both of us drooling a little, (he from his teething, me, thinking about grabbing a bite to eat at McDonalds) and then I suddenly lost my moment of clarity, because here's what I said to Alexander:

"We're dropping out so we can let some other baby win." And in the back of my mind I was already thinking of other ways to exploit my son's looks. Surely, as the mirror at home would confirm for us when we asked it, he was the "fairest of them all." Maybe we count enter him in a "Canadian Baby Idol" reality TV show or something like that . . .

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Birds, Bats & Cats

It was still dark at a few minutes to 5:00 this morning when I encountered a bat. It greeted me in a swirling chaotic dance as I was stretching in the driveway before the morning's run. At first I thought it might be a drunk bird, but after a second or so, when it moved in the right direction, I caught the distinct shape of its wings. Neat. It fluttered around for another minute, then moved on out of site.

I charted a new course this morning, doing a quick loop through the neighbourhood, then back Upper James, across Brantdale, and up West 5th. I thought it was time for a slight change of scenery. You know, spot different cats prowling around thinking they're cool and undetected, see and hear different patterns of birds. About 5 minutes into my run I spotted three crazy swirling and fluttering bats not far from where I'd seen the first, and moments after, the first sounds of morning birds (they seem to only start making noise once the sun becomes prominent in the sky)

The bat reminded me of this time when Steve and I were living at 35 Craig Street in Ottawa. (Ah, the good old Levack Shack, as we dubbed it -- for several years, Steve and myself, Taki and Zaki, all from the small Northern Ontario of Levack, called this residence home) Our roommate Zaki was about to hit the sack early one night (likely during exams), when he comes back into the living room and in a monotone voice says: "Very funny, guys." There was a bat in his room, and he'd thought that it was us who put it there. (Sure, we liked playing jokes on each other, and Zaki, being particularly high strung, was often an easy target - but this bat got in on his own) For some reason now, whenever Steve and I get to drinking late into the night, we reminisce about the bat incident and the fun antics in trying to get it out of our house (imagine three grown men with pieces of cardboard, empty laundry baskets and towels, trying to encourage a bat to find its way to the entrance. Imagine the Ned Flanders-type screams we let out when, after it flew into the basement and we thought we'd accidentally killed it by throwing the laundry basket over it, it let out a high pitched shriek and came right at us. We almost killed each other in a large mass of arms and legs, scrambling over each other on the stairs, screaming and laughing and completely out of breath.

As my buddy Mathew would say: Good times!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Karla Who?

Yesterday the world was rocked with yet another senseless and horrific attack on innocent people. In vain attempts to deal with the "deja-vu" feelings of 9/11, I tried to find some sort of -- any sort of -- dim light in the darkness. And I found it, however small it was. I don't recall a single media mention of (not that I take it multiple newspaper, radio and television broadcasts, but I do catch a bit of each in my daily travels) recently released child-killer Karla Homolka. Prior to mid-morning yesterday, her name, face and story were plastered all over the media. I can only imagine what it did to the families of the victims.

And now there are new victims of a different kind of senseless killing, and a new horror in the hearts of the world. I know, in some areas of the world bombings and the killing of innocents are an everyday occurrence. It's maddening. Yeah, sure, I write horror stories -- but I'm not immune to the sickening feeling of when innocent people are slaughtered and attacked out of the blue.

Last night, while getting my computer ready for what I thought might be the inevitable middle of the night phone call (I'm still on 24/7 call for emergency support for my team at work), I just sat there and stared at the desktop background photo of my son. It was a picture of him in his yellow "Octopus" one piece outfit. It was taken last week. We'd just left Port Dover and stopped at a Tim Horton's parking lot to change his diaper in the back of the CRV. When finished, he sat up, leaned forward, and grabbed his newly acquired bucket and shovel and got this wonderfully beautiful delighted smile on his face. It was just a plastic bucket and shovel for the beach, but the look of delight and excitement on his face was as if he'd found the secrets of the universe in that bucket.

Perhaps he had. I know that Alexander has a way of making me pause to enjoy the simple things -- the things that, in our adult life we often overlook because we get so consumed with our day to day tasks and the endless pieces of bad news that flow to us from the four corners of the world.

So I sat there, just looking at that face, at that smile, and I was able to finally push aside the horror as my heart filled with joy, and love and hope.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Endless Night

How fitting that I should be woken from a deep and restful sleep about 45 minutes ago (yes, another middle of the night meltdown at work) to know that I'm likely not going to be able to get to sleep again before my morning alarm clock goes off.

Today is, after all, my son's first birthday -- last year at this time, neither Fran nor I were getting any rest. (Okay, she, of course, had it much much worse than I) Fran saw her OB the morning of June 6, 2004 and was told she'd dilated 1 inch - the OB reccomended that she stop going to work. Fran went in to work that morning after her appointment, informed them of this (interestingly enough got the cold shoulder from her boss, like she wasn't expecting it anyway....yeesh, the woman is 9 months pregnant -- maybe it's time to let her go), packed her things and went home, thinking, of course, that she'd now have a few days to rest a bit before having her baby. (Alexander, of course, had other plans).

By the time I got home from work, she was pretty much in labour. I spent a few hours doing my best to keep her comfortable (on par with trying to keep an icecream cone from melting while standing on a black-shingled roof during the recent 35+ hot spell days we've recently had) and get everything ready. We got to the hospital some time between 9 and 10 PM. Getting Fran into the car and from the car into the hospital was like trying to hurry the "old man" character that Tim Conway used to play on the Carol Burnett show.

I'll spare getting into the details, but Fran and I sat on the back deck last night around 10 PM, toasting our son and reminiscing about the hours leading up to our first encounter with him. He was born at about 9:50 AM on July 7th and our lives became more enriched than either of could possibly have imagined.



What an incredible year it's been. I love you, Alexander. Happy First Birthday.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

I'd Like To Introduce You To Del Griffith

As occasionally happens, there was a cancellation of the westbound GO trains at the end of the day -- apparently an encounter between train and pedestrian. I was quick to make it over to the GO buses (express to Hamilton), and was able to get on the second bus home, which made for a much less frustrating day than previous Lakeshore West train shutdown experiences -- none of which have been as fun and laugh-filled as Steve Martin and John Candy's problem-ridden trip from New York to Chicago . . .

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

And The Moon Is The Only Light We'll See

I've got my work team's 24/7 support cell phone for this week. Which means, if one of the scheduled jobs that support our business area fail, I get the call. 9 times out of 10 there's nothing I can do about it (it's like waking me to tell me that it's raining outside -- that's nice; not much I can do about it, but thanks for letting me know) but I guess someone somewhere feels good that I get woken from a comfortable deep slumber to be told that a job failed only to give one of two answers:

1) Okay, re-run the job
2) Okay, that's fine, leave it - we'll look at it in the morning

Answers, which are typically already written into the "runbooks" for the jobs already. But again, despite the fact that the instructions on what to do when most types of errors occur are laid out in writing, we must ensure that we wake someone up and get a verbal confirmation. I blame our anal auditors for that policy.

I knew it wasn't going to be a good night when I received 3 calls before dinner yesterday. I should have known I'd get a call in the middle of the night. But I'm still ticked that the 2:30 AM call woke me from a deep, restful sleep and that after logging in and looking into the issue, it took me more than an hour to get back to sleep, completely messing up my plans of getting up at 4:45 for a quick morning job. Maybe I should have just gone jogging when I couldn't get back to sleep -- it was, after all, close enough to the time I was planning on getting up when I actually finally fell asleep.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Talking Books, Blood & Bodies

After sitting on an interview I'd done with Richard Laymon just a couple of months before he died, it's finally been released to the world. I'd originally done the interview with him via email for a feature in Flesh & Blood magazine. Only, he died unexpectedly, and the editor of the magazine didn't want to run the interview -- guess he figured it would look like an attempt to sell magazines profiting off of a writer's death. So the interview was dropped.




It was sad to see Richard go. He was a talented writer -- many of his books were ones I simply couldn't put down -- you just had to keep peeling through the pages to get to the end. In many ways he was like a mentor to me. I became a fan of his immediately after my good friend John Strickland loaned me a copy of Laymon's One Rainy Night. I think it was my first experience of not being able to put a book down -- I actually spent the entire night reading the book, which takes place over the course of several hours on, you guessed it, one rainy night, when a thick dark rain starts to fall and turns every person that it touches into a homicidal maniac. It was the first of many of Laymon's books that I enjoyed and this was one that I used to offer to personally buy back from people I hand-sold it to if they didn't find it unputdownable after I determined they were a) a true horror fan and b) could handle a little over-the-top gore and nastiness (a Laymon trademark). I never had any takers. I received a "thanks" from Laymon through a friend of a friend when he heard how I was hand-selling one of his books, and shortly after established an email correspondence with him. I was as impressed with his down-to-earth nature as much as I was with his ability to suck a reader into a story and keep the tale going at a breakneck pace.

When the interview with him didn't run, I was sad that his fans wouldn't be able to read what might be his last interview, especially because it offered many insights about him.

I didn't want to sell the interview -- again, I was more interested in sharing the insights with Laymon fans rather than try to profit off of it. I'd originally offered it to the Richard Laymon Kills website, but never heard back from them. When I'd asked Brett Savory if he'd be interested in the interview for the ChiZine website, the next thing I knew, he was offering to pass it along to Leisure Books (who've been reprinting many of Laymon's titles). Don at Leisure quickly grabbed it up and placed it on their website within hours of the offer.

Needless to say I'm delighted that the interview is now out there for Richard Laymon fans to enjoy. Thanks, Brett.

You can read the intervew by clicking here.