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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Word Of The Day: Kvell

\'kvel\ verb : to be extraordinarily proud : rejoice

Attempting to use the word in a sentence:

When Mark read all the wonderful comments on yesterday's post, he felt absolutely kvelled to that blogging has helped him get to know so many wonderful, thoughful, kind and humourous people from all over the world and in his own neighbourhood.

Thanks, everyone! I'm touched.

(Gee, blogging can be like one big giant group hug)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Thank You For Being A Friend

Some time over the last few days, my counter for this site hit 10,000.

Damn, wish I'd known who the 10,000th person was - I would have tried to insert one of those annoying pop-ups with a notification and balloons and everything, offering them a prize (I do have one One Hand Screaming t-shirt left and did want to save giving it away for a real special occasion)

But in all seriousness, I should be thanking each and every person who is visiting or has visited this web space. I started doing this whole online journal thing back in March 2005 after some prompting by my buddy Mathew Growden.

I've not only done my best to keep in practice writing -- writing begets more writing, after all, but I've resynced up with some old pals and workmates and also "met" some wonderful people from all over the world, and it hasn't even been a year. I'm now getting an average of over 50 unique visitors to my blog-site every day. So either this blog is a mis-step on a path to porn browsing, or perhaps, just perhaps, people out there enjoy reading things that I'm writing (A man can dream, can't he?)

Thanks for visiting, for being a reader. As I've said before, a reader is the best gift a person can give a writer -- thanks so much for giving that to me. I'm honoured.

(Okay, gotta go now, I'm starting to get all misty eyed - the theme song for "The Golden Girls" is starting to play in the back of my head. That's just not a good thing)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Type A?

I'm not the world's most patient person.

When there's no choice but to wait I normally prepare for it by keeping either a book at hand or perhaps a notepad and a pen -- whatever -- just to ensure I'm not wasting time.

However, if I can avoid a huge lineup or wait by showing up early for something, I'll do it.

Case in point: getting my haircut.

I always show up early to get my haircut at Russ' --though he doesn't open until 8:00 AM I know that he's an early-bird and is always there at 7:00 AM. Thus, I usually show up near 7 and get in out and really quickly. This morning, I arrived there at 7:10; but Russ wasn't there. But 7:15 I realized that there were at least 7 other cars waiting to get in early to see Russ (I'm not the only one who knows Russ is always there really early)

The only issue is that I didn't bring a book with me, so I passed the time by searching for the notepad I used to keep in the truck (no luck), cleaning the huge mess of receipts, Tim Hortons napkins and bags, tissues, flyers, empty gum packages, etc (you can NOW see the floor on the passenger side -- it usually only gets cleaned up when I have a passenger), and then, because in my cleanup I fond an old IKEA "cash and carry" 8 1/2 by 11 order sheet (with a blank back page), I started writing.

Uh oh! I have a problem, don't I?

I need help.

No, no I don't need help. I need another piece of blank paper -- just one more -- then it'll all be okay.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Literary Battle At Tim Hortons

Lesley Simpson, one of my favourite Hamilton Spectator reporters, has begun an exciting venture today. She’ll be participating in a literary battle with three other local media personalities in a 48 hour novel writing session. It takes place at a Tim Hortons down on Ottawa Street starting at noon today and is an effort to raise awareness for Family Literacy Day (which is today) and fundraising for literacy.

I’m sure Lesley and her colleagues will do well. They’re in one of the best places to write, IMHO. You can check things out and cheer Lesley and her colleagues on by clicking here. (The Spec says that live broadcast and feeds should be available online once the event begins)

I started writing my novel Morning Son in longhand back in 1998 at a Tim Hortons on King Street W near Stoney Creek when Francine was tutoring in the neighbourhood and we had a single vehicle, a Pontiac Lemans. Since Fran didn’t drive standard, I’d drop her off for her hour or two hour session, then zip over to Tim’s and work on my novel while waiting to pick her up. I made sure to buy a coffee and sometimes a donut every 20 minutes (because of the loitering rules), but not once did I get hassled. They must have sensed a creative genius at work.

I actually found the whole experience enjoyable -- I think the only thing that would have made it better would have been a laptop, since I can type a heck of a lot faster than I can write longhand. I do most of my writing now on the GO train (it’s where I ended up finishing the first draft as well as several subsequent drafts of the same novel), which works out nicely for my daily work schedule, but often times I long for the atmosphere of a coffee shop when I’m defying the empty page.

A question for writers out there -- what’s a favourite writing spot of yours?

Young Man

I read in the newspaper this morning that the cop from the Village People (Victor Willis), is on the lam, skipping out on a bail hearing related to cocaine and handgun possession charges. The courts want to know where he is.

Sorry, I have no choice but to toss out the obvious groaner punch line (I’m tired and haven’t had my morning coffee yet). They should just go look down the street at the Y.M.C.A. I'm sure he's down there to get a good meal, get himself clean and pick himself off the ground.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

HNT - The Carb-Eater Strikes Back

Continued from HNT - Darth Tater Unmasked

When we last left off, Darth Tater had jumped to attack an unconscious Mark as revenge for his father's needless death as a french fry. Just as Darth was about to take Mark out with a finishing blow, he realized that he was half-nekkid, and bent down to retrive his mask. As Darth was retrieving his mask, Mark awoke.



Mark immediately fled the scene, leaving an angry Darth Tater behind. Mark kept running until he made it far, far away to the kitchen area of the house. There in the kitchen (also known as the Dego system), Mark met up with the wise old sage Mister Bunny where he sought advice.


"Defeat him, you will not, " Mister Bunny said. "Unless the right utensil you have. Use the FORKS, Mark! Use the FORKS. And then the peeler and the potato smasher.


Mister Bunny explained that Mark should first use the fork in a stabbing motion to hold Darth Tater in place. Then he should use the peeler to remove his protective armour skin. And then, finally, the potato masher, to finish him off. So with weapons, and a plan in hand, Mark steeled himself up for the death battle with Darth Tater.



To be continued . . .

(And if you like serial stories, check out my serial thriller "I, Death" -- for those of you browsing HNT for a little naughty stuff, this Thursday's post contains some erotica.)


I'm half-nekkid, she's half-nekkid
He's half-nekkid, we're half-nekkid
Wouldn't you like to be half-nekkid too?
Click on the link below for more info.

HNTbutton

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Well I Didn't Vote For You!

Last night my son threw up in a sudden explosive burst.

This was at about the same time the news media was announcing the certainty that Stephen Harper was going to be Canada’s next Prime Minister.

And people say that babies don’t understand what’s going on in the world around them.

But in all seriousness, Alexander starting running a fever Sunday night. It lessened slightly during the day yesterday, but Francine still took him to the doctor’s office where it was confirmed that he had a virus. His mood and temperature were on and off during the day, but he was mostly listless. Anyone who knows my son knows that something must be wrong if he’s not tearing ass all over the house, letting out a repeated stream of battle cries as he finds new things to get into and new “scientific experiments” to conduct (usually involving gravity and a combination of liquid and solid materials)

Last night, his fever continued to rise, and it was at about 10:30 that he woke up crying, Francine picked him up and he proceeded to throw up all over the both of them. After a change and a quick bath, Alexander and I cuddled together while Francine called Telehealth Ontario for quick and efficient professional medical advice.

All around me I’m reminded of the excellent health care system and services we have in our country and in our province. And I’m leery that the new conservative government is going to threaten those things, along with threatening the rights and liberties of our people. The only good policy that I saw on the conservative platform was the intention to make commuting fees tax deductible. That, I like. It lends itself to environmental issues, encouraging people to use more public transit, which reduces traffic congestion on roads and highways, feeds more money into public transit and ends up providing better services for those who need it the most. Most everything else the Tories stand for are not so much my cup of Red Rose.

I haven’t spent much time worrying, though, about the state of our nation and its new leadership. I’ve been a bit more consumed with worrying about my little guy. Last night was another long night with frequent waking and crying in his sleep. As I laid there awake, trying not to worry about my son, I kept flashing back to a scene from Monty Python & The Holy Grail. Only instead of King Arthur conversing with the peasants, it was PM Harper.


PM Harper: I order you to be quiet!

Peasant Lady: Order, eh? Who does he think he is?

PM Harper: I am your PM.

Peasant Lady: Well, I didn’t vote for you.

PM Harper: You don’t vote for PM.

Peasant Lady: Well, how’d you become PM, then?

PM Harper: Across the land there are candidates in 308 ridings that the people vote for. Whatever political party wins the most ridings and thus has the larger number of seats within the house of Parliament is the ruling party and its leader gain the role of Prime Minister.

Peasant Lady: So you can become PM even if people didn’t vote for you in your own riding?

PM Harper: Yes.

Peasant Lady: No, seriously. How did you become PM?

PM Harper: Sponsorship scandal, people fed up with the lies of the existing government. And besides, our "attack" ads were better than the other guys "attack" ads. When the Liberals went too far in their own fear mongering attacks, stating I was going to surround Canadians with soldiers, creating police states, that also won us points. I guess at the end of the day we were seen as the least of all known evils.

Peasant Man: This makes me long for some farcical aquatic ceremony where some watery tart lobbing a scimitar at someone makes them King. That whole scenario makes a heck of a lot more sense to me in forming the basis for a government. But what do I know, I’m a figment of Mark’s imagination derived from watching too much Monty Python.


Hmm, come to think of it, I think I was a little feverish last night, too.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Library Boy

This week, Francine suggested that I start taking Alexander to the library Saturday mornings as part of our "boys day out" -- we usually did errands like heading to Home Depot or Canadian Tire or something. But this seemed much more appealing. After all, it would be great to try a regular change of books to read him at bedtime (without having to buy the whole store every month), and I did need to get a few JavaScript books to prepare for an advanced scripting course I'll be attending in Pittsburgh in a couple of months.

But, oh man, did I ever forget how wonderful, how marvellous, how spectacular, how beautiful, how magical, a trip to the library is. We visited Hamilton Public Library's Terryberry Branch. (The very same one that Francine enjoyed going to when she was a girl). It opened at 10:00 AM and we arrived by about quarter after. And the parking lot was already full.

We ended up spending two hours in the library, picking out a few books that I could read to Alexander this week, picking up a few books for me, and also, of course, playing with the other kids with the fun train station and other wonderful activities they have set up in the kids section.
But the coolest part about it, of course, was the fact that when there I found something I'd lost a long time ago. And perhaps it might explain why I've had the book "Throwing 7's" in the right-nav pane of my blog for about 6 months now.

I'd started to mention this months ago and then dropped the subject, but I'd been pursuing a series of books by Denis Hamill for a long time. I bought his first book 3 Quarters in the early 90's when I was living in Ottawa and working at Prospero Books in Carlingwood Shopping Centre. But I never read it, and the book remained lost in a box in our basement (or closet, etc) as we moved around, and when I was setting up our basement "library" that I found it again. I read it, and loved it. Shortly after, I looked for the sequel Throwing 7's but couldn't find it in stores and so ordered it online. I was enjoying it, was halfway through it, and ended up leaving it by accident on the GO Train one day. Since then, I bought the third book in the series, Ten Spot but didn't want to read it until I'd finished the 2nd in the series.

But I came home with a copy of Throwing 7's from the library today. Woo hoo! Just evidence that for the Terryberry Library and I, this could be the start of some kind of wonderful.

The other exciting thing about the library visit was finding that the Hamilton Library currently has three copies of my book One Hand Screaming. Since they're all in stock at the central location, I thought I should at least donate a copy to my local branch.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

HNT - Naked Death

Many people have requested I continue with the storyline in which an unmasked (ie nekkid) Darth Tater has attacked me -- don't worry, I haven't forgotten. I figure if George Lucas can take 20 years off between Star Wars trilogies, I can take a week off between "Spud Wars" episodes. Don't worry, Darth Tater's further adventures will be back next week. I too want to see if I make it out alive.

Instead, this week I present a photo announcement that my online thriller I, Death started on January 18, 2006. This is a novella that I'm rolling out "live" in blog format through the words of my fictitious main character, Peter O'Mallick. I'm sharing it with HNT folks on the off chance that there might be readers out there who like a fun creepy tale (and for those of you who cruise HNT looking for naughty bits, "I, Death" does include a touch of erotica)

And I repeat, don't worry, Darth Tater WILL be back next week. Oh man, you should see what happens next . . .

Don't get the whole half-nekkid thing? Click on the graphic below for more info

HNTbutton

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Allow Me To Be Blunt

I was listening to James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” the other day on the radio. When I first heard it I thought it was a sweet song with a touching melody. But now that I’ve actually paid attention to the lyrics, it makes me think: “Borderline Stalker.”

Admit it ladies. Sure, it’s a nice song about a guy who spots a beautiful woman, and perhaps they even have a moment where their eyes meet for a split second. But then he goes and writes a song about it.

“But,” you’re saying, “It’s romantic and sweet.” Sure, I’ll give you that. What woman wouldn’t love to have a song written about her? But it also smacks of obsessive and creepy. Yeah, it’s cute and tender in a song, but think about real life. This guy spots a beautiful woman and then makes something completely out of nothing -- yes, in exactly the manner of an obsessive stalker. And because he’s gifted at writing music it’s suddenly romantic?

This is a stranger who happens to be a beautiful woman, Mack. And, as you state in the song, she’s already with someone. But never mind that. What about the fact that you know absolutely nothing about her apart from a physical trait or two. What is her passion in life? What are her goals? What makes her happy? What is her favourite song? Movie? Colour? Hmm, didn’t think you knew that. And what about the "plan" that you mention you've got? A plan to kill her boyfriend and thus have her all to yourself? Sorry, I’m stuck on the whole stalker thing.

Every time I hear the song now I can’t help but replace a line in my head.

I saw your face in a crowded place,
And I don't know what to do,
'Cause I'll never be with you.


In my mind, the last line goes: "So I think I might stalk you.

You're pitiful, it's true.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Book Tagged

I was book-tagged by Virginia O'Dine, which means I get to answer the following questions and then tag 5 more victims . . . er, bloggers.

Total number of books I've owned:

While I did catalogue and count the number of comic books I own (approximately 4000), I haven’t done that with my books. I’m guessing it’s got to be somewhere in the realm of “hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds” -- our home not only has one room whose walls are dedicated to stocked bookshelves, but there are two more rooms and a stairway landing with smaller stocked shelves. We keep running out of space to put the newly acquired books, but always find new and creative places.

The last book I bought:

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly which was a Christmas present for Francine. She has since finished reading it and I just started it. Connelly is a brilliant writer -- I’ve yet to read a single one of his books that I haven’t loved.




The last book I read:

I just finished two at about the same time. Stories From The Vinyl Café by Stuart McLean and Dime Store Magic by Kelley Armstrong.

While I’m a huge fan of McLean’s writing and his weekly CBC Vinyl Café program, there were only a handful of stories from this collection that I really enjoyed. Perhaps it was because these tales were earlier in his career and represented “younger” efforts, or maybe it’s because many of them didn’t feature “Dave and Morley” as much -- or maybe it had something to do with hearing the stories in that annoying voice inside my head rather than in McLean’s voice, because he does have a wonderful knack for verbal presentation. In any case, the best story in this 10th Anniversary Collection, IMHO, is the last one: "Remembrance Day" -- like the best McLean stories, it leaves you with that heartwarming feeling.

And though I gobbled up Armstrong’s first two novels in the “Women of the Otherworld” series within the span of a couple of days it took me longer than normal to get through the third one. It’s not her writing, which is great, and it’s not the storyline or plot, which is tight and interesting. I’m thinking that perhaps I just didn’t like the main characters as much as I liked the character of Elena in the first two. No worries, she's a writer definitely worth reading, so I'll keep following the series (though I am a few books behind because I'm eager to get to the "ghost" focused ones)

Five books that mean a lot to me:

Frameshift - Robert J. Saywer. Reading this book inspired me in a life-altering way, and I don't think I ever properly thanked Rob for that. If you’re dying to know what it is, email me and I’ll tell you, but I’m not going to share it on the blog.





Fifth Business - Robertson Davies. I never did finish reading this novel when I was supposed to in Grade 9. Several years ago I began the practice of choosing to read a few “classics” that I’d either always wanted to or “should have” read. The belief, which has held true so far, is that when I was supposed to have read the book at a younger age, I likely wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. I thus had this book with me in 2002 while hunting with my cousin and father on Manitoulin Island. I didn’t hunt, just cooked, cleaned, read and worked on my novel Morning Son. Great memories of a satisfying writing process, an equally stimulating read (no wonder they wanted us to read this novel in Grade 9 -- that man was a solid, brilliant writer), and a timeless male bonding ritual.

Humans - Robert J. Sawyer. Rob is a tremendously gifted storyteller. There is a beautifully moving scene in the book which takes place at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. (Chapter 22 - read the full excerpt here, then go buy the whole triology) This chapter perfectly illustrates Rob’s gift as a writer. I had this book with me while sitting with my father in a Sudbury hospital prior to an operation to remove his kidney. I was telling him about the book and how it was set in Sudbury at the Neutrino Observatory. Despite the fact that he wasn’t a sci-fi reader, he seemed to enjoy hearing about the book. It was one of the last conversations we’d had -- he never made it out of the recovery room.

Love You Forever - Robert Munsch. I’ve tried, several times, to read this book to my son without getting all choked up. I know, I know, it’s about a mother-son relationship, but you can’t blame a guy for getting all teary-eyed at the combined bizarre and touching tale (Munsch is good at both - like a kid's version of Stuart McLean). After a recent crying episode (my son had pulled it off the shelf in his bedroom and I started leafing through it), I thought -- wow, what a great book to buy for my Mom. I’ll be sending her a copy for Valentine’s Day.

Guerrilla Dating Tactics - Sharyn Wolf. I’ll never forget the time when Francine and I were friends and living in Ottawa. The type of friends, of course, that you’d watch on a sitcom and you’d yell at the television screen moaning that it was obvious they had deeper feelings for each other. But for several years we remained oblivious friends while dating others. This book was one of a variety of books I’d bought in trying to improve my disastrous dating life, and it was a fun read with some good advice. (It seemed to eventually work for me) I remember one time when Fran had asked to borrow it and I considered leaving something inside the book as a hint to let her know that I had “more than a friend” feelings for her; but I didn’t. About a year or so after we got together she admitted that she looked through the book to see if I might have left anything like that in the book.


The books in my collection where the physical object means a lot to me:

A Writer's Tale - Richard Laymon. The physical fact that the book is signed by Richard Laymon means a lot to me, but the book itself is priceless in content -- It’s a look into the mind of a wonderfully gifted horror writer who (as most horror writers do), wrote in the shadow of the King’s, Koontz’s and Rice’s of the world. I rank this book right up there with Stephen King's "On Writing" for it's insight, advice, and biographical content. It’s filled with wisdom and insight and wonderful advice for writers. Truly priceless. I interviewed Richard shortly after reading this book, and it might well have been one of the last interviews he gave before he died unexpectedly. You can read the full interview online here.

The galleys of Changing Vision- Julie E. Czerneda. Julie sent me these galleys to go over because she’d used me and my name for a character in the novel. Rudy Lefebvre. (The original name had been Leslie Lefebvre, but her editor talked her in to changing it to Rudy) She’d originally been hoping to surprise me and have me find out when the book was published, but decided to check with me first because the character wasn’t exactly a nice guy and it wasn’t too late to change his name if I was offended. I was both honoured by Julie doing this as well as touched -- I was also delighted with the fact that she let me read this before it was available on bookstore shelves -- that alone was tremendously exciting. This is also my favourite of the whole “Web Shifters” series (not because of my namesake character, but the story, the writing, the brilliant plot)

Tag five people and have them fill out their own answers in their blogs:

Malice, Michael Kelly, Carol Weekes, Francine (I want to try to pry her out of hibernation) and Robert J. Sawyer (since two of his books made it onto my list, I’m going to tag Rob and see if he’ll play along too) Appended: I'm also going to tag Lara, because as you can see from her comment, the love of books is something that only GROWS and EXPANDS. (Oh no, I just noticed Lara was just tagged by someone else...whoops, sorry to hit you with a back-to-back tag like that)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Stardust NOT Banned in Utah

Yesterday, Stardust returned to Earth. It had been launched February 7, 1999 as the first NASA mission to return cometary particle samples from beyond the Earth Moon orbit.

It was a nice feeling, despite not really knowing much about this project before my story was selected to appear in Julie E. Czerneda's anthology Stardust (which was, yes, named after this space capsule).

Gee, what a wonderful time to get out there a buy a copy of the book Stardust which is an awesome collection of science fiction stories in Julie's Wonder Zone series based on science being taught to grade-school children. My story "Looking Through Glass" explores the concept of the properties of light.

One of the greatest outcomes from having this story published was a book review that was shared to me via a teacher who used this book in her classroom. This young reluctant fourth grade reader had never finished a story before, but was so excited after finishing my tale that he eagerly started to write a book review for it. I have a copy of that review in my den and the fact that I helped inspire a young person to enjoy reading is something that's near and dear to my heart.

This post brought to you by the overly pushly self-promotion tactics of Mark Leslie.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday The 13th

Several years ago, Francine and I started a tradition. It started when chatting with my neighbour Chad about the enjoyment of hot and spicy foods, and somehow we got on to talking about how every Friday the 13th, motorcyclists converge on Port Dover.

We thought we'd start our own Friday the 13th ritual. And thus, the "Fran and Mark's Semi-Occasional Hot-Luck" was born, with our neighbours Chad and Trish being the most regular attendees. (It's real easy for them to find the place, of course and even easy to get home at the end of the night). For every Friday the 13th we invited over friends who enjoyed hot and spicy foods to a sort of pot-luck event. We asked folks to bring a single dish to share and we'd provide the beverages.

Over the years, we had as little as five people (during the great black out of August 2003), to as many as 40 folks. And occasionally, we didn't end up holding an event on a Friday the 13th, once when Fran was pregnant and so nautious that the THOUGHT of food was overwhelming, and again today (because I was supposed to be in Dallas this week and to be honest, we're still recovering from Christmas). That's why we'll occasionally have a Hot-Luck close to a 13th and on a Friday.

We won't be having one today, but if you do live anywhere near Hamilton and are interesting in attending, go to my profile, get my email address and let me know so I can include you on the invite list for the next gathering (I'm guessing spring)

But because today is the traditional day for us to be sharing hot and spicy stuff, I though I'd share a quick recipe. I used this sauce originally on ribs -- back in August 2003 -- they got named the infamous "blackout" ribs, but have since applied it to wings, mainly so that my friends who do not eat pork can enjoy the painful delight.

Mark's Blackout Sauce
(For ribs or wings) - Mix ingredients together in the order listed below. For ribs, boil ribs then marinated in sauce overnight. Cook ribs on BBQ occasionally adding sauce. For wings - two options - marinate in sauce overnight, or initially cook wings on BBQ, then marinate in sauce overnight and then reheat on BBQ next day while adding remaining sauce. (For those not all that experienced in cooking, don't re-apply the sauce used when marinating- keep some non-contamined-with-meat sauce aside to use)

- 1 cup of Grace Jerk Seasoning or Grace Jerk BBQ*
*(please note that the Jerk Seasoning is far far hotter than the Jerk BBQ sauce - use with caution - perhaps only 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of the hotter variety)
- 1 cup of Bull's-Eye Hot Southern Cajun BBQ sauce
- 1 clove of minced garlic (or tablespoon of garlic powder)
- 2 tablespoons of The "Original" Louisianna Hot Sauce
- 3-5 drops of Da' Bomb Beyond Insanity Hot Sauce

WORD OF CAUTION: This recipe is very tasty and still quite hot and spicy without the final ingredient. Adding Da' Bomb will push the scoville (heat) factor well over the top and potentially hurt the uninitiated.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

HNT - Darth Tater Unmasked

I thought I'd try something a bit different for this week's HNT, and start a bit of a story in pictures starring my newest little friend, Darth Tater.

Spud Wars - A New Hopelessness

Not all that long ago, on a Thursday not so far from today, Darth moved into Chateau Leslie. Things had been going quite nicely until Mark attempted to clean Darth's mask. It popped off, and Mark got a startling peek at the face beneath.








Spud Tater Unmasked!



As if seeing the face of Darth Tater wasn't enough, Darth made a revelation that was even more shocking. "Mark, your supper last night was MY FATHER!"











"Mark, you ate my father!"


The terrible truth was almost too much. Upon seeing the horrible face beneath the mask and with Darth's father (who had been a nice plate of fries smothered in gravy) still digesting in his stomach, Mark fainted. Darth jumped into attack mode, fully intending to avenge his father's needless consumption.





Revenge of the Spud-Eye!

Will Mark be able to get out of this predicament? Will Darth enact his revenge? If Darth is really a potato, why doesn't he have more sets of eyes? Does anybody actually really care about any of this?

TO BE CONTINUED . . .

Join Osbasso's Empire of Half-Nekkid-ness.
Click on the link below for more details.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Epenthesis

Francine bought me a great 365 Days of Beer calendar for Christmas which I love -- it's filled with information about beers from around the world as well as interesting trivia about beer and the brewing process. With it came a free online subscription to one of a huge selection of Page-A-Day's via email. I chose the "365 New Words A Year" option, thinking just learning a new word here and there might be more fruit for stories.

Yeah right, like I need any more ideas for writing -- what I need, dammit, is time, time, time to act upon the bazillion ideas that hit my head each and every day.

In any case, I thought this was a nifty one:


epenthesis: \i-'pen-the-ses\n : the insertion or development of a sound or letter in the body of a word

Example: In my view, the most annoying example of epenthesis is the pronunciation of "athlete" as "a-tha-lete."

Interesting. But it makes me wonder what you call it when a Torontonian pronounces Toronto (Toe-ron-tow) as Tarrana (like Phirrana, but said really really really fast)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Self-Promotion For Authors

I just finished listening to a 30 minute podcast interview that Tee Morris did with Robert J. Sawyer prior to Christmas. While I've listened several times to Rob talk about self-promotion and similar topics, I know that I could continue to listen to him for hours. He is as fascinating a speaker as he is an author, and in this podcast, he offers some trememdous advice.

(Tee Morris, of course, has his own great advice, as he is the c-author of Podcasting For Dummies, which, after hearing the interview, I'm eager to check out)

One of my new years resolutions should have been to pay more attention to Rob's brilliant advice. Is it too late to amend them?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Where's The Big Brother?

Today in pop culture history was the day that Clara Peller first uttered the words “Where’s the beef?” in 1984 in the now classic Wendy’s commercial. Yes, it’s hard to believe that it’s been 21 years since that classic campaign which sparked tons of spin off jokes and novelties (my favourite, of course, being the “Here’s The Beef” underwear -- which I never got because this was years before my novelty underwear collection began)

Given that today has “Where’s the beef?” significance, I guess it’s an appropriate date for us to be holding the English language leadership debate.

Interesting Week

I think that this is going to be an interesting week. Instead of taking the GO train into downtown Toronto from Hamilton, I'll be driving out to the IBM offices in Markham for training on their WebSphere Product Center.

Originally, the training was supposed to be in Dallas, but it was cancelled due to a lack of participants.

Sigh. Dallas or Markham? Nothing against one of Toronto's sister cities, but something tells me Dallas would have been a tad more interesting than a city about 1.5 hours away from where I live (and one I've been to many times already -- unlike Dallas, which I've only ever been to back when I was watching J.R. get shot or when I found out that Bobby really wasn't dead because the whole previous season was Pam's dream)

I guess it'll be a while longer before I get to prance around in a nice cowboy hat, cool boots and a giant belt buckle. Well, nothing's stopping me from doing that here, but it would have been a bit more fun to do that in Texas.

But, of course, on the plus side, I get to see my family every day when I come home.

On second thought, Markham's pretty darn cool.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

In Solitude With Memories (& Snow, Lots of Snow)

Yes, it's been snowing since early evening last night - nice big fluffy white flakes. Ahh. All is okay with the world again. Okay I'm inspired to share a poem that's been kicking around the drawers - one that I wrote more than a decade ago after a beautiful Ottawa snowfall tried desperately to take my mind away from a recent heartache.

I couldn't just leave it at that though, as at the time I was in the habit of writing poetry using forced structures -- part of attempts to "paint myself into a corner" and see if I could write my way out. (Yes, I also enjoy mixed metaphors)

I'd submitted it to various poetry journals a long time ago, but like many of my poems, it's been sitting in a file folder for many many years. I figured I'd break it out today in honour of the snow!

In Solitude With Memories
by Mark Leslie
©2006 Mark Leslie Lefebvre

the snow lands lightly around my open mouth
ten flakes of which I feel drip cool like unheard
words down my chin, which then run
on down my neck
the tiny rivulets of which traces are barely
left to remind me of what once was there
were the loves I’ve known
put into place so masterfully
here upon my heart and so brilliantly removed, I would
first know love and then this peace

Friday, January 06, 2006

Seasonal Affective Disorder

I received payment yesterday from Your Scrivener Press for my story "Being Needed" which will appear in the anthology Bluffs: Northeastern Ontario Stories from the Edge some time in the spring of 2006. I'm rather delighted that I'll be appearing in an anthology that has stories by both Sean Costello and Susie Moloney, two writers whose work I've admired for years. And, if the anthology is half as good as the sister anthology that YSP released a few months ago (OutCrops: Northeastern Ontario Short Stories), I'm sure I'm going to love reading the stories from the other contributors as well.

It was nice for that cheque to come in the mail at a time of year when we're dreading the post-Christmas bills. It put a little spring back into my step. Not the money so much as the reminder that occasionally an editor actually likes my writing enough to buy a story from me.

Of course, this crappy weather we've been having hasn't added anything to my swagger.

It's January for crying out loud. And we're getting nothing but rain. The snowman that Alexander and I built on the weekend is now the only bit of snow on our front lawn -- all half a square foot of it. What the hell kind of winter is this? One of the things I like best about Canada is we get four distinct seasons, with all the joys and extreme temperatures on both ends of the scale that we experience each year. What we've been getting lately is one season of hot and humid days, and the rest of the year cold and rainy. That's pretty damn bland.

Spring, which is still pretty exciting in its own right, used to be this amazing and dramatic rebirth, a relief of a long, cold, dark and snowy winter, and a chance to shuck off the heavy winter clothing and boots for much lighter fare. The hot and humid summer days on the beach or by the pool are made more satisfying when you'd think that perhaps only 4 months earlier you were standing in your driveway swearing at the snowplow that just pushed another four feet of snow onto the ramp tshoveledust shovelled. And, oh, those bitter-sweet days of autumn, my favourite season by far. The lingering warmth of the summer days as it flirts with you, knowing full well it's going away on a long trip, the cool evenings of the harvest season, the spectacular colours of the leaves, their final swam song of grace before they drop from the trees. And winter. The winter of my memory and my heart is a winter that comes with cold and snow. Long walks in the snow as you're bundled up tightly - making snow men, skiing, laughing madly as you almost hit a tree on your toboggan. As the song goes, the weather outside is supposed to be frightful -- that's what makes the fire inside so delightful. Let it snow, dammit. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

What the hell have we done to the environment to bring on such a right bloody mess? When I was a lad (of course, I grew up in Levack, just north of Sudbury) we usually had snow for Remembrance Day and sometimes even as early as Halloween. By this time of year, the snowbanks were usually at least 5 to 6 feet high. As it stands now, I'm thinking of getting the lawn mower out.

This is ridiculous. Okay, I'm getting all worked up now. Gotta stop that. Think of the cheque, Mark. Think of the cheque. You just got paid for a story you sold. What a great way to start the year. This, story, one of your personal favourites, will be in a beautiful book landing on bookstore shelves in merely a few months, in the spring, when we're experiencing springtime rain, not winter rain.

There, all better. Crisis averted.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

HNT - The Naked Tooth

I thought it would be prudent to theme this week's post around the root canal I had on Wednesday. While I'd initially been leary about having a large hole drilled in my tooth, the pulp sucked out and re-filled, Dr Wang and her hygenist Danny made the experience not only painless, but actually quite pleasant and fun with their amusing conversation.

While I didn't succeed in getting an "after" shot, I did get a copy of the "before" X-Ray of my tooth.


What you're seeing is a shot of "tooth 47" (second from the left). It has a small (white blob) filling in it at the top. The decay that needed to be treated is to the right of that and directly across from the giant filling in the tooth beside it (that giant white blob)

It's too bad I don't have a copy of the "after" shot showing the artificial filling that has replaced the pulp in the three roots, because it's pretty neat.

Oh well.

Happy HNT!

Half-Nekkid Thursday isn't just about nudity. It's about fun, creativity and people from all over the world coming together. To find out more about the half-nekkid revolution, click on the image below.

HNTbutton

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Root Canal That Almost Got Away

Here's something I thought I'd never say:

I'm so relieved to be having a root canal today.

Yes, I thought I'd never be saying something like that due to my previously stated fears of the dentist (mostly inspired by the role Laurence Olivier played in the The Marathon Man), but when I was at the dentist in mid December, I found out I needed to have a root canal. The appointment was booked for me for December 29th.

I'd originally thought, okay, I don't want to spend my Christmas vacation like this, but what the heck, it'll be good to get this procedure done and get off the Tylenol-3 painkillers. (See, I was trying to be all positive about it even back then)

Then, on the 28th of December my dentist's office called. My dentist had fallen on the ice on her way in to work and hurt her elbow bad -- really bad. Thus they were cancelling my root canal for the 29th and would rebook for a few days, perhaps a week later.

On the 29th, the dentist's office called. My dentist's elbow was so damaged that she wouldn't be able to perform lengthy procedures for quite a while, but they'd endeavour to find me an appointment with an oral surgeon. The appointment was made for January 4th. Okay, so, I did like my dentist and was comfortable there -- but again, it'd be nice to just get this done before I became addicted to Tylenol-3.

Yesterday at work the oral surgeon's office called. There was some sort of mix-up about my 11:30 AM appointment for the 4th, where someone seemed to have cancelled my appointment and put someone else in. That and they kept calling me Marco. When asked about the next available appointment, I was told January 18th was the soonest they could get me in. Sigh.

I called my regular dentist's office, thinking - hey, maybe by then, my own dentist would be healed enough to perform the lengthy root canal. After all, was I really all that comfortable going to a place where they couldn't even manage to keep an appointment book straight or properly remember my name. I mean, if it's that confusing using a calendar, do I really want the same people sticking drills inside of my head? (I started to get those familiar old "Marathon Man" shivers and while sitting at my desk at work yesterday started whispering to myself: "Iswhatsafe iswhatsafe iswhatsafe?") But unfortunately, my dentist wouldn't be back to full operation for at least a month. Argh.

I tried calling the oral surgeon's office again, to see if I could beg my way in to my root canal sooner rather than later. Though the pain in my jaw hasn't been all that bad the past week or so (hopped up on Tylenol-3 and antibiotics might be helping), it started to throb yesterday late afternoon and evening. But I couldn't get through.

I was on the GO Train ride home in the early evening when the oral surgeon's office called. They'd found a way to fit me in for my appointment for today at 2 PM. Whew.

They still called me Marco, though.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

You Are Here!

Lately I’ve gone a little Frappr Happy.

I attribute it back to the fact that I’ve always liked those maps you see in public places like malls, the zoo, etc, in which there’s a little dot indicating that “you are here.” The fun joke, of course, is to stand in front of the sign and in a very loud voice (so that passersby can hear you) exclaim: “Wow, how would they know exactly where I’d be standing right now? Isn’t that freaky? I guess Big Brother really is watching.”

A few days ago, my buddy Pete Mitchell and I were talking about how many different people around the world we seem to “know” just via the large blogging community on the internet. I know it’s not cool to get all giggly about the technology, but I think it’s just so darned neat in how the internet has allowed us to connect not only with people around the world, but also with people within our own communities. Funny how the "world wide web" helps connect you to a person in the same city, sometimes on the same street, or within the same company.












Snapshot of visitors to my blog in the past few months

And recently I’ve gotten a great kick out of creating personalized maps on the internet using Frappr, which allows people to put their own “pins” onto the map, their own little “I am here” indicators. I got the idea when Osbasso, the mastermind behind Half-Nekkid Thursdays created an HNT Frappr map. I find it fascinating to see where in the world different people are.

For example, I created a map for One Hand Screaming called Screaming Hands Across America, because I thought it would be neat to see where people who’ve read my collection of horror stories are from. About a week later, I created a map for my old high school (Levack District High School - LDHS) because I thought it would be neat to see where ex-students now reside. (So far, of course, I'm the only member -- yes, just like in high school, there I stand by myself, the big nerd that I still am)

But because this is like an itch that I can’t stop scratching, I’m also going to create a map for my serial thriller told via blog: I, Death.

Someone stop me. I’m getting a little out of control.

Monday, January 02, 2006

First Rambling Babble Of The Year

Despite waking up with a sore throat, stuffed up nose and a bit of a cough, I thought I should still go in to work this morning. After all, it's the start of a new year, I was off last week, have my root canal scheduled this Wednesday, will be out of the office doing training next week and have plenty of things to get caught up on.

I should have known my day would be a bit more interesting than normal when the first thing that greeted me this morning was the snowman that Alexander and I built in the front yard yesterday. Due to the warmer temperatures we've had, the poor little snow creature had started to melt and was bent over completely backwards, as if doing the limbo.

I figured I'd take a few minutes to fix up Mr. Snowman -- after all, didn't want to give Alexander any "Calvin & Hobbes" snowman nightmares. Not yet, at least -- and then I got into the truck and headed down to Aldershot GO station.

I should have known that things were amiss when I was actually able to find a parking spot in the first row near the station. I figured it was just because so many people were off today. When I went in to the station I found the ticket booth was closed with a sign to purchase tickets from the bus driver. Bus driver? But I wanted a full pass, not single ride or day pass. What a waste of money.

There's a new automated ticket machine at Aldershot that allows you to use a credit card to purchase tickets. I figured I'd buy my pass there, but no, it too only sold single ride or day pass tickets - d'oh) Then, a fellow commuter reminded me that GO was on a weekend schedule today. Which meant no trains beyond Oakville. The next bus would be there in 20 minutes. Double d'oh.

Anybody who knows me knows that I'm not the world's most patient person nor do I like arriving late anywhere. Taking the bus from Aldershot to Oakville, then a train from there would have meant arriving at work some time after 8:30. Not that that's a terrible thing, but because I usually get in a little after 7:30, it constituted "late" in my books and would have started the day off, well, not so good.

Then I thought about the joys of returning home, especially considering the "freezing rain" warning I'd heard for the afternoon on the radio. I imagined arriving back at the old homestead some time after the 11 PM news was wrapping up . . .

I considered going back to Hamilton and parking downtown and taking the express bus from Hamilton to TO. But then again, I'd have to pay for parking and purchase a day pass from Hamilton (when what I really wanted was a ten-ride pass from Aldershot) - two "wastes" of money. No, I'm not the poorest guy in the world, but nor am I the richest, and tossing away even a small amount of cash on parking and a single ride ticket constitutes enough of a waste of money in my books. (Yes, if you can' tell, I brown-bag my lunch) Besides, I didn't even know if I had any cash on me -- I'd been planning on using my debit card to buy my pass. Hmm, yup, I did have $1.60 in change in my pocket. But not enough to pay for a parking spot downtown.

When I got to my truck I saw I was on a quarter tank - enough to get to TO, but not enough to get back. Combine the cost of gas with paying for parking in downtown Toronto, and that clinched it in my mind.

Thus, I turned around, came back home and have already started working (okay, I spent 5 minutes writing this -- so sue me -- I would have wasted a heck of a lot more time chatting near the coffee machine than it took to write this) My cell phone did die while I was checking messages and I haven't a clue where the power cord for it is -- but I'll resolve that eventually. As it stands, I've "arrived" at work and things are okay.

Good thing too, when I was unpacking my laptop bag, I just realized that I had forgotten my lunch in the refrigerator when I left this morning. So I'm thinking it all worked out in the end and the fates of the New Year are smiling on me.