Wednesday, May 31, 2006
It's part of the Review It, Rate It & Win contest at www.chapters.indigo.ca - Contest closes June 30, 2006, so, as long as you're not an employee of Indigo or related to myself or other employees of Indigo, you're eligible to win -- so get your review in today.
One Hand Screaming
By Mark Leslie
(Read several full excerpts and samples online here)
(Review this book at www.chapters.indigo.ca)
Bluffs: Northeastern Ontario Stories from the Edge
Edited by Laurence Steven
Contains my short story "Being Needed"
(Preview the book here)
(Review this book at www.chapters.indigo.ca)
Stardust (Tales from the Wonder Zone)
Edited by Julie E. Czerneda
Contains my short story "Looking Through Glass"
(Preview the book here)
(Review this book at www.chapters.indigo.ca)
Of course, if you don't live in Canada, you're still welcome to submit reviews of my works on this web site or on other fun sites like Amazon. To review One Hand Screaming on Amazon, for example, it's as simple as clicking here. I really won't mind. Honest.
You might not be eligible to win a cool $1000 gift card, but you will still be eligible to win my appreciation.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
I think part of the fun of the day was just sitting with the other contributors and sharing funny tales about readings and book signings and the creative process.
Richard deMeulles, Margo Little, Laurence Steven, Linda M. Bayley, Eric Moore, Mark Leslie, Sean Costello
Ines Habara, Christian Nelson, Margo Little, Charlie Smith, Colin Hayward
Susan Eldridge-Vautour, Christian Nelson, Charlie Smith, Sue Scherzinger, Vickie McGauley
Of course, one of the really neat things that happened was during the 3 to 4 shift during the "Meet The Authors" event, when I met Sue Scherzinger and realized that this was the "Aunt Sue" of a friend of mine from back in high school.
One of the passions that my friend Michelle and I shared was writing, and we often wrote stories together in a round-robin style. I remember this one time when Aunt Sue and Uncle Peter were over. They were that cool young aunt and uncle that most kids have, and they participated in a fun round of storywriting with us. I still remember specific things about the tale we wrote that day: A dark and rainy night on a waterfront, a young man twitching as he lay on the dock, an empty syringe beside him and some sort of magical fish in the water. That's all I remember about the tale we wrote, (wish I still had a copy of it) but I thought it was cool to meet up with Sue again so many years later.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
. . . I could . . . but that would be a waste of time. Particularly since I've wasted so much of my life on work lately. Time that I'll never get back.
Instead, I'd rather talk about one of those warm and fuzzy moments. Because it's healthier to smile.
The other morning I had Alexander in my arms and was opening the blinds to our bedroom window which faces the back yard. Alexander let out a happy yelp and then started waving at something out there. I was wondering if he was getting excited about a rake that was leaning up against the deck (he likes all kinds of tools, particularly shovels, brooms, rakes and vacuums), when I spotted something darting out from around the side of the pool.
"Oh," I said, catching a glimpse of a small light brownish grey coloured critter. "You see a squirrel."
Then a moment later, the critter hopped into clear view. It was the tiniest little wild rabbit. It hopped into the middle of a patch of grass and then sat there looking around. We rushed downstairs to see if we could get a better look from the kitchen window. It was a better view, and the little bunny stayed there. It was the cutest little thing. It looked so much like I remember Mister Bunny looking when we first got him, cute tiny little ears standing straight up.
Francine and Alexander and I marvelled at the little critter, falling in love with how cute he was, and also a bit sad that we were in the process of packing to head off for the weekend. After all, we wanted to hang around and enjoy the presence of our new little friend.
Well, we did pack off for the weekend. (Friday had been the first day in many weeks that I'd had an actual full day off -- okay it didn't end up being a full day because I'd worked for a couple of hours from midnight until about 2 AM and then worked again from about 10 PM until well past mignight -- but dammit, it sure FELT like a day off, and that's what counts, right?) And, I did spend most of the weekend doing fun things, like spending time with Fran and Alex and visiting my family in Sudbury and doing a book signing with some really cool authors. It was a great change of pace, and by the time we got back Sunday evening, I'd pretty much forgotten about that cute little bunny.
It was only after having given Alexander his bath and then standing with him in the kitchen giving him his pre-bedtime snack that I looked out the window over the kitchen sink and spotted the bunny in the middle of our lawn, mowing down on the grass. We quickly adapted our bedtime ritual to waving goodnight to the little bunny, and then after I put Alexander down I slipped downstairs to see if the little guy was still out there.
The back yard was very dark by then but I thought I could spot a little critter sitting in the middle of the lawn. So I snuck out to the deck with my camera and snapped a shot, thinking, okay, the flash might startle the little guy away, but perhaps I'd catch a single nice picture of him.
The flash revealled where he was, but he didn't run away. Instead he settled into a comfortable little resting pose that I'd seen Mister Bunny do countless times over the years, and I was able to lie down on the deck and snap a few more shots of him before I decided to let him enjoy the rest of his evening without my intrusion.
I'm looking forward to seeing if he's going to be sticking around. His little invasion into our yard has brought a very welcome and warming sense of peace and tranquility. Gotta love that Mother Nature and the magic she weaves into our lives.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Click here to listen to the raw file used for the interview. The audio file is copyright 2006 by Rogers Media.
Scott did a wonderful job of an ad hoc lead-in intro to the interview, and, of course, a wonderful closing statement about it which you won't hear in this clip. What you will hear in the clip, of course, is his wonderful interview technique and the way he helps put an interviewee at ease. You can tell he's a pro and that he's been doing this for many years. (You'll also hear my inability to speak directly into the phone at all times, how I mangle pronouncing another author's name, as well as my annoying voice which, if it doesn't turn you off too much, might be a nice teaser to some podcasts that I'm currently attempting to produce in which I do readings of my fiction . . . stay tuned . . .)
Friday, May 26, 2006
If I can confirm that I have permission from the station, I will add an audio link to the 5 minute interview here.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Your Scrivener Press and Chapters Sudbury are hosting a "Meet the Authors Session" and I'll be accompanied by several other contributors to Bluffs and its sister anthology Outcrops.
1:00 - 2:00: Mark Leslie, Sean Costello, Richard deMeulles, Ines Habara (Bluffs) - Margo Little (Outcrops)
2:00 - 3:00: Colin Hayward, Vera Constantineau (Outcrops) - Charlie Smith, Linda M. Bayley, Ines Habara (Bluffs)
3:00 - 4:00: Vickie McGauley, Mark Leslie, Ines Habara (Bluffs) - Susan Eldridge-Vautour, Sue Scherzinger (Outcrops)
Allow me to sound like a drooling fan (which is what I am), but I'm delighted that I get to do a book signing event with Sean Costello. I remember discovering his first novel Eden's Eyes when I was a teenager and being overwhelmed that such a brilliantly talented writer of horror stories could actually live in my own community.
I never thought that fifteen plus years later, Sean and I would be friends, bouncing manuscripts back and forth between each other for comments and critique, that he would be the one to convince me to get off my ass and release a collection of my previously published stories and that I'd have the honour of appearing in the same anthology as him.
I'm also going to be bringing my copy of Outcrops to the event so I can get autographs from the authors of this wonderful anthology. (See my review of Outcrops here). I guess I just can't escape the fact that while I call myself a writer, I'm a reader and lover of books and authors first.
Monday, May 22, 2006
43. I've always found the "Teddy Bear Picnic" song a little creepy.
Maybe it's just me, but every time I hear the "Teddy Bear Picnic" song (see lyrics below) I get shivers up and down my spine. I know it's supposed to be a cute song about these teddy bears cavorting and playing in the woods. But it creeps me out.
I mean, look at the lyrics -- "you're in for a big surprise" and "you'd better not go alone" -- yeesh, given that I already believe in Bigfoot and Yeti and other creepy creatures of the woods, I'm frightened enough about walking in the woods. Why tell me that these stuffed animals are gathering for a secret party? It's just going to freak me out.
I've been reading a "Teddy Bear Picnic" storybook to Alexander before bedtime the past couple of nights. It's a library book we picked out this weekend. Maybe I did it for therapy, you know, to see if I could handle it now that I'm supposedly an adult. But in any case, there's Alexander drifting off peacefully to sleep while I sit up all night, the lyrics going through my head, biting my nails, peeking out from under the covers and wondering what those teddy bears are up to in those woods and when they're going to launch their secret attack.
Teddy Bear Picnic
If you go out in the woods today
You're sure of a big surprise.
If you go out in the woods today
You'd better go in disguise.
For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic.
Picnic time for teddy bears,
The little teddy bears are having a lovely time today.
Watch them, catch them unawares,
And see them picnic on their holiday.
See them gaily dance about.
They love to play and shout.
And never have any cares.
At six o'clock their mommies and daddies
Will take them home to bed
Because they're tired little teddy bears.
If you go out in the woods today,
You'd better not go alone.
It's lovely out in the woods today,
But safer to stay at home.
For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic
Every teddy bear, that's been good
Is sure of a treat today
There's lots of wonderful things to eat
And wonderful games to play
Beneath the trees, where nobody sees
They'll hide and seek as long as they please
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic
Sunday, May 21, 2006
But a majority of this extra work, I've been able to do while telecommuting.
And that has made ALL the difference.
Sure, the hours are long, and seemingly never ending. But at least, though I'm working this weekend, I'm here at home with my wife and child. At least I have the pleasure of eating meals with them, playing, and laughing and running the occasional errand (I was able to do a conference call yesterday, for example, while still taking Alexander, and two of his friends, on his weekly daddy/son library visit).
Since I work in Information Technology, most of my work involes logging onto a system and keying in stuff. I'm very lucky to have the option, then, of telecommuting. And for that, I'm extremely grateful.
Whoops, gotta go - got to be on a conference call at 5:00 PM don't you know . . .
Friday, May 19, 2006
(It reminds me of some advice that a friend and writing mentor, John Strickland, gave to me more than 15 years ago -- he loaned me a copy of a book by Dean Koontz on how to write bestselling fiction and suggested that I read it 3 times the first year and once every year after that. At the time I didn’t quite understand what he meant, and thought perhaps it was a bit of overkill. Like much of John’s advice, I only grew to understand and properly appreciate it when I gained a bit more experience, a bit more wisdom, but haven’t been able to track down my own copy of this long out of print book)
I like King’s down to earth and straightforward approach to the craft. I also like the fact that he doesn’t try to hide the fundamental truth that it’s a hell of a lot of work. There have been at least a dozen times while listening to him that he said something I would have wanted to write down in bold letters and stick up on the walls in my writing space. A short tidbit of wisdom or advice that I found inspirational and worth repeating to myself again and again.
I must admit the wonderful uniqueness of the experience listening to the book in my truck. The book is read by King himself, so it has been almost like having him sitting there in the passenger seat of my pickup, patiently waiting for my return so he can continue telling me his take on the writing life. He has been like one a hitchhiker I’ve picked up who has these fascinating stories, points of view and wonderful pearls of wisdom to share.
And now that I’ve come to the end of the book, now that my traveling companion has reached his stop and I’ve dropped him off, the truck feels empty, too quiet. No matter which radio station I turn to, no matter what other cassette I slip in, I can’t fill Stephen’s absence.
And then I start feeling bad that though he waited so patiently for me every day to return to the truck, even though he shared plenty of great advice in order to help me with my own writing efforts, not once did I ever offer to pick up a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee for him.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
This week, HNT, a "celebration of exposure" celebrates its first anniversary. I joined HNT a few weeks after spotting some folks that my buddy Pete Mitchell had been linking to who were part of one of the first waves of HNT. It appeared to be a neat concept so I thought that I'd give it a whirl.
My First HNT pic
My first HNT post was entitled "Naked Eyes" and appeared on October 27, 2005. In it I showed off my "spooky eyes" underwear. I've since shown different novelty underwear on several occasions, and have lots of great fun boxers to show off. But I've also used HNT for other fun experimental posts, some risque, some goofy, and some, like the Darth Tater serial adventure, a lot of fun to put together. (My entire HNT collection is linkable off a single page, created especially for the project where a few genius HNTers created a means for HNT folks to be part of the Rogue Festival)
There's an extraordinary family of HNT folks from around the world that I've met simply by participating in this weekly celebration. Some incredible, wonderful people. Their blog stories have made me laugh, made me cry, made me glad to have discovered them. I'm certainly glad for those friendships and thankful to Osbasso for starting it all and bringing people together.
Sorry, Os, I know you wanted folks to offer a little "celebratory" picture this week. But I've been working 65+ hour weeks lately, and half a dozen writing projects in the que and no time for celebrations just yet. So for HNT's first anniversary, I offer another "eye" pic that hopefully compliments my first HNT pic.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Something pretty bad, pretty nasty just happened to Peter O'Mallick that he alludes to on his May 14th post. He's not able to talk about it yet because he's pretty overwhelmed. But I'll let you in on a little secret. It concerns Mr. Robinson, the replacement English teacher that Peter affectionately refers to as Robbie.
In my lead up to this recent development, I had a few plot options in mind. And normally, I let the characters themselves work these things out, decide for me how things are going to turn. But I thought I would take advantage of a unique opportunity and solicit feedback from readers on which of two paths I should take in this tale. (Blame it on my love for the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books when I was younger)
So here comes the spoiler plot reveal and the question:
Mr. Robertson is dead. What I know for sure is that it happened in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday May 14th. But how specifically did he die? I have two possible ways that can both be tied back to foreshadowing and character elements I'd built into Robbie's character over the past month or so. I built both in because when I first introduced Robbie, I had imagined him as an evil bad guy masquerading as a nice guy. But then he grew on me, and I really liked him, looked up to him -- he became an amagamation of all my favourite teachers over the years, so I started to waver. Robbie started to convince me that he actually was a good guy after all. I don't know what to believe any more. Is he lying to me the way I imagined he was lying to Peter? And this is where I need your help:
Is Robbie a bad guy who died a deserved death?
Is Robbie a good guy who died a hero's death?
That's the question. I'll end up writing the storyline based on feedback from readers, and I'll take anything from a simple vote of "good guy" or "bad guy" to a detailed character analysis on why Robbie couldn't possibly be a bad guy or why he's such a wonderful hero. You can email your comments directly to me at mark (at) markleslie (dot) ca, leave your comment here, which you can do anonymously, or discuss it via the DeathReaders forum at frappr.com.
I'm certainly looking forward to people's thoughts on this.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
There was a time back in high school when all of the really cool kids had Sony Walkman portable cassette players. They were the latest, greatest thing. You could spot the cool kids by the rectangular box shapes either worn on their hip or hanging from a nifty shoulder strap, and, of course, the headset cords leading up to their ears. Oh how I wanted to be one of those cool kids.
The regular kids, the “not as cool” ones, walked around with their “other” brand name versions of Sony’s hit Walkman -- they had their Sears, or Panasonic, or GE portable cassette players. There were some sly kids who owned a Slony Walking Man or a Seeny Work Man player. But we saw right through them, they were the same kids who the year before found it acceptable playing Puc-Man or Donkey King video games.
Then there was me: walking around in my knock-off leisure pants, my Don Johnson inspired white and pink shirt and yellow fabric tie and wearing my Kewl Dude Snazy Portable 8-Track Personal Listening Device. It came with a space age styled “sound-proof” mono headset with right ear set volume control and it’s own backpack with not 5 but 6 web-weave outer pockets allowing not only the convenience of carrying around extra music but the additional benefit of allowing everyone to see which other awesome 8-Tracks I had at the ready for my listening pleasure: Blondie, Grease, The Bay City Rollers, Conway Twitty, The Partridge Family and K-Tel’s Powerhits ’81. (Was it my fault that newer 8-Tracks had been difficult to find by the mid 80’s?)
No, I take back what I said about being an uncool nerd in high school. On second thought, I was quite the babe magnet. It’s a wonder I made it from class to class without being mobbed by legions of screaming girls.
Monday, May 15, 2006
1. I banged out my first novel on an Underwood Typewriter when I was fourteen.
It was a hot and humid summer, there were plenty of great things to do. Head out on my bike with my friends, play games on my Mattel Intellivision game system, join in an afternoon pick-up game of baseball down at the ball park, go hiking in the woods or go swimming in the pool in our yard.
But I had better things to do. I had a novel to write.
At least a year earlier, my cousin Rodney and I had found my Mom’s old Underwood typewriter in the closet of the spare bedroom. I think it was Remembrance Day -- back then we didn’t have school on Remembrance Day. And I also remember there being a lot of snow. Rodney and I spent the day by going to the Remembrance Day ceremonies, playing hockey in the driveway, and generating what we thought were hilarious character sketches of friends and family on my Mom’s Underwood typewriter. Wanting to relive the excitement and thrill I’d had crafting up little passages that afternoon, I’d kept the Underwood typewriter out on the desk in the spare bedroom, and occasionally hammered out a few typewritten pages whenever the inspiration struck.
But it wasn’t until that summer during my fourteenth year when I actually sat down, with a dictionary and thesaurus by my side, at the kitchen table in the cool basement of my Baba’s apartment (my Baba had a kitchen, living room area, bedroom and bathroom in the basement of our home -- though we called it an apartment, it didn’t have it’s own entrance and was just a series of rooms in the basement) and started typing out a novel.
Day after day instead of heading out and playing, I slipped page after page into the typewriter and, using only my two index fingers, conveyed the tale that had been burning in my head to the typewritten page. The keys were stiff and hard and ink had built up in the spaces of the letters causing pretty much every letter that had a “space” within it to be filled in. But I kept at it until the work was completed.
I can’t remember what it was called, but I think it was something like “The Story of Conan Boc,” “The Adventures of Conan Boc” or “The Fall of Conan Boc.” I think I used that last title when I was trying to determine what "theme" my novel had used and my best guess was that "pride goeth before the fall" could have been in, especially since my main character met his end falling off the edge of a cliff into the murky depths below. And in the tradition of fantasy epics and soap opera's alike, I wrote a sequel to this several years later called “The Search for Conan Boc.” But I'm getting ahead of myself here.
My "Conan Boc" novel was a fantasy adventure novel, entirely based on characters that my good buddy Tom Potts and I had created while playing (everyone say this along with me) Dungeons and Dragons. Yes, like thousands upon thousands of beginning writers before me, I thought that readers everywhere would revel in the thrills and adventures that my nerd friends and I had had in a role playing game.
The main character was named Conan Boc. He was a barbarian if that isn’t obvious. (For those readers not versed in the fantasy adventure genre, Conan is a barbarian created by Robert E. Howard who ended up being played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in a short series of movies). The last name was short for Blue Oyster Cult one of Tom’s favourite bands. My own character, the main POV character in the novel, was called Thundar Hunt -- I seem to recall that he was based on a character (likely spelled Thundarr if I remember correctly), who was featured in a Saturday morning animated cartoon.
Parts of this novel were inspired by adventures that Tom and I had had as Thundar and Conan, other parts were ripped off completely from Conan The Barbarian comic books that I’d read, and the numerous sexual encounters peppered throughout the tale were the result of the hair-trigger stirrings my young adolescent mind. I think that this “book” was likely in the realm of 40,000 words or so. Not bad for a first attempt.
The novel still sits in a drawer or box somewhere. I haven’t pulled it out for at least 10 years, but I remember glancing over it one rainy afternoon and even then being embarrassed by it. The writing itself wasn’t so bad. It definitely could use at least a dozen more drafts to get it right, and the pace and timing of story elements was pretty decent. But I’m embarrassed by the fact that I’d completely liberated other people’s creations (and copywritten material). And as for the sex on every second page, well, what can I say? I was a horny fourteen year old. What do you want from me?
I know that this “first novel” of mine is completely unpublishable. But I continue to hang on to it for a few reasons.
One, it’s a reminder of the long lonely hours it takes to complete a longer piece of writing and the sense of accomplishment when that work is complete. Two, it's proof that if I had the dedication and commitment to sit there and work on it until it was done when I was fourteen, then I have no good excuse now that I'm (giggle) mature and (snicker) calm and (teehee) poised and stuff. Three, it’s one of the hundreds upon hundreds of writing efforts I endeavoured in that will never see the light beyond the bottom of my drawer or banker’s box and yet helped me develop as a writer. I see it as one of the stepping stones that helped get me from a “gee I want to write” phase to where I am today: “gee I want to write and I think that at least one or two people have read my stuff and kind of like it.”
I’ve come a long way, baby.
Friday, May 12, 2006
I recently bought a SanDisk Sansa m250 2 Gig mp3 player. And of course, I'm torn on what to listen to, because there's so much great stuff that I can take with me where ever I go.
I've ripped several of my favourite CD's to it as well as several of my favourite podcasts (like The Writing Show, The Survival Guide To Writing Fantasy and I Should Be Writing) and also chapters from some great podiobooks that I've been listening to. I've been on a bit of an audio-book/podcast listening phase lately, and will likely be taking advantage of my libraries offering of free digital audio book downloads to listen to books while walking between the GO station and work. (Gotta squeeze in as much audio-reading as possible -- so much great listening, so little time)
And I've got my own podcast efforts in the works right now. More to come on that soon -- I'll likely beg any of my blog readers for their feedback on a few "test podcasts" within the next week or so.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Upon discovering that Darth Tater and his army of clones had killed his father, Alexander launched a quick attack. "I'll mash you all!" he screamed as he lunged into the room. "I shall take vengance for my father's death at your hands!" (It actually came out sounding more like: "Yeeeeaaaah! Egobbledy!")
His attack was efficient and brutal. With giant steps he squished several under his feet, and with Batman-like grace and style, he knocked several of the clones out of the air and into pieces of so much dead spud.
Yet, despite the youth's initial upper hand, the sheer number of Tater's attacking him put him off balance. He fell back onto the couch as the clones began their redoubled efforts, lead by the leader, Darth himself, who felt he finally had the advantage.
Will Alexander get out of his current predicament? Will he pull a classic "Batman" move and pull out his anti-potato spray?
To be continued in HNT - The Final Standoff
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
As I was leaving the house at a little after 6:00 AM this morning, I glanced at our neighbour’s car which was parked across the street with all the windows rolled down. I simply shook my head.
Sure, it’s annoying that my neighbours are irresponsible, spoiled by rich parents and relatives, and are experts at anything that is conceived and done half-assed.
(No, I’m not talking about the neighbours on our left -- quite the opposite is true with them. Chad and Trish are the kind of neighbours one always hopes to have but very rarely finds. Good people, easy going, friendly, trustworthy, reliable, courteous and a lot of fun to hang out with. They’re good parents, their kids are smart and adorable. And besides, Chad and I share an affinity for the important "big kid" things: hanging out on the back deck with friends and beer, challenging each other with hot and spicy foods and taking turns hosting video game nights)
No, I’m moaning about the boneheads who live on the other side of us. I could possibly start up a website much one I remember seeing a few years ago called “My Stupid Neighbor” in which this guy continually posts stories and pictures of the sitcom-like antics of the guy next door. I could do that, but I’m sure people would just think I was making stuff up to be funny. (Besides, do a search on the term (or US spelling) and you'll see it's a pretty common theme already)
But, let’s get on with today’s rant: On the morning of my birthday this past weekend, we woke up to find that someone had stolen a large potted plant off of our front step in the middle of the night. Budgeting is tight, so Francine was delighted to be able to find the money to buy the plant which added to the beauty of our front lawn. And within 24 hours of the plant arriving at our home, it was stolen. Argh. The weekend before, Alexander and I had been playing/working in the front yard. We took an extended break so I could go login and work on some weekend IT duties -- and in the space of about three hours, someone had stolen his ball out of the front yard. Every Halloween someone ends up stealing one or more of the items off of our beautifully decorated lawn (okay, that I can chalk up to the impetuousness of youth, and while I’m not happy about it, I can handle that type of thing). Several years ago (on my birthday again), someone had stolen CD’s and a cell phone from a car parked in our driveway overnight. The list of theft violations, though small, goes on and on.
Though it might not sound like it, we actually live in a pretty decent neighbourhood. No, it’s nothing like the place I grew up in where you could leave the keys in the ignition in your car on the street overnight and nobody touched it, or go away for the weekend and leave your door unlocked so the neighbours could go and water your plants for you. But it’s pretty decent, relatively speaking.
So what really burns my ass (besides three foot high flames) is that Francine and I are relatively responsible when it comes to taking care of the things we’ve acquired. And our yahoo neighbours are the type of people who muddle through life, get everything handed to them on a silver platter and either piss it away or leave it abandoned to the elements of snow, rain, dog shit, etc. They barely look after anything. They constantly leave their car unlocked with the windows rolled down, even during rainstorms, their front yard is strewn with expensive kid and adult toys, bikes, roller blades, strollers, whatever -- yet not once has any of these items been stolen.
Yes, the low life petty shit-head scum-sucking degenerates who slither into our neighbourhood whisk right past the smorgasbord of goodies laying in plain sight next door and do their pickings at our house.
Though I'm far from being goody goody, I sometimes feel like Ned Flanders living next door to Homer Simpson.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
I really indulged myself, had a fun time injecting humour into the tale. I'm glad so many people enjoyed it, and went on to share their own "hot touch" stories in comments.
But I have to admit something -- I was being completely self-indulgent in that last post, I just let myself completely go. I didn't pause much to consider length or content -- I just let the story come out. And had a damn fine time doing it, too.
To me, that's the beauty and wonder of a good session of raw "open the vein" writing. At least the raw stuff, the fun stuff, the first draft kind of stuff that doesn't feel much like work. And it was a nice touch base back to why I started blogging in the first place.
Monday, May 08, 2006
Saturday evening, Francine and I went out on a date to celebrate my birthday. It was a fun evening. We started off browsing through Chapters, standing together yet lost in separate dreams of buying practically every book we both looked at, all the while knowing full well that there were already more than enough unread books on our shelves at home to keep us busy reading for well over a year, even if we were to read at some remarkable breakneck speed. But that’s just one of the afflictions we both have in common, and one of the things I truly love about my wife.
The only book we bought was a Baby Einstein book for Alexander. It was “The World Around Me: Oceans” -- because he loved the sister book in the same series “The Sky” so much. Then we walked over to Kelsey’s.
We don’t go out for dinner very often. But when we do, we like to return to a place where we know we’re going to enjoy the food, the prices are good and the staff are friendly. For us, the Kelsey’s in Ancaster has all that. (And they have Molson Export on tap as well -- so, even if they didn’t have all that, I’d still be drawn to it). We discovered a long time ago that even though this Kelsey’s is extremely busy and there’s a long wait for a table (the Silver City movie theatres are next door), there’s a wonderful small section at the bar with about 9 tables where you can just walk in. Whether we bellied right up to the bar or sat at one of the bar area tables, we’ve never had to wait and have always had a great time.
Sean, our favourite bartender, was on duty that night (I don’t think we’ve ever not seen him there - he's a friendly and likeable guy, and though we hadn't been back there in at least 6 months he remembered us), and we ordered a couple of beers and our standard appetizer: Four cheese spinach dip. Because we couldn’t decide on what to get, we ended up just ordering wings. Fran had the honey garlic and I went with suicide. I was a little fearful of how the wings might come when I told our waitress to let the kitchen staff knock themselves out and make them as hot as they could.*
* Three or four years ago we’d come to Kelsey’s for my birthday and I’d ordered a buffalo chicken sandwich with my standard challenge to see if the chef could make it so hot that it hurt me, made me run to the washroom and thrust my head in the toilet or just run screaming around the bar yelling that my head was on fire. In all the years of doing this, one of the only times any chef had succeeded was that one night.
What I heard, though, was: “Here you go mister big tough man. Nobody thinks you can handle this, so why don’t you just admit defeat and order the kiddie meal?”
“No way,” I said, choking back the tears from the fumes off my chicken sandwich. “I’ll be fine.” Francine piped in that I could handle it. Of course, again I didn’t hear those words, instead I heard: “My man is tough and virile and has a penis larger than most porn stars, and when he holds me in his rock solid arms and makes love to me, he lasts all night, and I burn with a never ending passion.”
My eyes had indeed started to water the moment I picked that sandwich up, and on my first bite I had the hiccoughs, my nose started to run and my brow was sweating profusely. After about ten minutes passed and I’d only taken a couple of bites, the waitress came back and again offered to replace the sandwich for me.
Again, I refused. The sandwich was hot -- too hot, in fact. The most painful hot food experience I’d ever had, thank you very much, and I’d tried plenty of painfully hot foods over the years. But I wasn’t going to give up on this. Besides, again I didn’t hear the kind offer, what I heard was: “Let’s be honest here pencil dick. You’re not the same young and strong man your wife married. You’re getting old and weak. We all know it. Let’s just face the facts here, bud. You're no Ron Jeremy. And you don’t have it in you any longer.”
I stood up and said. “I’m going to eat this sandwich, and when I get home I’m going to sweep my wife off her feet and bring her to new heights of ecstacy. And for your information, Ron Jeremy is jealous of my tremendous proportions.” The waitress gave me a strange startled look and backed off carefully without once taking her eyes off me. Kind of the way you saw people back away from Cujo.
It took me nearly forty minutes and several beers before I finished the sandwich. But I did. I think it was the first time since Francine knew me that I’d EVER taken longer than her to finish a meal. (Usually, when making breakfast, for example, I can completely cook her breakfast, set it in front of her, then start to make my own and still be finished my own eggs and toast before she’s half-way through hers).
During this time, the chef had slipped out of the kitchen, and with the gleeful anticipation of a child wanting to see the cherry bomb he’d just set go off and blow the cap off a fence post, he was looking around. He stopped the waitress and asked her a question, and she hooked a thumb in the direction of our table. I’d been doing my silly hot food ritual long enough to know the words being exchanged. Chef: “Where’s the dumb fuck who ordered the ‘hurt me’ sandwich?” Waitress: “He’s over there. But be careful. I think the heat and spice has made him delusional. He’s spouting random bits of madness.”
He looked over and we made eye contact. He froze. Caught like a deer in the headlights. I gestured him over. He slowly shook his head. Uh Uh. “C’mon” I said. He carefully took one step, then another, and stepped up to our table.
“In all the years I’ve asked for killer hot wings or suicide buffalo chicken,” I said. “This is truly the first time that anyone has succeeded in really making me hurt.” He took a step back, still a bit fearful. “Excellent job!” I said, putting out my hand. “Thank you.”
Without another word he scurried back to the kitchen. I looked at Francine, wondering if I’d said something to insult him. She shrugged her shoulders. (What I saw, of course, wasn’t that, but her winking at me, licking her lips and whispering, “Just wait until we get home, big boy.”)
The chef returned with an empty bottle of a hot sauce that I’d seen only once before and held it up proudly. It was called “Da Bomb: Beyond Insanity” -- it was the type of potent sauce that even experienced hot sauce fans are likely to enjoy in small pin prick droplets. He grinned a huge shit-eating grin and proceeded to tell me that he used half a bottle of that sauce on my sandwich, convinced that nobody would be able to eat it. (Just to show you how potent this sauce is, my buddy Shupe bought a bottle for me after hearing me recant this tale one drunken evening at one of our hot luck parties -- it has lasted several years even though I've used it in a lot of recipes in that time)
My mouth and lips and tongue burned madly for the rest of the evening as we ordered more beer then dessert and coffee. It was during dessert that I ran to the washroom to relive myself of the many beers I’d consumed while eating the hot sandwich.
Now, the usual ritual of going to the washroom is do your business and THEN wash your hands.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
We'll likely then all head off as a family to play at the park (if the rain holds off) and do some shopping -- then tonight, I get to go out on a dinner date with Francine. Awesome. Fran and I haven't had a nice quiet dinner together at a restaurant in way too long. Should be nice. I'm really looking forward to the dinner and if there's time, heading off for coffee and dessert -- there's a Second Cup location on Upper James. It's no Tim Horton's mind you, but the desserts are nice and there are comfy seats and a nice fireplace we can sit near and chat.
In fun birthday news today, I received the contract for two of my stories to appear in a UK published anthology called Naked Tales: Stories by Writers Who Blog. The very first story sale I made (a young adult humour piece) will be reprinted in it as well as a new short story "This Time Around" which was the genesis for and was converted into the first three chapters of the work in progress, my humorous mystery werewolf novel that I'm calling "A Canadian Werewolf in New York" -- pretty fun stuff.
Friday, May 05, 2006
So I started thinking back to cases in my own experience as an editor reading unsolicited stories where I’ve checked out, whether it’s because I’d rather be outside running barefoot through the grass, sitting on the back deck with a beer or perhaps just propped up in front of the idiot box letting my mind rot watching one of the countless unscripted drivel shows that pervade all the major networks. Or maybe I was checked out because it was raining that day and I’d stupidly forgotten to bring an umbrella with me and I was drenched, or I’d just gotten in from a marathon session of shoveling snow and my back was aching and my nose was still painfully numb with a suspected touch of frostbite.
But I came to a realization that made me proud as an editor. And I certainly can’t speak for other editors, but here’s how I approach a project in which I decide what’s accepted and what’s rejected.
I try very hard to catch myself whenever I sense that I'm becoming checked out. And if I recognize the symptoms, I immediately stop reading the story and do something else. If I don't I'll likely reject the story, not based on the story or the talent of the writer, but merely because I’d given up on the tale before it even began. Like those checked out casting directors Wil was talking about.
Let’s pause to remember a few things here. An editor is, (regardless of what frustrated rejected writers such as myself sometimes like to believe), above all, human. They are prone to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. So, though not purposely, it’s possible that if they read your story while having a really shitty day, they might reject it. Is it possible that they would have accepted the very same story on a day where the sun was shining, their supper hadn’t been burnt, or delivered late and with the wrong toppings or the baby hadn’t kept them up all night crying from an ear infection. Yes, it’s possible. One likes to believe that I truly brilliant story would cut through the rest of the bullshit in that editor's day. But as we all know, sometimes the bullshit can run so thick that we miss out on some gems.
And that’s why I continaully try to coach myself when I’m reading as an editor to try to catch those moments when I’m “checked out” -- if I do, I immediately stop reading the story, make a note that I’d started it and why I’d stopped and move on to something else.
In my own experience, pausing to do that has led to accepting stories I would have originally dismissed offhand, the way one absently swats at a fly as well as recognizing a good story by a talented writer that just didn’t hit home for the project, but prompts me to ask them to send me something else.
Doing this, of course, extends the selection process of editing. Sometimes to painful extremes And despite the writer in me, the one who anxiously wants to hear back on my sub now, not in another 3 to 6 weeks, I stick to this method. I try to sacrifice time and leaving writers anxious over rushing through the selection process and thus potentially missing a great story or a great writer.
That just wouldn’t be fair to the final project, the writer or to myself.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
So for HNT, I present two pictures of Mister Bunny and me. The first one is my favourite shot of the two of us, sitting in the living room and watching TV. Okay, I'm watching TV, he's got his eye on the camera. (I think this shot was 6 or 7 years ago)
The second shot is in the more classic HNT style -- I'm half naked on a lazy Saturday morning, laying on the floor in my boxers and petting Mister Bunny's nose. (Perhaps this is 3 or 4 years ago)
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
It's amazing how a little creature that was mostly quiet and weighed a little over 2 pounds could leave such a void. But it's true. Despite the fact that he hardly made much noise (apart from a soft grunting noise that meant he was happy or excited, or when he threw his dishes around, indicating to us it was time for a refill of pellets), our home seems to have a eerie sense of stillness and quiet now that he's gone. Yes, even in the midst of a toddler yelling and screaming and laughing and throwing his toys around, there is that sense of quiet, of something missing.
From the cute way in which he used to sneak over and steal a tortilla chip from the bowl back in our apartment in Ottawa, to the way he used to hide on top of the books on the bookshelves or jump up and run along the back of the couch . . . from the way he sprawled out in the sun and moved across the kitchen floor throughout the day following the sunbeam, to the time I taught him how to climb stairs and he delighted in the new adventures he could have on different floors of the house . . . from the way he grunted and ran to greet us, to the phase he went through where he used to chase and attack my white socked feet. From all of these things and more, he was a cute yet intelligent animal, a delightful personality, and a big part of our lives and daily rituals.
He'd been sick for the past several weeks, and despite our force feeding him and trying to keep him comfortable and multiple trips to the vet (with the hope that he would bounce back yet again like he had so many times before), he died on the morning of May 1st. He lasted long enough for Francine to sit with him and pet him, speaking softly to him, telling him it was okay to close his eyes and rest, okay to let go.
Yes, I cried when Francine called me at work and told me that he died just a few hours after I left for work. And I cried later on when I got home from work and felt the huge absence this quiet little creature left behind. I'll cry again in the morning when I come downstairs and there's no little black ball of fuzz to run around my feet and chase me. No happy little critter to say good morning to and pet while I'm having my morning breakfast. And I'll cry again, just because it feels good to let it out.
Mister Bunny wasn't just a pet. He was a member of the family. A rodent, yes. But one of us just the same. He played with us, came to work with us, was featured in the opening of our home movies and even guest starred in the Darth Tater series.
Goodbye Mister Bunny. You stayed in our lives far far longer than we ever imaged when we first met you. And in that time you left behind quite a legacy, and left our lives much richer.
We'll miss you, little one. We love you.
Monday, May 01, 2006
North of Infinity II will be coming out in Canada in mid June 2006. The release date in the U.S. is slated for September. It’s been a long haul to infinity as I moved from contributor to series editor.
The first book in the series came out in 1997 and was edited by a Micheal Magnini. When the second book in the series was announced, I sold a reprint story “From Out of the Night” to him back in late 1998/early 1999. The book was supposed to come out in late 1999/early 2000.
Having sold many stories over the years to markets that didn’t survive long enough to see my work in print, I’d pretty much abandoned the hope of ever seeing my story in NOI 2. I even went so far as to include my story “From Out of the Night” in the short story collection I’d published in 2004.
Then, just a few months before One Hand Screaming was released, conversations with Mosaic Press led to my agreeing to take over as editor of the science fiction series. As I looked through the stories that the original editor had selected before abandoning the project, I knew I needed a few more pieces to round out the collection. But I was also left with a dilemma: should I keep my own tale there? I’d always found it a bit suspicious whenever the editor of an anthology selects one of his or her own stories -- it’s certainly not for a lack of submissions to choose from. But I thought this case was different. I mean, after all, I hadn’t put it there myself. The original editor had selected it. I would just be leaving it in. That was a lesser evil.
I remember tossing the idea around among a few writer friends. Douglas Smith, an extremely talented writer, friend and co-contributor to NOI 2 (and someone with whom I’d exchanged countless “have you heard anything about NOI 2” queries before I took over as editor) put it in perspective. If my story had been an original, it would be a no-no. If it was a reprint, then that was fine. I liked that -- especially since it served the purposes of getting my story back into print.
So “From Out of the Night” was slated to be in NOI 2. And despite my reservations, I was okay with it. It was only during the finally assembly of the stories in which that changed. We needed to slightly trim down the anthology which was just a couple thousand words too long for the intended page count. My story ended up “on the cutting room floor” like so many of those movie scenes that might only appear later on in a “Director’s Cut” version of the movie.
But I actually feel a lot better about it. After passing judgement on so many editors who’d included their own work in an anthology, I wouldn’t have to be shamed with doing the very same thing, regardless of the circumstances that led to it.
And the collection itself is quite spectacular if I'm allowed to say so. I mean, I’ve only gotten through the page proofs of the first three stories so far, and I know I’ve read these tales countless times already, but these final hard copy printed pages are the first time that I’m starting to see it close to its final form and like a reader rather than editor (I’m looking mostly for typo’s rather than editing content, ensuring the stories placed near each other either play off one another, flow nicely or serve as refreshing contrasts in style and subject matter)
But I have to say I’m rather impressed and proud of the fact that it not only contains great stories from some of my favourite short story writers, but also includes several "first time sales" from some very talented sci-fi up and comers.