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Friday, June 30, 2006

Congratulations Roxane and Benny

On Wednesday night, Alexander started running a pretty high fever. He hadn't been feeling well all day, and didn't have much of an appetite. He threw up on both Francine and I a couple of times each, so it was at about 12:45 AM or so Thursday that I was driving off to a Shopper's Drug Mart on the other side of the mountain that was opened 24 hours to get an acetaminophen suppository.

He didn't sleep much that night, so I opted to work from home on Thursday (both so I could sleep past 5:20 AM and also so I could help out during the day). Today is our company's stat holiday for Canada Day, so I'm already off, and he didn't sleep again much last night.

His fever is better now, and he's starting to eat, but he's still not doing all that well, and so Francine and I are not going to be heading off to the wedding reception of Roxane and Benny this evening. Roxane and I have worked together since 1999 and she is a phenomenal woman. (When we were a management team she was the real powerhouse behind the success of our team -- and there were often times when we saw more of each other than we each saw of Francine or Benny so you've gotta know she's a good sport to be able to put up with me for so long) Benny is a great guy too and a lot of fun. And it's been way too long since we've done anything social with those two. We were really looking forward to celebrating their marriage with them, but Alexander's needs come first.


So, congratulations, Rox and Benny! We'll be thinking about you two tonight!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

HNT - Memories of Dad

June 28th was my father's birthday. He died in 2003 in his 65th year. Way too young. But I'm fortunate to have countless wonderful memories of him.

My cousins and my uncle and I always made a big deal about my father's birthday which always meant a big party. We often rented a special pump and got a draft ball to celebrate his birthday (a draft ball is kind of like a keg, only made of a white plastic -- you attached this manual pump onto it to get the beer out -- always lots of foam at the beginning and end, but always lots of fun. And being from North Eastern Ontario, the only kind of beer you got in a draft ball was Northern Draft)

So, in honour of my father, I post a picture of us at "Santa's Village" when I was about my son's current age (check out the old "Dad" socks he's got on), and another one of us at the BBQ enjoying one of those "father/son/beer/BBQ" moments we cherished.


Happy Birthday, Dad! I miss you.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Spamalot

For kicks, I enjoy going through the spam filtered emails that quickly fill up the “Spam” folder in my gmail account. Wow, that little sucker sure fills up fast, like a liquor or beer store the night before a long weekend, or like my wife’s blatter whenever we go on a long car trip.

I’m continually amazed at the subject text in many of these emails, laughing recently at the following:

  • hot chick admits to bringing a ruler on dates

Of course, I remember all of those embarrassing times when I was out on a dinner date with a hot chick and about midway during the meal she would wink at me before quietly slipping under the table. I’d get all excited when she started fumbling with my zipper but then was disappointed to discover that she was just taking measurements.

If only I’d had the secrets being offered to me in this delightfully revealing piece of spam.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Got To Make The Toothpaste Last

Francine and I are frugal by nature. We've always tried to stretch our incoming funds as far as possible. It's not as bad as those “dry toast” weeks we had when we were living in Ottawa and both working at really low paying retail jobs and barely making the rent. But we have found similar ways to cut costs trying to survive on a single income -- despite the frustration of constantly doing creative budgeting, we both feel strongly that it’s important for one of us to stay home with Alexander while he’s so young.

Payday is tomorrow, and I can’t wait, because we get to buy a new tube of toothpaste. We've been squeezing this same poor tube so thin for several weeks that I've got blisters on my fingers.

It reminds me of this old Canadian saying about someone who is overly tight or frugal: "He's so tight he'll squeeze a nickel until the beaver shits." (I suppose it's funny if you're familiar with the beaver version of the nickel -- yes, here in Canada there's no President or Prime Minister on our money. On one side it's an animal and on the other the Queen. "God save the caribou" is printed in a tiny font on our Quarter.

It could be worse, I suppose, we could be taking the old 6 month old Arm & Hammer Baking Soda out of the freezer and brushing our teeth with that. Yum, old freezer taste flavour. Much better than freshmint. And we haven't yet gotten to the point where we usually cut the tube of toothpaste in half and then swish our toothbrushes around inside the tube to get the very last bits of toothpaste out of it.

But tomorrow is payday. We get to splurge and buy a brand new tube of toothpaste. Woo hoo! Until then, there'll still be lots of beaver shitting and caribou shitting in our house. (See, I stuck to the high ground and didn't say we'd squeeze our change so hard that we'd make the Queen shit. That'd just be crude)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Arrival of Infinity

On Saturday June 24th, Canada's Premiere Science Fiction bookstore, BakkaPhoenix hosted the launch for North of Infinity II. Published by Mosaic Press, NOI 2 has been in the works for about seven years now. For myself as well as for many of the contributors, seeing this book in print was like seeing an old friend you never thought you'd again lay eyes on.

Seven of the contributors and a wonderful group of sci-fi fans and friends celebrated the arrival of this book with the support and assistance of the spectacular staff and management of BakkaPhoenix.


Karen Danylak, Stephanie Bedwell-Grime, A.M.
Matte, Robert J. Sawyer, Mark Leslie, Douglas Smith,
Kimberly Foottit, Stephen Graham King


Each of the contributors told a little something about their piece in this collection (always a fun thing for me, because I've got a soft spot for the "behind the writing" look at any excellent piece of fiction) and then proceeded to get writers cramp from signing so many copies of the book.

I was touched and honoured when Rob Sawyer, the Dean of Canadian Science Fiction, skipped over talking about his story and spoke about how delighted he was to see a Small Canadian Press put out another mostly original collection of science fiction. He then went on to offer me several compliments and praised me for dropping my own story from the collection when I moved from contributor to editor in the evolution of this book's history to make room for another writer. (It was pretty easy for me to do, actually, since the stories in NOI 2 are far far better than anything I've ever written).

A special note for writers out there -- do you know that BakkaPhoenix offers a discount to writers? Woo hoo! Not just the best selection of sci-fi, a friendly, well read and knowledgeable staff, but a discount for published writers? Just reason after great reason to shop there.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

HNT - Spud Wars The Conclusion

Continued From HNT - All This Violence

As Alexander and Darth Tater were playing violent video games, the shadows behind them shifted and moved. And out of the shadows came a hand -- a startlingly familiar hand, holding a fork!

It was Mark! Mark? But he was supposedly dead. "But, you're dead. I killed you myself! I saw it with my own eyes. And since I'm a potato I have a lot of those." Darth muttered as he was hoisted into the air by the power of the forks.

"You killed the evil Mark, not me." Mark said, laughing madly. "Didn't you notice his facial hair?"

"Aw, that's not fair," Darth Tater said. "It's the old evil Captain Kirk 'goatee' thing. Not fair at all. This is supposed to be a spoof of Star Wars, not Star Trek."

"Spoof is a spoof is a spoof," Mark said. "It's all fair game. And now, your game is up, Tater." And with that cliched statement, Mark bit down into his enemy.

Mark and Alexander then took turns snacking on their enemy.

"Mmm," Alexander said. "I love potato. Try the arm, Daddy. It's just like a French Fry."

"Mumfh klpsp," Mark said, his mouth too full of spud pieces to respond intelligently. But it sounded an awful lot like 'Could use a little ketchup.'

When the victory snack was finished, the father and son team yelled "High Five!" and then started to do their happy dance.

But they didn't hear the creaking of someone coming down the stairs . . .

To be continued in HNT - Spud Wars The Epilogue

(the next one is the final-final one - I promise)




He may have facial hair, but he's definitely not evil.
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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Hanging Basket Thieves

Close to Mother's Day, thieves took off with two hanging basket plants that were sitting on our front step. Francine had just bought them on the Saturday and was preparing to hang them on a shepherd's hook the next day. But some low-life scum stole them off our front porch in the middle of the night. (I ranted about it back here).

During the early morning hours after Father's Day, thieves stole the two hanging basket plants (that would have nicely matched those first ones) off the shepherd's hook itself.

It makes me wonder. Is someone watching our house, waiting for us to put out specific plants and then stealing away with them? Who sneaks around in the middle of the night and steals plants? The four stone statue bunnies (also easily stolen) were left alone. As were the hanging plants in our neighbour's front yard. So are the thieves targeting particular plants? What's up with that?

Monday, June 19, 2006

North of Infinity II Launch Party

North of Infinity II will be HOT off the press when Bakka-Phoenix Science Fiction Bookstore (697 Queen Street West, Toronto) hosts the launch party for North of Infinity II on Saturday June 24th at 3:00 PM.


What a wonderful opportunity to get a signed copy of this spectacular anthology.

Onhand will be: Stephanie Bedwell-Grime, Karen Danylak, Kimberly Foottit, Stephen Graham King, A.M. Matte, Douglas Smith and Robert J. Sawyer. (Oh, yeah and I'll be there too)

If you can't make it to the event, don't despair -- simply call 416-963-9993 and reserve a signed copy for yourself today. And if you're from out of town, but would still love to have an autographed copy shipped to you, inquire about it by phone or at inquiries@bakkaphoenixbooks.com

Daddy Hugs

I often have this soft spot when I think that Alexander never got a chance to meet either of his grandfathers. Particularly since I'm sure he would have had a blast with my Dad, who was so good with kids because he was just a big kid at heart. But I do have some great memories of my father, and I plan on sharing them with Alexander. I also plan on making tons of memories together with him so that he can look back on his own old man with fondness.

One of the simplest pleasures I had was sitting on my Dad's knee and watching television with him, or going fishing together (the boat ride was the funnest part for me because I wasn't all that useful once it came time to gut and clean the fish) -- when I got older, I remember just wanting to sit and have a beer with him. (Yes, he even loved me when I had a mullet) And I'm fortunate because I had many opportunities like that as a young adult. When Fran and I would visit, one of the best parts of the the visit for both Francine and myself was hanging out in the garage and having a beer with my Dad while he BBQ'd supper.

There are many days when I long for the chance to have just one more beer with him and tell him how much I admired him or maybe just to sit back and listen to him laugh while he told me a story about his youth. But then I remind myself not to dwell on what isn't, and instead, focus on the right here and right now; so whenever I start thinking like that, I usually go give my son a huge hug.

His hugs, like my father's own hugs used to, give me the most wonderful heartwarming feeling. I'm very fortunate to have been and to currently be on the receiving end of such blessings from the generations that surround me.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Secret Magical Recipe

Yesterday, while giving my son his bath, I just sat back and watched him, completely enjoying doing nothing but watch him as he played in the tub with his little plastic shovel, bucket and watering can.

First he would fill the watering can, then pour the water into the bucket, put the can down, retrieve the shovel, and mix the water. He repeated the effort multiple times, as if following some secret magical recipe, this beautiful look of determined concentration on his face that was the spitting image of the look Francine gets when she's focusing on a task.

Then, after a couple of minutes of the best spectator sport I can envision, he looked up at me. The look of intense concentration transitioned into a slight query and then a huge smile in a beautifully wonderful single fluid motion.

And as my heart melted, and I again fell in love with my son and my wife, I realized what that secret magic recipe was that my son was working on.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

HNT - You Can Pick Your Friends

This week's HNT is inspired by the wonderfully zany puns often found on Rainy Pete's blog and might perhaps be an "in" joke for those who are fans of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada and its hosts Ron McLean and Don Cherry.

But when I was walking by the CBC building in downtown Toronto, I just couldn't resist posing for this HNT photo which I like to call . . .


Cherry Picker




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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Redrum

So Samson and I are still partaking in our marathon work session. We managed to grab about three hours of sleep before continuing on. It's okay, really, we're doing all right, having a good time, getting the task done. But one small thing comes to mind, and it's that all work and no play makes Mark a dull boy...all work and no play makes Mark a dull boy all work and no play makes Mark a dull boy all work and no play makes Mark a dull boy all work and no play makes Mark a dull boy all work and no play makes Mark a dull boy all work and no play makes Mark a dull boy
all work and no play makes Mark a dull boy
all work and no play makes Mark a dull Jack

all work and no play makes Mark a dull boy
all Mark and no work makes play dull a boy
all work and no play makes Mark a dull boy all work and no play makes Mark a dull boy all work and no play makes Mark a dull boy
and no play makes Mark a dull boy
all dull and no work makes Mark a play boy
all Mark and no work makes play a dull boy
all Mark all Samson all work all work all music all the hits all the music no talking all workday and no play makes Mark a dull boy
All playboy and no work makes Hugh Hefner happy
all Samson and no play makes Mark a dull boy all work and no play makes Mark a dull boy all work and no play makes Mark a dull Samson
all and play Mark dull
all waijai and no work no makes a boy
all and play Mark dull
work no makes Samson a boy

Okay, time to call it a night, I think. My little finger is starting to twitch and speak to me. Hmm, there's a fire hose and axe in the cabinet down the hall. Pardon me a minute, I must go there now.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Lost in Downtown Toronto

Maybe it's because we're punchy from having been sitting in a meeting room and working on a tight-deadline project this since 10 AM Sunday morning (it's now 2:15 AM Monday)* but now that the alarm code keeps going off once per hour, Samson and I are convinced that it's set to go off every 108 minutes and that if we don't rush to disarm the alarm, the magnetic field will increase to such a dramatic limit that the CN Tower will come crashing down on our building. And instead of being afraid, we're giggling like giddy little school children. He's calling me John and I'm calling him Dr. Jack. (He is a certified Medical First Responder, after all).

The good news is that we're about to pack up now -- at least I don't have to drive home to Hamilton now, but that we've got rooms at the Holiday Inn across the street - gotta like that commute.

* Okay, we did take two 1.5 hour breaks today to head over to Book Expo and hob-nob with publishers and authors. So sue us for wanting to have a little bit of fun in all this madness

Friday, June 09, 2006

PodCast - Prelude To A Scream - Episode 02

This podcast thing is kind of addictive. It was back in March when I started listening to podcasts thanks to advice from my buddy Shupe. Mathew Growden might be responsible for unleashing me into the blogosphere, but we’ll have to ultimately hold Shupe responsible for my podcast affliction that started with a couple of podcasts featuring Wil Wheaton’s talk at Gnomedex 4.0.

Since then I’ve started regularly listening to podcasts, and my favourites include: The Writing Show, I Should Be Writing, Pod of Horror, Podiobooker (as well as the various podiobook.com serialized book podcasts), EscapePod and The Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy.

That’s the great thing about podcasts. Unlike mass media outlets like radio, they needn’t cater to a “Top 40” generic audience (to please advertisers) and can be about whatever specific thing turns your crank. For me it’s writing. But for someone else it might be cross-stitching, cooking, auto repair or maybe even insights into their favourite television shows (several friends of mine are addicted to the “Lost” podcasts -- no, not podcasts that are missing, but the ones based on the television series about the plane crash survivors on a mysterious island). And despite how young the phenomenon of podcasting in, there’s likely already a podcast out there for your particular little niche, regardless of how unique it might be.

And also unlike television and radio, you can tune into a podcast whenever or wherever you like. For me, it’s usually while waiting for the GO train in the morning or evening, or the walk between the train station and work. If I can ever get my work week reduced back down to between 40 and 50 hours, I might even be able to start jogging again -- in which case, a fun podcast would be just the thing to listen to on a run.

When I first became interested in podcasting (inspired to release my book One Hand Screaming as a serialized podiobook), I started reading online sources as well as books like Podcasting for Dummies and The Absolute Beginner’s Guide To Podcasting. And, of course, I kept listening to what was out there, to see the things that were being done that I liked and also perhaps what I hadn’t been able to find yet.

It’s been fun. And the feedback so far has been great -- both supportive and useful. Much like the fun I’ve been having since I started blogging, I’m having a lot of fun putting together podcasts.

So thanks, Shupe. (I say that both appreciatively and also with a bit of sarcasm -- I haven’t quite decided -- because, and I blatantly steal Mur Lafferty's sentiment when I say this, but I really should be writing)


I now present: Prelude To A Scream - Episode 02 in which I read from five different poems and then talk a bit about the writing of each and my own haphazard approach to writing poetry. Oh, and I've monkied a bit with the opening sequence and think it's a bit improved over Episode 01.


DOWNLOAD MP3 BY RIGHT CLICKING HERE

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN ONLINE

Thursday, June 08, 2006

HNT - All This Violence

Continued from HNT - The Final Standoff

As Alexander put Darth Tater into an unbreakable half nelson, Darth said: "I give, I give. But please put me down, I have something important to say."


"Okay," Alexander said. "I'm all ears."

"That's funny," Darth said. "Because I'm all eyes. Get it? Eyes? A potatoe that's all eyes?"

"It's not funny if you have to explain it," Alexander sighed. "Now tell me what you wanted to say."

"I wanted to say that if you look at it, we're even. Your father ate my father as a pile of french fries, and I slaughtered your father. So we're even. We should call a truce."

"Hmm," Alexander said. "You do have a point. Maybe we should call a truce."

"Ah," said Darth. "This feels good."

"It sure does," Alexander responded. "But you know what? All this violence makes me want to play violent video games."

"Yeah," Darth said with a grin. "Me too."

And so the two sat down and turned on the X-Box and started to play violent video games, proving the age old belief that violence in the real world breeds the desire to play violent video games (and that if you have to repeatedly explain a joke, it's not all that funny to begin with).

But, as they were engaged in their game, neither of them seemed to notice a strange shadow creeping up behind them . . .

To Be Continued



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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

My Son Homer


Have you ever seen that episode of The Simpsons where the doctor makes this comment that Homer must have suffered some sort of blunt trauma to the head, then there’s a sequence of clip after clip from various different episodes where you see all the times Homer has taken one on the noggin?

Homer’s got nothing on my son Alexander.

Much like his mother, whom I’ve often referred to as “pinball” for her affinity for walking into and bouncing off of walls, Alexander has proven himself to be cut from the same silly putty. While we were playing last night, in the span of less than 10 minutes, Alexander whacked four different parts of his head six times on various objects: The back door, the underside of the kitchen table, the door frame to his bedroom, the box spring frame of our bed, the wall beside his dresser and the bookshelf on our landing.

I was initially thinking that for his forthcoming 2nd birthday I might try to buy him a bear suit to try to keep him protected, but based on the fact that he whacked himself really hard with every single hit but only stopped his playing to cry half of the time, I wonder if that’s even necessary. I mean, given the hard-headed nature of this child, I wonder if we’ll even need to ever buy him a helmet.

As Luck Would Have It

So the much feared (but mostly joked about ) 6-6-6 (or rather 06/06/2006) came and went without any visits from the Dark Lord. I guess that means next year’s highly anticipated 07/07/2007 won’t actually be a lucky 7 kind of day.

Monday, June 05, 2006

More I, Death Spoiler Stuff

After debating on whether or not the character of Mr. Robinson was going to die a villain or a hero within my "I, Death" thriller, I finally resolved the situation and will be posting the "conclusion" to the "what the hell happened that night when Peter and Robbie were at Chapters?" episode that started on May 14th.

I greatly appreciate the comments, emails, advice and suggestions I received concerning the whole situation. I was really torn, and much of the feedback I received helped me formulate a set of circumstances that stay true to Robbie’s character, stay true to the circumstances that I set up, and help tie back several things that have happened over the past couple of months within the tale.

Thanks, everyone, for your kind words and honest feedback. I've got some wonderfully insightful readers.

Friday, June 02, 2006

PodCast - Prelude To A Scream - Episode 01


I'm preparing for the recording and production of a series of podcasts for my short story collection One Hand Screaming which I intend on submitting to the wonderful gents at Podiobooks.com. They've got a great selection of books for free that is continuing to grow, I love the service that they're providing and want to be a part of this exciting mixture of literature, audio books and podcasting. Hey, you can listen to some awesome books via podcast episodes for free. Check them out!

So by way of warming up, I've started to create some podcasts called Prelude To A Scream. I'm hoping to use these as practice towards the series of podcasts for my book, by trying to learn the ropes of the specifications they require and also trying different things and seeing what works and what can be improved in terms of content. My goal is to be able to provide a good quality product. I'm not there yet, because this is my first stab at it, but I know I'll only get good at this by doing it and learning from my mistakes.

So without futher ado, I present to you, Prelude To A Scream - Episode 01 in which I explain what I'm doing, read the very beginning of my latest published short story "Being Needed" and then talk a bit about the writing of the story.

DOWNLOAD MP3 BY RIGHT CLICKING HERE.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN ONLINE

I would like to invite readers of my blog to have a listen and either email me comments (mark (at) markleslie (dot) ca) or just drop a comment here. For example, you can poke fun at the way that I make Grandpa's voice in my story narration sound like a whimpy Clint Eastwood. Or you can give me hell for using 128 bitrate rather than 64. I encourage both technical and content feedback. Go ahead. I can take it.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

HNT - The Naked Writer

It's been extremely hot and humid in the Hamilton/Toronto area these past few days. So can you blame a guy for wanting to stay cool while multi-tasking? (I'm working here on work email on my laptop while fiddling with a story concept on my desktop that just wouldn't let go)


Then again, this might just be a staged photo, what with my book on the desk beside me. And for you Darth Tater fans, do you see the little inspiration for that whole series sitting on the top shelf? I'm rather proud of this shot because, like many of my HNT colleagues, I'm revealing a part of me that I'm not all that fond of, my bald spot

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