Thursday, May 31, 2007

HNT - TiT - The Great Train Escape

Terror in Toyland (TiT) - An HNT Adventure
by Mark Leslie

Continued from this post

"Okay," Mark finally said. "I have an idea."

"Great," Susie replied. "What is it?"

"An idea is any conception existing in the mind as a result of mental understanding, awareness, or activity."

"No, I know what an idea is. What is YOUR idea?"

Mark smiled. "I know, I was just trying to be funny. Why don't we hop the next passing train. That should take us out of here and hopefully out of the range of the Tater gang's laser shots."

"Great idea!" Susie said, and lept onto the nearest passing train.

Mark hopped on the car in front of her and they sped down the tracks.

"Woo hoo!" they both yelled out, the wind in their hair. (There was more of it, of course, in Susie's long flowing hair than there was in Mark's diminishing locks, but you get the point)

"This was a great idea!" Susie said. "You're a pretty cool dude."

"Thanks," Mark said, smiling.

Just then, the train headed up a steep hill and was heading towards a broken set of tracks that just ended in mid air.

"I take that back. This was a stupid idea," Susie said. "You're an idiot!"

"Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" was all Mark said as the train started to plummet off the tracks.

To be continued . . .

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Replication Theory

I've been enjoying watching the new reality show "On The Lot" which has a group of aspiring directors competing for a chance to win the opportunity to work with Steven Spielberg. I'd temporarily amused myself with the concept of applying and sending in a really goofy short film I shot back in the late 80's that I called "Tough Guys Big Adventure" (a spoof of Conan The Barbarian type adventures) which was followed by 4 sequels over the following 4 years).

Aw who knows, I might end up posting it on YouTube just for the fun of it.

But in any case, I've been enjoying watching the short films being produced for the show by some phenomenal young directors, and particularly enjoyed one by Sam Friedlander called "Replication Theory" - it's about farting, so those of you who don't like low-brow humour, don't bother watching.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pop Goes The World

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a real sucker for a cheesy romantic comedy. I mean, what other style of movie would a horror writer be a sucker for, right?

This past weekend, Francine and I rented the Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore movie Music & Lyrics. Hugh Grant plays a washed-up 80's pop star living off his previously earned wealth and replaying all his old hit songs at school reunions, theme parks, and state fairs. He's given a chance at a real comeback by appearing on a new album with a contemporary hot young star, and ends up working with a character played by Drew Barrymore who has a previously untapped talent for composing lyrics.

The movie opens with a hilarious send-up to music videos from the 80's that has a real Wham! feel to it. (I mean, how much more obvious than the band name "Pop!" could you make the reference?) Early in the movie there's a scene which takes place at a high school reunion that is simply priceless. Francine and I were practically rolling off the couch because we were laughing so hard.

I'm sure the critics must have panned this movie, but we loved it. The plot, writing and direction was simple and economical yet perfectly effective. The characters stayed nicely within their alloted roles (ie, they didn't do anything stupidly outrageous and out of character just to get a cheap laugh) and the movie makes you feel good (as romantic comedies should). I'm sure that part of the reason I liked this movie was the examination of the creative process. But the overall film itself just sat well with me.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone who was a teenager in the 80's -- even if you don't like the story or plot (and there are many fun things to like about it, including the way it mocks the music industry -- both the industry of the 80's as well as the current state of it) you're likely to get enough enjoyment out of the whole nostalgic feel to that as well as the "reality TV" mentality" thing that's also joked about.

And yes, I'll also admit that while the music was also cheesy, it perfectly fit the mood of the movie (Grant and Barrymore actually did a good job of performing in their songs) and I want to hear the songs again. So I'm actually considering buying the sound track.

Okay, now that I've exercised my romantic comedy feelings it's time to go write a scary scene with monsters and blood and gore and stuff.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Monster Librarian

I was delighted to learn that my book One Hand Screaming was reviewed on the Monster Librarian website. The site exists for five main reasons (click here to read them), one of which is to help librarians and teachers help reluctant readers discover the joy of reading. I particularly like that they also exist to encourage fans to expand their interests beyond movies and television by introducing them to excellent fiction.

One Hand Screaming was reviewed in the "Something Different" area -- titles that don't quite fit into any of their other categories. I was pleased to see that reviewer Bret Jordan enjoyed the tales and that the book is listed with the "Recommended for public libraries" disclaimer.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the review that make nice blurb bites. Because, after all, an author can never look for enough nice blurb bites.

"This book is sure to capture the imagination of almost any reader."
- Bret Jordan,

"The stories themselves are a unique blend of horrifying tales, with a twist of humor that provides an interesting contrast between screams and laughter."

- Bret Jordan,

"Leslie's stories are . . . thought provoking in a way that in uncommon in many horror publications."
- Bret Jordan,

Thursday, May 24, 2007

HNT - TiT - Stalling

Terror in Toyland (TiT) - An HNT Adventure
by Mark Leslie

Continued from this post

"Oh no!" Mark said. "They're shooting at us!"

"Yeah, I know," Susie said. "You just said that."

"Aw, c'mon," Mark said. "I've got to repeat the last line from the previous episode, or at least paraphrase it to give the reader a chance to remember where this story last left off."

Susie grinned "Okay, but no more gimmicks for the rest of this post, okay?"

"Alright!" Mark tried to sound calm, but couldn't control the panic from his voice. "I can't take this any longer."

"What, the suspense of this awesome adventure?" Susie asked.

"No," Mark said. "The fact that this story is dragging along and we're still being shot at and haven't gotten to the next fun and exciting thing that's supposed to happen."

"Well, you're the writer." Susie said. "Why don't you write the next bit already?"

"I can't. I don't have any new images to go along with what's supposed to happen next. I mean, after all, I'm in Montreal right now, away from my camera, so I can't do any new poses, can't really advance the story that much."

"Excuses, excuses," Susie said. "Yet again, I need to save the day while you keep stalling. I can't believe I agreed to be a part of this silly mess you call a storyline. Here, I'm going to suddenly have the ability to deflect their shots and help us escape. Sound good?"

And then Susie jumped in front of the shots being fired at them and started deflecting the shots. "Okay, I'll deflect these shots, you figure out a way for us to escape."

"I'm still rather scared." Mark said, standing behind her frozen in fear.

"Oh man, you already used that picture of yourself you know . . . just figure out a way to escape already, okay."

"Escape the shots?"

"No, escape the stupid stalling of this storyline already!"

Will Susie and Mark escape the shots being fired at them?
Will Mark keep stalling the storyline?
Have you already given up on following this silly adventure?

To be continued . . .

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Writing Stuff

Received some updates over the past several days regarding various writing related activities.

  • The book NAKED TALES: STORIES BY WRITERS WHO BLOG (which will include the very first short story I published "The Progressive Sidetrack" -- a young adult humour tale in the vein of Ferris Bueller's Day Off) has been delayed a couple of months and should be out by mid to late summer.
  • I had a story accepted to appear in the next issue of The Online Journal of Contemporary Horror: Dissections. This also is slated to be out some time in the summer.
  • I've been accepted as an affiliate member of the Horror Writer's Association.
  • The trio of authors (myself, Carol Weekes and Michael Kelly) appearing at Bakka-Phoenix books in Toronto on August 25th has grown to include Brett Alexander Savory and Sandra Kasturi. And THEN there were FIVE!
And, of course, I'm still struggling to finish the outline to the novelization of my online serial thriller "I, Death" as well as finish the first draft of "A Canadian Werewolf in New York."

No rest for the wicked.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Da Count - HNT

This past week, HNT (Half-Nekkid Thursday) celebrated a 2 year anniversary. As the lead of the whole HNT bloggy movement, Osbasso has helped cultivate a real sense of community.

Just to summarize for anyone who isn't familiar with the concept of Half-Nekkid Thursday it's basically a celebration of exposure. And exposure doesn't always mean flashing your naughty bits. Exposure could be as simple as a picture of your thumb or as intense as exposing a deep, heartfelt piece of your inner self. In many cases over the past few years, I've seen a very interesting mixture of all three -- sometimes all at the same time in a single post.

Through blogging I've met a lot of people and made many friends online. But HNT has helped introduce me to an incredible variety of people whom I am now privileged to be able to call friends. Within the realm of HNT, I've been able to expose some deeper thoughts and feelings, expose a little bit of my middle-aged man flesh (just enough to be risque, but not enough to turn most people's stomach), exercise some creative juices, do a little self-promotion for my own writing as well as the writing of others, and also be able to make up and tell some bizarre and silly stories.

So to Os, for championing the movement, and to my fellow HNTers, whether you've already retired from the weekly ritual, are still an active member, or just joined -- THANKS and Happy Anniversary.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

HNT - TiT Outtakes 1 - Surk Marsie

If you came here hoping for the continued Darth Tater / Terror in Toyland HNT storyline, please pardon this minor diversion from the tale. The story will continue next week.

I had to take a moment and spotlight a behind the scenes look at the making of this series. I know that it's really hard to tell, but since Susie and I have never met, the magic of bringing us together for this storyline was actually created by Photoshop. Yes, yes, I know, it's hard to believe because the images are just so REAL looking.

But the truth is that it's all very carefully orchestrated special effects using photo enhancement.

To illustrate, I'm going to share a few of the outtake shots that ended up on the "cutting room floor" so to speak when my fingers slipped when trying to create those incredibly unbelieveable special effects used in this world-renowned HNT storyline.

And yes, though these photos look incredibly believable, please don't concern yourselves. There wasn't a freak accident where Susie and I exchanged heads. It was just a Photoshop slip-up.

Click the following links to read the entire HNT Terror in Toyland storyline so far, which WILL continue . . .

Half-Nekkid Thursday is celebrating its 2nd Anniversary!
Two Years of Naked Thursdays! Happy Anniversary!
Click the image below to visit Os and learn more about HNT.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Another Triumph!

Last year the President's Choice product line released a wonderfully exciting barbecue sauce called Smokin' Stampede Beer & Chipotle Barbecue Sauce. It came in a generously sized 1 Litre bottle. None of this pint sized salad dressing sized sauce bottle. This was a real sauce lover's bottle of smokin' goodness. It had just the right combination of standard smoky barbecue flavour mixed in with chiptle (and, of course, beer)

This summer, they've released a follow up to what was a popular sauce. (Of course, like most fun flavours that are released to the masses and which have a nice hot kick to them, I find that I seem to be the only one who likes them and they disappear off the grocery store shelves shortly after appearing. Hmm, kind of like really cool television shows I like -- shows like Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip or Windfall or that wonderfully classic drama Manimal. No wait, I take that back. I just checked and it looks like Studio 60 is returning to NBC on May 24th. WOO HOO!)

Okay, a bit of a sidetrack there. Back to the sauce. Yes, this summer they've released a follow up sauce and added even MORE kick. They now have Smokin' Habanero Barbecue Sauce. Fran picked it up at the grocery store and I had it last night on chicken. It has the same standard underlying smoked BBQ flavour to it, yet this one has even more of a wonderful spicy punch.

I think I have a winner for what sauce I'll be using on the next Friday the 13th Hot Luck party we hold. This sauce is going to make some awesome ribs.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bakka Event - 3 Horror Authors

I'm quite delighted to be participating in an event with two friends of mine (Carol Weekes and Michael Kelly) for an event at Bakka Phoenix books in Toronto on August 25, 2007.

We, will, of course, be flogging our books. Michael's excellent new short story collection Scratching The Surface, Carol's brilliant new novel Walter's Crossing and my old faithful One Hand Screaming.

I'm sure that Bakka Phoenix will also have copies of the anthology North of Infinity II which I've edited onhand.

But the exciting thing about the event, apart from the fact that I get to hang out with Carol and Michael again, is the fact that we are collaborating on a very special story that will be produced in chapbook format and available exclusively as a limited print run at Bakka Phoneix. It has been a long time since the three of us have collaborated on a writing project together and will be the first time that the three of us alone have produced something as a team effort. (The last time, we were three of a much longer string of writers working on a round robin story that was produced by Lone Wolf Publications on a CD-Rom anthology).

Friday, May 11, 2007

More Please!

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a gushing parent. I'll make no bones about it. But dammit, my son is so damned adorable. I love the fact that when he's eating something (and the good news is that it's plenty of something's that he loves to eat right now) he often asks for more. There are times I'm inspired to write a story about a boy with a bottomless stomach when watching him polish off certain meals and continually ask for more. Who knows, maybe there's a cute kid's book in there rather than a horror tale of a child who ate the entire house around his parents.

I suppose the cutest thing about the way he asks is that he always says: "More please!"

I'm reminded of an old Libby's beans commercial from my youth that has a voice over talking about the product while the camera is aimed at a little boy adeptly working at finishing every single brown bean on his plate. As he finally finishes off the last one, he lifts his plate and says: "More beans please." No, not as planted in my memory as the Alphagetti Gobbler, but still a fun and cute commercial nonetheless.

Oh, and since I already gave the disclaimer about being such a proud, gushing father -- Alexander is waaaaaay more cute when HE does his "more please" shtick.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

HNT - TiT - Susie To The Rescue

Terror in Toyland (TiT) - An HNT Adventure
by Mark Leslie

Continued from this post

"Gulp," Mark repeated, staring at the doom on wheels racing down the track toward him and realizing that in most episodic story lines it's important to give the audience a chance to remember where things stood when they last left off.

It was during this pensive moment that fellow blogger and HNT participant, Susie appeared seemingly out of nowhere, yelling out the words: "I'll save you!"

"Oh, Susie, you're just boss!" Mark yelled.

Susie grabbed at Mark's legs and pulled hard.

Mark's pants came off.

"Hey, what's the big idea?" Mark said.

"Opps," Susie giggled. "Of course this is Half Nekkid Thursday, and you haven't shown much skin lately. I thought I'd do my part and help out."

"Stop goofing around and get me off these tracks. Please."

"Oh, alright," Susie said, taking off her t-shirt. "Okay, now my arms and shoulders are bare, so I now qualify for HNT." And she reached down and grabbed Mark by a leg and pulled him off the track.

"Oh thanks so much," Mark gushed. "You saved my life."

"T'weren't nothing," Susie said with a rue smile.

"Oh no, I just realized I don't have any pants on."

"So," Susie laughed. "You've definitely shown more skin in your HNT posts."

"No," Mark said. "It's not that. I was hoping I could show off my Spider-Man underwear on another post."

"Oh, don't be silly," Susie said. "I'm sure you have plenty of other Spider-Man boxers to show off in future HNT's."

"Yeah, you're right."

Mark paused and looked at Susie. "Wow, it's so cool to meet you in person. But how did you end up on MY blog and in THIS storyline?"

"Ah my friend. There are more things in the blogosphere than are dreamt of in your philosophies. It's likely that I sensed a need in a fellow blogger and stepped in to help. Bloggers can be quite empathetic."

"Wow," Mark said. "And I thought that the internet was just good for porn and stuff."

"No, no, no, you're thinking about The Other HNT. This is the regular HNT."

Just then, lazer fire shot out at the two of them.

"Oh no!" Mark said. "Darth and his crew must have seen that I got away from the train. Now they're shooting at us."

Will Mark and Susie be able to escape the line of fire?
Will the silly and bizarre backgrounds continue to haunt this series?
Will the writing ever get any better?
Find out in future episodes of "Terror in Toyland"

To Be Continued . . .

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Stretching A Good Thing

I was recently chatting with my friend and fellow author Kimberly Foottit -- we were talking about the fact that she was getting some pretty good mileage off of her debut sci-fi story "Walter's Brain" -- within the space of about 8 months the story had appeared in two markets. Hamilton's "Hammered Out" magazine ran the story in their annual fiction issue and at about the same time I bought it to appear in NORTH OF INFINITY II and the story was short-listed for a Hamilton Literary Award

The whole issue of reselling a story to another market was interesting. Personally, there's nothing I enjoy more than selling a NEW story to a market. But there's also a nice sense of satisfaction in selling a reprint story to a market, particularly a new and fresh market, likely where the readers haven't seen it before.

Take Kimberly's story, the heart-warming tale of a researcher who falls in love with the brain he is archiving. It first appeared in a small press lit mag and reached a particular audience that most likely don't read much speculative fiction. Not to say that none of the magazine's readership reads genre fiction, but that the general market they cater to likely don't read much sci-fi (Except maybe when authors like Margaret Atwood write a literary story that she would never admit to being a work of speculative literature). So when Kimberly's story appeared in the Mosaic Press anthology "North of Infinity II" which is particularly aimed towards a science fiction/speculative fiction readership she likely reached an entirely new audience of people who never saw her story the first time it was published.

I've sold reprint rights to several stories and poems over the years. Recently, I can site two examples. The first short story I ever had published was a young adult humour story called "The Progressive Sidetrack" -- it first appeared in 1992 in a small press magazine from Ohio with a circulation of under 500 and is being reprinted this month in a UK anthology published by Humdrumming called NAKED TALES: STORIES BY WRITERS WHO BLOG.

I also just signed the contract and was prepaid for my story "Browsers" to appear in what looks to be a phenomenally exciting book from Dead Letter Press edited by Tom English entitled BOUND FOR EVIL (yes, I'm an avid book lover, so can't wait to read this one). "Browsers" was first published in a Canadian speculative fiction magazine called Challenging Destiny in 1999. It was reprinted in my short story collection ONE HAND SCREAMING in 2004. And now a very slightly modified version of the story is scheduled to appear in Tom's exciting new anthology. Since the appearance in "Challenging Destiny" was so long ago, and the fact that my own story collection didn't get wide U.S. distribution there's a really good chance that readers of this new Dead Letter Press anthology aren't going to have seen my story before.

There's an interesting aside about that one, too. Because when I read the guidelines for the anthology, I started thinking about a tale I could write which would nicely fit in. But in the back of my mind something kept telling me that the editor would like my story "Browsers" -- I thought that the story was "close" but didn't quite match the guidelines in which he wants the book to be the villain. In my original story of "Browsers" the bookstore was the "bad guy" rather than the books. So rather than have that debate in my head I thought I'd query Tom and see if he'd be willing to look at "Browsers". He said I was right that the tale didn't match his guidelines but that it did sound interesting and he was willing to look at it. He ended up liking it so much that he wanted to use it in the anthology. Since it was so "close" I offered to tweak the story a bit to make it clear to the reader that the "books" are the evil force at work in the tale rather that the bookstore, and it then fit dead on.

I recall a story relayed to me about Canadian poet Carolyn Clink who read the guidelines for Don Hutchison's first NORTHERN FRIGHTS book. Though he didn't explicitly say he wanted or didn't want poetry, she queried him about it. Don ended up publishing her poetry in every single edition of the 5 book series -- imagines from one of those poems still linger playfully in my mind all this time after having first read it.

I'm going to try to sum up two morals, or bits writer advice from these stories:

1) It's okay to re-market, to resell a published story or poem to another market. This could introduce your writing to a whole new readership which isn't a bad thing at all.

2) Unless they specify explicitly that they don't welcome queries, or a piece of writing in a particular style or on a particular subject, it's okay to query if you have something that might not match the editor's specifications 100% but which you think might be close enough to be considered. I mean, after all, it's better to ask and be told no then to not even ask in the first place (Hmm, asking and being told no brings back so many memories of my younger dating years...)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Spam Bastards

Overnight my inbox was inundated with a slew of emails that were rejected due to the fact that the address I supposedly emailed no longer existed -- some of them were delivery status notification emails, some of them notifications from spam filters, some of them user unknowns.

This is worse than simple spam because some spam bastards have used fake email addresses attached to my domain ( to create a barrage of attacks. When I set up my domain I didn't set up any of these garbage accounts, but they've been attributed to me and are coming back into my inbox as if I sent them.

What frightens me is that there's now crap out there in other people's inbox that looks like it came from me or my domain. If I got THAT many bounce backs, I wonder how many thousands of emails were sent from my domain, and I'm not sure the effect it's going to have on my real email address. Sigh.

So instead of writing something fun and creative this morning, I'm off to see what I can do to put a stop this nonsense. Like most petty ass cheap chicken-shit crimes, I'm sure there's not much I can do and the bastards will get away with it.

Yet again, underhanded sneaky bastards have stolen -- this time they've stolen my writing time. More theft, more underhanded bullshit. Ah, but isn't the internet great because it gives low-lives yet another way to take away from the average person?

Monday, May 07, 2007

And Eat It Too

I had a wonderfully enjoyable birthday weekend. On Saturday I had a relaxing dinner with Francine, we did some exploring and relaxing in Cambridge, saw Spider-Man 3, and stayed in a cozy hotel room (while Alexander had a sleep-over at his cousin's place). On Sunday, after spending a fun time at my cousin's place in the morning, Alexander and I did some yard work and chores.

But the best part of my birthday came at dinner time, when Alexander and Francine sang Happy Birthday to me (He's getting quite good at singing, and I particularly enjoy the way he rocks side to side while singing) and watching Alexander polish off two slices of my birthday cake.

Does life get any better than this?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

And The Forests Will Echo With Laughter

Yesterday was a really busy day. I'd booked the day off work so that Francine and I could move some furniture from her Mom's house. Alexander was, of course, extremely helpful in doing that, as well as in helping me clean out the back of my truck.

Towards the end of the afternoon, our plan was drop off some supplies for Francine as she was setting up for today's "Mom to Mom" sale at the church hall, dropping off some library books, and heading to Canadian Tire to buy a new vacuum cleaner. (We're really hard on vacuums and I try to tell Francine that we don't NEED to vacuum every day, but she now has Alexander in her corner. He loves vacuuming. Of course, his version of vacuuming is plugging it in for me then running around laughing and pointing at the spots that I missed. He's almost big enough to control the vacuum on his own. It'll be fun for us to switch roles, because I can't wait to be the one running around and laughing and pointing out spots he missed.)

We'd been planning on buying a Dyson vacuum cleaner. You know, the ones that don't lose suction. I know they're more expensive, but they were on sale at Canadian Tire and I'm tired of our vacuum cleaners dying on us and thought that we should get a really good one. These Dyson puppies seemed like just the thing. Of course, Canadian Tire was sold out, but they did have a "knock off" Dyson cleaner that was built on the same technology and which was also on sale. So we decided to get that one.

After Canadian Tire I figured Alexander had done enough work (though he does manage to find lots of fun things to do no matter where we go - us adults have SO MUCH to learn from children about enjoying life) so we headed off to the park where we played grocery store (I bought and ate lots of wood shavings from his little corner shop), played on the seesaw, went down the slide, and climbed and swung on the monkey bars.

On our way home we passed an ice cream truck so we stopped to get a cup of soft serve chocolate/vanilla swirl. We were sharing the ice cream while driving home, and Led Zepplin's "Stairway to Heaven" came on the radio. Since the song wasn't finished, nor was our ice cream, we sat and sang along with Robert Plant while finishing our ice cream. Life doesn't get much better than that, now does it?

But the cutest thing happened about an hour later while Alexander was having his bath. I was humming the tune of "Stairway to Heaven" and Alexander starting singing along. Apparently he picked up on the following part really good because he kept singing it while I was humming: "Oooooooo, it makes me wonder." It was quite precious. We, of course, had to head downstairs and serenade Francine with our song. I'm a pretty crappy singer, but the duet I did with Alexander was definitely gold.

I wonder which songs I'll teach him today. Something from Pink Floyd's "The Wall" -- perhaps a tune off of The Who's "Who's Next?" or maybe the title track from "Fly by Night" by Rush.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Da Count - Stan Lee

What better time than the eve of Spider-Man 3 than to express my appreciation for one of my heroes. From the time I was a young boy I was captivated by the stories that flowed out of Stan Lee's pen. Of course, among all of the superheros that I read about, I was most enamored with a young nerdy teenager named Peter Parker who gained super powers and learned the hard lesson that with great power comes great responsibility.

I immediately identified with the nerdy loner with a great sense of responsibility who did his best to fight crime and other wrongs in the guise of his Spider-Man costume, but by day had to face real world teenage pressures like being snubbed by the prettiest girl in his class or being bullied. As Parker matured, he also faced other real-life things that I don't think other comic book superheros faced back then. He had trouble paying the rent, had trouble with his landlady, got colds and the flu in the middle of fighting major bad-guys, and he got an ulcer. Stan Lee was a pioneer of taking a fantastic world and bringing it back to reality -- Spider-Man was one of the very first teenager super-heroes and certainly the first to be so angst filled and have to deal with realistic adult real-world pressures.

Stan Lee not only provided me with endless hours of entertainment through the stories he told and characters he created, (as well as the ones he started and then passed the reigns along to so many wonderfully talented writers over the years), but he also inspired me to create my own superhero stories. When I was really young I used to play with little Fisher Price action figures and pretend they were Spider-Man, Daredevil and Captain America; I passed more hours than I care to count creating little stories about them (while, of course, staying true to the characters I knew and loved in the comic book stories of the Marvel Universe)

Part of the reason I'm a writer today is because of the inspiration that Stan Lee gave me -- that it was possible to tell larger than life stories about real people. That you could have supernatural and super forces meet reality and still tell a touching, moving story with characters a reader could care for.

Thank you, Stan.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

HNT - Naked Snake Press

I was delighted to receive an autographed copy in the mail of my good friend Carol Weekes' first novel Walter's Crossing. I'm delighted to be able to re-read such a fine book and am absolutely joyed to see this book in bound trade paperback format.

The publisher, Naked Snake Press, (see, there is a valid link to Half-Nekkid Thursday) used a blurb that I provided for the back cover of the book.

"Walter's Crossing is terrifying because it's real. Weekes' characters are intense and believable. She has crafted a tale that draws you in right away and doesn't let go even after the story is finished. Her writing resonates with the angst, fear and trepidation of the teenage experience of bullies and the disturbing, chilling acts of retribution and revenge. Reminiscent of Dan Simmons' Summer of Night and Stephen King's The Body the characters and scenes in Walter's Crossing will live in the reader's heart and mind long after they turn the final page."

The book is available in paperback format or as an e-book and I strongly recommend it to anyone who likes a thrill or a chill when they read a novel. It's definitely money well spent and makes for an excellent summer read.

Stay tuned NEXT WEEK for when the HNT Darth Tater saga continues and features a very special barefooted guest . . .

Want to learn why every Thursday I focus on nekkid?
Click the link below to learn more about Half-Nekkid Thursdays


Wednesday, May 02, 2007


I just finished listening to two podcasts featuring my friend Robert J. Sawyer. Rob is not only a phenomenal writer, but he is also a brilliant and captivating speaker.

First Podcast - Click here to download and listen. In an interview with Tee Morris at Ravencon where Rob was guest of honor, Rob talks about various topics such as his latest novel Rollback, the recent hub-bub over Howard Hendrix's comments about writers who give their work away for free being called "webscabs" as well as about the need for writers to market themselves.

But one of the things that I was reminded about was how Rob is a wonderful ambassador for science fiction not only because he is a wonderful speaker, but because he consistently reminds people that science fiction is not all about high action stories that teenage boys read in comic books or watch on television, but that it is rather the "literature of ideas" -- and his fiction (which you can read tons of free samples of on his website here) is a great illustration of that.

Second Podcast - Click here to download and listen. This is an excerpt of Rob giving a lecture on the importance of a strong and consistent point of view in writing at Odyssey: The Fantasy Writing Workshop. Within the lecture he discusses the theory of homunculus, the little man inside our heads and how easy it is to break that concentration on point of view by offering some subtle examples.

I'm reminded, listening to Rob in these podcasts, that I will never give up any chance to listen to him speak, whether it's in person, on television or the radio or in a podcast. And regardless of it being a reading from one of his novels or stories, giving a talk about writing, or just talking about current developments in the world of science, he is fascinating to listen to and the perfect example of how to hold an audience captivated with his every word.

Hmm, maybe it's because when I hear Rob speak I get to be the humunculus inside of his head for a while and the view is pretty darned cool.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Surprise! See it!

Last night when I was drying Alexander off after his bath, he looked into our bedroom and saw a Sears bag sitting on the floor of our bedroom. His eyes lit up and he thrust his index finger into the air (the way he does when he has an intriguing new thought or idea) and he said: "Surprise!"


"Surprise! Daddy!"

Oh, oh, I thought. Francine must have bought something for me for my upcoming birthday and told him it was a surprise for Daddy. Seeing the Sears bag must have triggered the memory and he was excited to share the surprise with me (several days early, of course).

"Okay, let's brush our teeth," I said, trying to distract him.

But, like his father, he's bull-headed and insistent. He kept on with his train of thought. "Spider-Man towels! Surprise! See it!"

I tried to explain to him that Mommy didn't want me to know about the surprise until my birthday, but just the same I'm quite excited. I asked for Spider-Man sheets for our bed, but I'm pretty sure they don't think they make them in queen size. What's the matter with bed sheet manufacturers? Don't they know about all the adults out there like me who refuse to grow up?

So I'm pretty sure I won't be getting Spider-Man sheets for our bed. But Spider-Man towels? Well that's fun not only for the beach, but for daily use! Woo-hoo!