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Thursday, July 26, 2007

HNT - Curse of the Tall

I'm a tall person. I'm used to whacking my head on things, the fact that things such as seats designed for normal people aren't always the most comfortable and that some clothes just don't fit me right.

But I still had to laugh when I saw the new Costco membership photo that was taken yesterday.

I did see the woman who was taking my picture swivel the camera up significantly before taking my picture. But I suppose it just wasn't enough. One nice thing about the picture, I suppose, is it still leaves a mystery as to how much hair there is on top of my head -- meaning the photo should be good for a long time, even after all that hair up top falls out.


For those of you eager to see the next installment of the Darth Tater / Terror in Toyland storyline, stay tuned. Lots more excitement and goofiness coming next week.


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Monday, July 23, 2007

All About The Beer

I've written before on this blog that it's often all about the beer for me. One of the joys of travelling for work for me is discovering new local beers. Last night during our opening conference reception, I discovered a wonderful beer brewed in Colorado by New Belgium Brewery: Fat Tire Amber Ale. It was a simple, pleasant and light tasting beer with a smooth malty aftertaste. Easy to drink many of them on a hot night and not notice them going down. I'll certainly be trying that one again.

This evening, after our sessions ended a group of us walking along the Boulder Creek Path and headed downtown toward the Pearl Street Mall area. We ended up having dinner at BJ's Brewhouse.

I, of course, ended up choosing the sampler, which allowed me to try all 7 of their fine beers. They were all good in their own way, of course, but I favoured the Brewhouse Blonde (another nice light beer, a slightly malty taste, but smooth and goes down so easily on a hot night) and Jeremiah Red Ale (a stronger brew with a bit of a fruity aftertaste to it) the best.

Ken (who isn't pictured here, because he didn't send me the picture I took of him with his own samplers in front of him), took these pictures. The first one, is, of course, me and my seven beer -- no big shock there.

The second shot is me, Anna (UBC), Karen (San Diego State U), Randy and Lauri (U of Waterloo) -- and of course Ken (UBC) who took the picture. A fine bunch of people, not just because they're smart, lots of fun and great conversationalists -- but also because none of them made fun of the lovely pit sweat stain I was sporting.

Damn, I should have worn a lighter coloured shirt. Aw, who cares, the beer was good.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Da Count - Changes Aren't Permanent, But Change Is

This morning I listened to the new Rush album Snakes & Arrows for the first time. My very first listen to the album was on my mp3 player. Instead of buying the CD last night, I bought the special DVD edition of the album -- one of the reasons was to get the extras such as the video about the making of the new album. The other reason was that the special edition came with mp3 files. That made it easier for me to listen to the album.

I rarely listen to CD's any longer. I mostly listen to music and podcasts via my mp3 player -- and yes, I'm a geek. I either buy the music off of iTunes or I buy the CD and then convert the music files to mp3 format. I know I can steal them, and that it's simple and easy, but what can I say -- I actually like supporting the economy, I like supporting the artist -- and yes, I know, I'm also supporting the big giant nasty corporations who have the nerve to expect to actually make money, run these giant companies that employ thousands upon thousands of people who make a living and contribute to a capitalistic society off the hard work of these artists.

I'll always remember my fond introduction to the music of Rush. I was in high school and greatly concerned with an involved with the concept of nuclear disarmament. My good buddy Pete Mihajic told me about the latest Rush album which was Grace Under Pressure and the theme of it and how similar it was to my concerns about nuclear war.

Pete made a cassette tape of Grace Under Pressure for me and I listened to it. As many people are, I was originally leery about accepting Geddy Lee's high pitched vocals. I first focused on Neil Peart's incredibly inspiring lyrics. I fell in love with them. Then the music moved me. Then, I began to appreciate the distinct and unique range of Geddy's voice. I was consumed, I was empassioned, I was one with the music. I went out and bought the album (and yes, it was actually a record and it was vinyl), then bought Signals and Rush (their first album), and then slowly worked my way backwards though the years of their works and discovered this great stream of wonderful music. I could go on about how each one of the albums touched me or impressed me in different ways, but then this post would fill an entire book, and I'm already writing enough books at the same time right now, so I won't get into that.

While I'll always remember the joy of sitting and holding the vinyl album cover in my hand while sitting alone in my bedroom on the floor with the door closed and listening to the record playing (and often think that that was the very best way to appreciate new music), as the music industry evolved, so did the way I approached new releases.

I remember driving in to Sudbury to purchase the next Rush release, and listening to it on cassette in the car on the ride home (it was a 45 minute ride which was certainly enough to listen to most or all of an album). Then later, it was buying the CD and appreciating that.

And now, of course, listening to the album on my mp3 player while driving then walking in to work.

So while the manner in which I listen to the music has changed, I have been a Rush fan for a long time and I'll roll with those changes. Sure, as Neil writes on their latest album, it's a far cry from the world we thought we'd inherit, it's a far cry from the way we thought we'd share it.

But I can get back on.

And while this count might seem to be about appreciating the changes in music, or appreciating the wonderful music that Rush has produced over the decades, including the way they have evolved it's not. I'm actually counting my lifelong buddy Pete Mihajic and the fact that every time I listen to a Rush song I can't help but think about him and the fact he introduced Rush to me. That and the fact that, though we live in different parts of the province and our friendship has evolved over the years (we no longer go out on daily bike rides or do air bands to Rush down in his basement, though both are quite appealing to me even now) it's still a friendship that I cherish.

(You see, Pete's really shy and wouldn't want the whole post to be about him, so I did this count in a round-about way. If he knew the post was about him he wouldn't read it, but because it was about Rush, he likely read it the whole way through. So, thanks for the friendship, Pete)


dacount

Thursday, July 19, 2007

HNT - TiT - Desperately Seeking Susie


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


Continued from this post

Although Mark's first thought upon waking was that he should try to find Susie and help her, he realized that if he was going to be successful in saving his friend, he needed to ensure his own safety first.


(Yes, this is the chicken's justification for running scared)

Mark hopped to his feet and tried to put some distance between himself and the Tater crew. As he ran, he looked left and right but could not see Susie anywhere. "Where is she? I need to save her not only because she's a friend, but also because I owe her the favour. Besides, she knows where my pants are."

After running a few steps, he stopped behind a few blobs of Play-Doh so he could catch his breath.


"Okay," he said. "Now that I've caught my breath and distanced myself from the Tater crew, I can figure out where Susie is and rescue her."

But at that moment he heard Spud Trooper yell out: "There he is!"

And before he could do anything the Darth Crew had shot their special laser fire at the blobs of Play-Doh. They quivered and stirred and soon rose up to take on human shaped forms.

"Hang in there, Susie," Mark gasped. "I might be a bit delayed in rescuing you."

"Oh," the giant greenish brown Play-Doh man in front of him said. "You'll be more than delayed. You're so dead!"

The yellowish Play-Doh man behind him just cackled madly.


To be continued . . .



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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Earworms

I have this bad habit of infecting other people with earworms.

And here's the sad thing. I really enjoy it.

Okay, before you get all grossed out, just wait a minute. I'm not talking about an actual worm, nor about the implement used to harvest wax from ears for a variety of domestic, industrial, and ceremonial uses (as demonstrated by Oscar Wilde in the picture to the left) Tee hee.

Earworm is a term commonly used for songs that get stuck in someone's head.

I enjoy spreading them. Both in real life as well as in the virtual online universe. I mean, most of the Facebook status updates I do involve quoting lyrics from songs -- and I usually try to pick songs that are either annoyingly overplayed on the radio right now, or songs from the past that might be so old that they can't help both get stuck in someone's head and potentially also bring back fond memories to them (perhaps of a time when that song was popular). So, see, there can be nice side-effects of earworms.

But the favourite lyrics I like to use when injecting earworms in others would be lyrics from one hit wonders. Don't THOSE just stick in your head and drive you nuts?

I have a theory that the best way to get rid of an earworm is to pass it along to someone else.

That's why I invite readers of my blog to leave a comment with their own favourite hated earworm. Here, I'll get you started by asking you please don't tell my heart, my achy breaky heart. I just don't think it'd understand.

(There, now doesn't that make you want to infect ME with a really nasty earworm?)

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Writing Show with Mark Leslie - Episode Five

Episode 5 of the "Getting Published with Mark Leslie" reality show series on The Writing Show is now live.

This is a series of interviews with The Writing Show host Paula B as she follows my progress to complete a novel entitled "A Canadian Werewolf in New York" (or ACWINY for short)

The Writing Show is a free podcast of informative and interesting content about writing. If you're a writer you should check it out. And don't worry, most of the Writing Show guests are fascinating and intriguing people -- they're not all goofy like me.

(And look -- here's a fancy picture of me looking all serious and author-like. Doesn't that make you just want to go out and find anything I've written and give it a read?)

In this particular episode you can hear:

  • about a "pitch session" I had with a senior editor at Leisure Books during World Horror Con 2007 (including what a pitch session is and how I prepared for mine)
  • how little writing of "A Canadian Werewolf in New York" I actually did in the past three months because I was working on the novelization of I, Death to send to Leisure Books
  • why I think I am a "that-a-holic" (and the fact that I cut "that" from the preceding sentence, which originally read "why I think that I am a "that-a-holic")
  • a fun and wonderfully written aside about clove cigarettes from another Writing Show listener (Mark Herbst)
  • a discussion about the challenges of outlining in fiction
  • Paula use the newly invented phrase "pulling a Rob Sawyer" (after I explained how my friend and mentor Robert J. Sawyer is a powerful force of inspiration and continually reminds me the importance of planting butt in chair and getting the writing done)
  • a wonderful critique of a scene in which I introduce the werewolf Michael's girlfriend Gail by internet bad boy and humourist Mick Halpin.
  • how little writing of "A Canadian Werewolf in New York" I actually did in the past three months
  • my feelings of insecurity over being so much further behind Jean Tennant (TWS's other "Getting Published With" guest.
  • more pleas for Writing Show listener feedback particularly with helping me fill in a particular phrase that can so easily end in a cliche.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Da Count - Hot Luck Friday the 13th Tradition

For at least the past 6 years or so (I'll have to go back and try to look up when this actually started) Francine and I have been holding a "Hot Luck" bash every Friday the 13th. It is basically a "Pot Luck" for lovers of hot and spicy food.

We borrowed the idea from an event that happens in Port Dover every Friday the 13th -- motorcyclists converge on Port Dover for a weekend of fun and celebration.

One year, as a Friday the 13th was approaching, we were chatting with our neighbours Chad and Trish about our love of hot and spicy foods. Talk led to getting a group of people together to share and trade favourite hot and spicy recipes and it was decided we'd hold these gatherings on Friday the 13th.

Since then every Friday the 13th (with one exception, when Francine was pregnant and not able to tolerate smelling ANY sort of food, never mind digesting it), we've held our fun bash.

There have even been a few times when a year didn't have any or enough Friday the 13ths, so we held one anyways. (One year it was held on Friday August 15th -- we tried to double theme it and called it a "Hat Luck" where everyone would wear their favourite or silliest hat to the party -- yes, this was the day after the Great Blackout of 2003 -- it was the smallest gathering we'd ever had, maybe only 6 people attended that night -- but it was the year I created my infamous "blackout ribs" that are still talked about as my greatest killer offering. I haven't been able to properly recreate them since)

Fran and I love hosting parties, and love gatherings of friends. That's why, this week I'm counting traditional gatherings of friends. Should be another fun blast tonight.


dacount

Thursday, July 12, 2007

HNT - Vacation Shots

I'm off work this week, enjoying relaxing with Francine and Alexander. On Tuesday we spent the day at Port Dover (a fun beach day) and Wednesday we went to Niagara Falls. It's nice that both places are within a 1 hour drive from Hamilton.

Alexander was funny -- when we first drove past the falls, he looked out the window and said: "Hey, neat" and then the very next thing he said was "Need my bathing suit. Go swimming there, Dad," as he pointed at the American falls.







Next week, I promise I will return to the HNT Darth Tater Terror in Toyland series.



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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Really Good Collaboration

Michael Kelly, Carol Weekes and I are working on the final drafts of a collaboration story we decided to write exclusively for a group book signing event we'll be attending at BakkaPhoenix Books in Toronto on August 25th. We'll be doing a signing with fellow horror authors Brett Alexander Savory and Sandra Kasturi.

We're producing the short story as a limited edition chapbook (100 Numbered Copies) which will only be available from BakkaPhoenix Books.

While Carol and I have collaborated on stories before and Carol and Mike have also (they actually just signed a contract for a collaboration novel they're written for Humdrumming Books in the UK), the three of us have never worked on a project together. But this project went extremely well. I like to compliment myself by saying my writing messes nicely with Carol and Mike's writing style.

The result, IMHO, is a fun and chilling little story. It takes place in a science fiction bookstore in downtown Toronto, Canada's oldest independent sci-fi bookstore, in fact and follows the struggles of the bookstore staff when dealing with the mysterious death of their manager as well as this evil little thin yellowed paperback that appears on the shelves. The working title for the story is Relic: How to Get Ahead in Retail. (Yes, the story is set in a fictional version of BakkaPhoenix, Canada's oldest sci-fi book shop -- we call the bookstore BP Books and all of the staff of the store are completely fictional -- so is this evil little book, we hope)

Monday, July 09, 2007

No Penguins Were Hurt In The Writing of This Blog Post

At work we'll be holding a "Hurt Penguin" sale starting July 23rd. I mean, after getting over the giant highs of the final Harry Potter book on July 21st, we need to do something fun and exciting.

And what is more exciting than ordering in a giant skid of books from Penguin Books Canada that are slightly shelf worn, perhaps a little bent, scratched, scuffed, etc and selling them at bargain basement prices?

In the pre-sorting of the titles we'll be bringing in to stock, I saw an incredible collection of adult and juvenile titles. The biggest problem with this sale, IMHO, is that I'll likely be buying WAY TOO MANY of the darn things. No, that won't be the problem, the problem will be trying to sneak the books into the house without Francine seeing them.

I wanted to share a fun video I put together to help promote the sale. It's about 50 seconds, and have a few fun penguin clips in it -- many of which people have likely already seen, but I like the way I used them in this context and added a little classical music to it. (Okay, now that I'm done patting myself on the back, here's the clip)



CLICK HERE FOR DIRECT URL LINK TO VIDEO

Friday, July 06, 2007

Da Count - Counting Alexander

Tomorrow my son will turn 3 years old. When he was born on the 7th month on the 7th at 7 pounds, people told us our lucky number is seven. Francine and I, though, kept thinking our lucky number must be 3, because when he arrived we were a family of 3.

Tomorrow the magic of both those numbers come alive when he turns 3 years old on 07 - 07 -07. Three sevens. And while his birthday is on the 7th, mine is on the 6th and Fran's is on the 8th. His date number is nicely nestled between ours -- you know, symbolic of the protection we offer as parents.

(No, don't worry, I'm won't go all Jim Carrie on you and start to find 3's and 7's in everything, the way he found 23 in everything in the movie number 23 -- I still haven't seen the movie but it looks interesting -- I just find the 7 thing interesting)


This is the picture we're putting on his birthday cake tomorrow for our huge little Thomas fan.
Speaking of Thomas, Alexander's favourite train in Thomas & Friends is Percy.
Thomas and Percy's numbers 1 & 6, add up to 7.


Alexander has been quite excited about his upcoming 3rd birthday for quite some time, talking, every day about it, about who he wants to come to his party, about his Thomas cake, about all his friends that will be there playing with him in his bouncy castle, in his pool, running around in the back yard. His excitement about this and the enthusiasm which he approaches most things is contagious and invigorating. He consistently gives me a fresh new perspective on things that I thought had gotten old and tired.

I couldn't begin to express how fortunate I am, how lucky and blessed Francine and I feel about our son Alexander. I likely go on and on way too much on this blog about him, about the things he does, the stuff he gets into, about the overwhelming love in my heart for my son -- but I suppose it's my right as a father.

I just want to count, officially, for the record, my son Alexander.

I love you with all my heart, my beautiful son. Each day with you is an uncountable joy and blessing.

(And just wait until you get older and start to realize how embarrassing your father can be, particularly when he starts posting pictures and gushing about you on his blog and your teenage friends find it and start making fun of you, nevermind when he wears black socks and sandals or tries to be cool and "hang" with you and your friends)


dacount

Thursday, July 05, 2007

HNT - Stars & Leafs Forever

This week I'm following orders from the HNTer-in-Chief, himself, Osbasso. He suggested a theme this week for our HNT pics to be patriotic, fireworks, picnics, brass bands, Mom & apple pie celebrations. He asked us to take our cameras out us this weekend and be proud we're North Americans!

Well, I'm proud to be a Canadian and proud to have such wonderful American neighbours (and proud of the fact that I can throw u's into words like neighbours and my buddies south of the 49th parallel don't make fun of me.

I took a few shots of some of the fun we have over the past weekend.

Here they are, left to right:
(You can click on them to see the larger image)

1) Alexander wearing his Canada t-shirt and doing his best "Sears" pose.
2) Me, Alexander and friends John, Renata & Emma enjoying a backyard swim (you might remember John from an HNT post from a few weeks ago - Trained Professionals)
3) My token "half nekkid" shot of my Canada Day underwear (has phrases like: "Hockey Night in Canada" "Montreal smoked meat" "Back bacon" "Poutine" "Strong beer" "Toonies and loonies" and other fun Canadianisms)
4) My Canada Day "Product of Canada" shirt
5) Francine and Alexander enjoying a backyard swim
6) Alexander running through the sprinkler while sporting his 100% Canadian t-shirt.







Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canucks! Happy Independence Day to my buddies in the US!
Happy HNT to all of us! And God bless us, everyone!


Go visit the original Patriot, Osbasso by clicking the link below

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Drooling At Commercials

One of the books that I truly enjoy re-reading to Alexander is one written by Susan Heyboer O'Keefe and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. It is called One Hungry Monster: A Counting Book in Rhyme.

We own the board book version of it.

This is a wonderful little counting exercise about a boy who wakes up to discover that the house is riddled with hungry monsters. The rhymes are fun, the counting is wonderfully worked into the rhymes without being overbearing, and the story it tells is cute and funny.

The book opens with: "One hungry monster, underneath my bed, moaning and groaning and begging to be fed." The story continues on to two monsters and so on in a catchy and fun to follow manner, all the way up to 10. The rhymes are cute and playful and stick in your head nicely. There are some days when I'll recite the book while walking around and have to catch myself in public and make sure I'm not reciting it aloud.

In fact, I'll often sit and read this aloud, even after Alexander is asleep, that's how much I like it.

So many of the rhymes in this book are fun and delightful to read (yes, even for the hundredth time), but one of my very favourite parts is the number seven, when there are:
"Seven hungry monsters
'round our TV screen
drooling at commercials
for sauerkraut and beans"


Sauerkraut and beans! Gotta love it! The perfect meal for messy little monsters.

I'll be needing to go out and buy a new copy of the board book pretty soon, because our version of it is practically worn out.

Actually, I just noticed this while looking for a link to this book on Amazon, but it looks like there is also a Hungry Monster A B C book by the same writer/illustrator team. And it looks like it just came out in June. Woo hoo!

All right! I know what the next book I'll be buying is.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Really Good Fake Ghost

A buddy of mine sent me this link to a video clip. At first it appears to be a really good clip of proof of a ghost that is making the rocking chair move all on its own.

But if you look really closely, you can see, just to the bottom left of the leg of the chair, that there is a string being used to pull the rocking chair and that is what is making it rock.

It's tough to spot, so you have to look really closely - the screen flickers for a moment, then you can see the string being pulled.




(Click here
to go to You Tube and see the video.)