Friday, August 29, 2008

Da Count - Flying Toast

I love the fact that my son's mind is constantly tuned in to the "imagination station" -- ie, he's not gaining thrills from watching too many television programs or videos but that he's getting them from the wonder of the things his mind can come up with.

Here's a perfect example.

A few weeks ago, when he was helping me make toast, he was getting frustrated when the toast popped up.

"No, it didn't work!" he shouted, and pushed the lever on the toaster back down.

I was watching and could see that the toast was a little too light. I hadn't realized he preferred his toast dark and "well done" like his old man.

When the toast popped back up a few minutes later, much much darker and on the verge of burning, he shook his head, gave a frustrated grunt and said. "It didn't work! Try it again!"

"No," I panicked, reaching forward to stop him from pressing the lever down again. "It'll burn. There'll be huge billows of smoke. The fire alarms will go off. Mommy will be upset. I'll be sleeping in the garage again."

"But it didn't work!" he shouted, very frustrated.

"What do you mean? The toast is dark. It worked."

"No it didn't. It didn't pop up."

"Sure," I said. "It popped up. Look."

"No, it didn't," he insisted, crossing his arms. "The toast is supposed to fly up in the air, do a loop de loop and then land on my plate."

I finally understood. You see, my mind was tuned to mundane reality, instead of my four year old's very cool Imagination Station, so I completely missed that fact.

But it really made me start to wonder. Flying toast would be a really cool thing. Why hasn't someone designed a toaster with two settings. One, a setting to determine the darkness of the toast and. Two, a setting to determine how much force will be applied when the toast pops up.

That way you'd be able to control not just the amount of toasting that occurs, but whether or not you want it to pop up normally, or the fun, thrilling, flip through the air way as desired by my son (and now by me).

Now wouldn't that be a cool thing?

This week, I'm counting how fortunate I am to be able to reap so many benefits from tuning in to my son's Imagination Station. :) Thanks, Alexander.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

HNT - Hulk

At the CNE last week, Alexander and I had our chance to get our photo taken with the Incredible Hulk as part of a Symantec promotion.

We did one serious pose.

And one silly one.

Of course, with Alexander and Daddio it's really hard to tell the difference between silly and serious.

Happy Half-Nekkid Thursday.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Shit You Pull Out Of Your Ass

How's this for a catchy line from an interview?

So, why do you think anyone would pay to read the shit you pull out of your ass?

In a recent interview with Andrew Pyper about his new novel The Killing Circle, Claire Cameron gets away with asking that question without offending him.


Because she's quoting one of her favourite lines from Pyper's new novel -- a fantastic thriller that I quite enjoyed.

The interview, which was posted on BookNinja runs about 13 minutes and is a great one, particularly when Andrew starts talking about the seeming reluctance of the "decision" makers at the gates of "Canadian Literature" to open the doors to a wider spectrum of fiction (ie more, commercial, genre or plot-driven fiction). Or, as he puts it half tongue-in-cheek "books with a plot."

This interview is a great discussion about Pyper's new novel and about his work in general (which is a fantastic cross-over between literary fiction and thriller fiction) and is definitely worth checking out. Right click here to download the interview.

Speaking of literary thriller crossover's the interviewee herself, Claire Cameron is also a talented writer and the author of The Line Painter.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Back In Green

I have to say that though we didn't go very far for our vacations this year, we certainly packed our days with lots of fun.

Day trips were the big thing, particularly day trips with a cooler packed full of goodies to enjoy wherever we went. And we went to a lot of places for day trips this past summer: Ontario Place, St. Thomas, Niagara on the Lake, Port Dover, the CNE, Science North, Mike's cottage. Of course, we even missed a few other day trips we'd hoped to take but just couldn't fit in: Winona Peach Festival, Dynamic Earth, Canada's Wonderland -- well, there's always next summer.

And this morning I'm heading back to work -- just in time for the very quick ramp-up to the beginning of the September Rush period at Mac.

I'm already becoming jealous (green with envy so to speak) of my alter-ego who is still back there in the recesses of my mind and enjoying those long fine days spent with his wife and son . . .

Saturday, August 23, 2008

MiniBookExpo Review - Guerrilla Publicity

A short while ago I started following a fascinating blog movement started by Alexa Clark, the genius behind the "Cheap Eats" series of books that profiles great restaurants in various cities (like Toronto and Ottawa) where you can get a decent meal without breaking your pocket book. It works this way: Books are offered out on the MiniBookExpo blog, bloggers claim them, get them, read them then post a review. Or, for full details, read the full rules here. The following is a review from a book I claimed:

Guerrilla Publicity: Hundreds of Sure-Fire Tactics to Get Maximum Sales for Minimum Dollars - Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman & Jill Lublin

Here is a book that I was definitely looking forward to reading from two different points of view. One, as a writer, I wanted to check it out and see what benefits I could reap learning new and strategic methods of garnering publicity for my writing projects. Second, as a manager of an independent bookstore, constantly up against the large corporate booksellers and the "Amazon's" of the world, with large amounts of cash at their disposal for publicity and promotions, it's always good to determine surefire methods of capturing attention.

This second edition of Guerrilla Publicity (headed by Jay Conrad Levinson, creator of the Guerrilla Marketing series) comes out six years after the first edition's release. I was rather excited to see that the new edition addressed not only traditional media outlets but also a slew of Web 2.0 publicity options, including podcasts, blogs, social networking sites, etc.

In terms of learnings, I benefited greatly from reading this book -- the introductory chapters, especially, help lay the groundwork out for the concept of what it means to create a clear and consistent message for delivery. I was also impressed with the snippets of Guerrilla Intelligence, Guerrilla Tactics and Guerrilla Tales blocks of text scattered throughout each of the chapters. They either nicely summed up or offered specific and concrete examples related to the points being addressed in the main text.

Personally, I gained more insight from the more traditional methods of garnering publicity than I did from the Web 2.0 strategies discussed. I didn't realize, until after I read this book at how much information I've been able to distill from various sources over the years. For example, I have gained tremendous insights listening to various podcasts like the Tee Morris podcast "The Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy" in which he specifically discusses methods for writers to get the world to notice YOUR books over the several hundred thousand others being offered out there. And in terms of understanding social media and networking sites, having attended various Campus Stores Canada and Canadian Booksellers Association workshops and conferences these past several years, I have gained tremendous knowledge of applying digital strategies for my business.

However, for someone who hasn't benefited from jam-packed information sessions, conferences and professional workshops, Guerrilla Publicity does offer a comprehensive and concise introduction to using digital technologies and the internet to garner attention and publicity.

In conclusion, Guerrilla Publicity is definitely a book I would recommend to writers and business owners alike. There is much intelligence on publicity strategies to be learned from the book. And it contains not only a series of low-cost stategies for garnering attention and publicity, but also offers very clear guidance on maintaining focus and a consistent "brand" in all communications.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Da Count - LEGO Space

One of my favourite all time "toys" from childhood, and one that I never properly outgrew, would have to be LEGO. Of course, when they introduced their LEGO Space collection in the late 70's I was beside myself with joy.

At different times over the years, my parents bought me both the Galaxy Explorer and the Space Cruiser sets which I remember spending countless hours playing with in typical LEGO fashion (ie, first using the instructions to build the main design for the set, then trying out countless different versions of new types of spacecraft using the existing blocks from both sets)

Last week when we were home visiting my Mom, I'd been talking to Alexander about my great collection of LEGO and particularly the LEGO Space kits I had -- so when we finally found them packed away in a few different boxes in the basement, we were both jumping for joy.

We spent one whole afternoon creating the kit designs and then playing with them on the living room floor. While I know Alexander had a great time and was devastated when we left the LEGO at my Mom's place when we parted for home, I had just as much fun. (Can't you tell from the giddy smile on my face in these pictures?) What a great time for both of us.

This, of course, has reinvigorated my love for all things LEGO and I'm doing everything I can to hold myself down from going out and buying every single space-related LEGO kit I can get my hands on. I have to admit, however, that I'm not as excited about the more recent offerings in LEGO Space (right now it's the Mars Mission series). I'm still enamored with the more classic offerings, but perhaps I'll get used to them if we purchase a few kits and start playing with them.

I was also able to find some interesting information about the history of this series on Wikipedia which includes a nice breakdown of the different themes offered over the past few decades as part of the LEGO Space collection, as well as this group of like-minded folks passionate about Lego Space.

Right now Alexander is thrilled to have me playing LEGO with him, getting right into designing and building then playing with different creations. I think when Alexander keeps wanting and getting different LEGO kits as he gets older my main challenge might be trying to get myself in on the LEGO action in our home without him saying: "Dad, you're too old to be playing with my toys!"


Thursday, August 21, 2008

HNT - Domestic Olympics

I'm on vacation this week. Which means, mostly, that I have more time to work on chores. And since we spent a few days at my Mom's house earlier this week, it meant that Francine, Alexander and I had a chance to help my Mom out with a few things that needed to be done around her house: like cutting the lawn, weeding the garden, making minor repairs around the home and of course, washing the car.

As always, Alexander was right in the thick of things, eager to lend a helping hand to whatever task needed doing.

This week's HNT post is supposed to have an Olympic theme. I suppose that trying to tie in a series of chores into a "domestic Olympics" kind of event is the closest I could come.

But just think about it -- athletes race through a triathlon-like grouping of events and are measured both on the time to completion as well as the quality of the work. The outdoor events could include cutting and then raking a lawn, washing a vehicle, then painting a garage door. The indoor events might involve doing a load of laundry, dusting and vacuuming a living room then sweeping and mopping a kitchen and hallway.

There'd be no shortage of companies willing to sponsor such an event. And just think, if you got enough guys much younger, better looking and in far better shape than me, dressed in tight, revealing clothing, there'd likely be a huge demographic of viewers for it -- sort of a soft porn for women kind of event.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Da Count - Home For A Skirmish

I'm continually amazed at how lucky I am to have the job I do. Sure, it's a lot of work, I put in a ton of hours, but man oh man, the payoff is incredible. The fun that I get to have, the interesting things I get to work on are just phenomenal.

For example, earlier this summer on a day off, I was at the Family Festival in Westdale and there was a band playing on the stage central to all the family fun activities going on. They were quite good, very talented, and played a diverse range of music -- all fantastic songs. The band's name was Skirmish.

When the band broke after their first set I started chatting with the lead singer -- listening to the various songs they'd played in the first set made me wonder if we could book them for one of the special events we were planning at the bookstore. After chatting for a few minutes, I learned that the lead singer, Kenny, was none other than a Physics prof at McMaster. Yeah, kinda cool. A physics prof by day, a rocker at night. The bass player, Kari is also a prof and happens to also be an associate chair of the Physics dept.

After learning this, I just HAD to book them for some September Rush events (no, not the band with Geddy, Alex and Neil -- although having a Rush event at my store would be quite awesome) -- "Rush" is a term campuses use for those first few weeks in September when the school's population suddenly explodes and it's complete mayhem and madness on campus.

Because students have to line up to get into the store, go through the process of finding and carrying a big whack of textbooks and course materials, then get back into line to purchase these items, we're always looking for ways to make the experience a bit less tedious and perhaps even fun. We often try to get in free samples of product handouts to pass out to them and have installed Plasma screens near the cash desks of the main store so that for our 10 to 20 minute loops, they can be informed, entertained or at least distracted by changing images.

But this year, I'm delighted to note that the local Hamilton band Skirmish will be performing two sets of acoustic solo and acoustic duo performances at three of our locations during those first few days of Rush.

On September 2nd they'll be playing at T29 (Temporary bookstore location for 1st year Arts & Humanities texts) from 2 to 4 PM.

On September 3rd they'll be playing in The Tank (a large warehouse sized textbook store where all upper year texts are sold) from 1 to 3 PM.

And on September 4th, they'll be playing at Titles main store (where during Rush we will be selling the 1st year Math and Science texts) in Gilmour Hall from 3 to 5 PM.

Here's a video (featuring a musical track of the band covering the Spirit of the West song "Home for a Rest") announcing the event. I'm quite delighted that we're able to do this, but also particularly tickled that some of the students there are going to be shocked to learn that the rocker belting out awesome cover versions of some great songs is none other than the guy who'll be teaching them a couple of days later.

This week I'm counting how fortunate I am to work at a great place like McMaster University and that my role at Titles Bookstore allows me to work on some really fantastic projects.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

HNT - Here Again

I received my copy of Canadian Bookseller magazine yesterday -- the one that includes an author profile that I did on Sean Costello.

The "header" for the article, entitled A Test of Character has the following text:

Amid the many pressures of publishing, author Sean Costello keeps his priorities and creative integrity intact.
My article attempts to outline the interesting publishing career that this talented Northern Ontario writer has had since the late 1980's, beginning with his string of horror novels released from Pocket Books to his latest supernatural thriller, coming this fall from a smaller Sudbury based publisher, Your Scrivener Press.

The fact that Costello chose to publish with a small local publisher (ie, a "crafty brewery" rather than a "mega-sized international brewer") speaks volumes about this author's integrity and is summed up rather nicely in one of the bolded pieces of text for the article:

When a large publishing imprint in the US offered him an advance of $22,000 for Here After, a thriller about child abduction, they did it with a caveat: Lose the dead kid.

I had the distinct pleasure of being able to read an advanced copy of this forthcoming novel (Here After is due out in October 2008), and have to say that the book also perfectly illustrates that Costello isn't just an author with integrity, but he's also one of substance.

Costello creates solid and believable characters, puts them through unimaginably terrifying situations and keeps the reader turning pages at a lightning fast speed.

I'm delighted I was able to share a bit about this author and his latest novel with booksellers across Canada. Canadian Bookseller magazine is distributed to the many hundreds of members of the Canadian Booksellers Association across the country, and I am hopeful that a good number of them who read the article will be inspired to bring the book into their stores this fall and help offer their customers a very worthwhile read from a Canadian author who definitely deserves to be in the spotlight.

And for those readers out there looking for a fantastic book, you can pre-order the book at Chapters/Indigo/Coles as well as at Amazon. But you'd much rather ask for it at your local independent bookstore, wouldn't you? Gee, supporting a Canadian author, a small Canadian publisher AND a local independent bookstore -- three good deeds done in a single act -- now there's integrity for you . . .

So, here I am again, "half-nekkidly" posing in front of something I've had published -- this time the latest issue of Canadian Bookseller magazine as well as my article.

Gotta love the book-themed HNT posts, though, don't you?

Happy Half-Nekkid Thursday!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Scumbag Thieves

Steal from me and I'm pretty pissed off.

Steal from my wife and son and I'm about ready to kick your ass into next week.

But when your theft makes my son cry in hopeless anguish, all I really want to do is reach into your chest and rip your heart out with my bare hands.

If you haven't already guess, I'm angry, frustrated and yet again wanting to move from our neighbourhood into a bunkered estate with ten foot high walls and electrified barbed wires due to a few damn thieves stalking around in the middle of the night. I know I'll get over it but every time something like this happens it reduces my faith in the concept that you can work hard, put a lot of effort into making your yard look nice and simply be proud and enjoy it.

No, scumbag thieves can take that away in a heartbeat.

This past Mother's Day, Alexander and I bought Francine a beautiful little bunny and bird water fountain. Alexander and I were at Canadian Tire several weeks before Mother's Day when he spotted it, fell in love with it and thought it would be perfect for Mom.

We bought it, brought it home and hid it away (not an easy task given that the thing is about 3.5 feet high and almost two feet across). But we did. And he kept it a secret, too, right up until it was time to give it to her -- not an easy thing for someone who was 3 years old at the time.

Francine was delighted with the fountain, and so was Alexander. It looked beautiful on our front step. And because the bunny on it easily detatched and we had vandals wreck some of our Halloween decorations and other front-lawn decorations last year, we thought it would be a good idea to bring the bunny in at night.

I thought we were being overly paranoid. Even on Sunday night when I was unplugging the fountain and bringing the bunny in I thought I was being silly.

But yesterday morning when I was leaving for work and went to put the bunny back out on the fountain on our front step, I noticed it was gone. For a moment I'd wondered if I forgot that we moved it (since we had tried putting it in different spots in our yard, but kept coming back to the front step) -- but then, with a sinking feeling in my gut, I realized that some time between about midnight and 7 AM it had been stolen.

What I didn't realize immediately was that a heavy crock-style planter (at least 25 or so pounds) and a hanging plant basket were also stolen from the front of our house.

Dollar-wise, the loss is pretty significant -- but emotionally it's even more draining.

Have I mentioned before that I have absolutely no tolerance for petty scumbag thieves?

Monday, August 11, 2008

I Finally Saw Saw - Though I Have See-Sawed Before

Though I'm a horror fan (admittedly a fan of reading horror over watching horror movies -- and there is a huge difference, BTW, which I won't get into here for lack of time and necessary space), I don't watch a lot of horror movies. One of the reasons is that Francine doesn't enjoy them all that much and I'd rather watch a movie with her than alone.

I am thus far behind in being "caught up" on relatively recent horror films that have come out.

But this past Saturday evening, Francine was heading out with a group of friends, so I thought I'd give one of the relatively recent movies I've heard a lot about but haven't yet seen a look: Saw.

I didn't know much about the movie, hadn't read anything about it, and only knew it had something to do with a person being chained in a room and given a saw -- apparently one that wasn't good enough to cut through the thick steel chains but would be good enough to cut through flesh and bone.

I was amazingly surprised at how good this movie was.

Based on the hype about it, I was expecting it to be a really violent film involving intense torture. But it was actually an intelligently suspenseful story told in an intriguing way and while certainly violent and disturbing, there was a certain cinematic style to the violence in which it was done in a tasteful yet effective way. I'm always impressed when you don't need to actually see the thing happening -- like in this case, a limb being sawed off -- in order to be fully disturbed, frightened and repulsed. That, in my mind, is the director working hard at creating the mood, setting up the character and scene in such a way that the viewer gets it without having to see the "dumb-show" version of it.

The Jigsaw Killer in this tale reminded me of MOG (Master of Games) in the Richard Laymon novel In The Dark from 1994. (Ten years earlier than this movie's release). In this great novel, a librarian receives an envelope containing a $50 dollar bill and a note instructing her to "look homeward angel" signed by MOG. When she looks into a library copy of Thomas Wolfe's novel Look Homeward Angel, she finds $100 and another note. This note asks her to do something a bit risky and says the dollar value offered if she performs the task will double. So she tries it out. The stakes keep getting higher and the risks keep getting riskier. It's a slippery slope she starts traversing, both intrigued with the clues and determined to find out who is behind them. It's a great story, classic Laymon and has twists similar to the ones pulled off in Saw -- even though the storyline is a lot more straightforward in Laymon's novel. If you liked Saw, you'd likely LOVE In The Dark.

See, I told you I preferred reading horror over watching horror movies . . .

But in any case, I quite enjoyed how Saw was done and am now curious to see the next installment in that film francise (though my experience with popular and successful films that went on to sequels, particularly in the horror genre, hasn't always been that good)

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Anthology To Benefit American Cancer Society

In all the excitement and busyness of this summer, I forgot to announce the fact that back in early July editor Tim Deal of Shroud Publishing purchased a story that I wrote specifically for a charity anthology. "The Shadow Men" will appear in NORTHERN HAUNTS: 100 Terrifying New England Tales.

While I haven't seen the table of contents (announcement of it is forthcoming, I do know that I appear in it alongside many very talented writers)

Here is the description for the book, which is available for pre-order for $29.99 US on Shroud's website:

Hardcover Edition, suitable for collectors.

Northern Haunts is much more than an anthology. It is an indispensable guidebook for your journey through the shadowy New England otherworld.

100 original tales of ghosts, creatures, mad men, and other horrifying mysteries. Each story is told in the first person so that you can employ NORTHERN HAUNTS as a fireside ghost story reference book.

It is designed for you to customize these treacherous tales in order to tantalize your friends and terrify your family.

Proceeds from the sale of NORTHERN HAUNTS will be donated to the AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY. This book is currently open for PRE-ORDERS only. Amazing cover art by Christopher Zibelli!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Da Count - Silver and Gold Friends

"Make new friends,
but keep the old.

One is silver,

the other gold.
- an old campfire song

Me, Steve, Greg, Craig

Several weeks ago I was able to get together with a group of friends from high school in Burlington for what is usually a semi-annual gathering. Taki, Dan, Craig, Greg, Pete, Steve and I (all L.D.H.S - Levack District High School - friends) got together at the Boston Manor one Friday night a few weeks ago. Taki, Craig, Dan, Greg and I are regular attendees of this semi-annual gathering of high school buddies -- and it has often occured when Pete is in town visiting his sister -- but this occasion was special for two other reasons: Steve was also in town and it happened to be Taki's 40th birthday.

Taki on his 40th birthday (You can't see it but he's giving me
the finger - some things never change nomatter how old you get)

We played pool, caught each other up on the things we've been up to in our lives, but mostly we had some drinks and yakked and joked and occasionally remenisced about some funny or goofy thing we remembered about something from the past.

As my buddy Mathew Horbaty Growden would say: "Good times"

A drunken Mark captures Dan, Greg and Craig - kind of the way
everyone looked to me after I downed that last pitcher of draft.

As usual when I get together with these guys, I drank too much, laughed a lot and had a fantastic time. At the end of the evening I was reminded of just how damn lucky I am.

Despite my many drinks, I managed to at least get
one neat candid group shot of everyone

(The photos with this blog post are from that night - the blurry ones are the ones a drunken Mark took on his Palm Treo and the clear ones are ones that Pete took -- ironically, the two photographers among us, Steve and Greg, didn't have their usual sidekick cameras with them)

Steve wondering when I'm going to put down the camera phone and just drink nice.
Pete checking out the cool, non-blurry pictures he's been taking.

I'm very fortunate to not only to have been blessed with a large group of friends, and that I continue to regularly acquire new ones, but I've also been lucky enough to have maintained many friendships over the years.

I honestly believe that I'm rich behind my wildest dreams in the friendships I have invested in. They say real estate is the best investment, but I'd argue that friendship beats that hands down.

Pete, me, Steve

No, I'm not able to stay in touch with nor contact all of my friends regularly, even those who are among the dearest, but cool social networking apps like Blogger, Facebook and MySpace have allowed me not only to make new friends and find links and common bonds with others from all over the world, but also to get back in touch with friends I might not have seen for decades.

I'm lucky, and rich indeed. This week I'm counting that special investment in friendship. It's worth way more than every single penny of time you put into it.

"Across the land
Across the sea;
Friends forever
We will always be."


Thursday, August 07, 2008

HNT - Science North

Last week we were in Sudbury for a few days, and spent one rainy afternoon at Science North.

The building for Science North is a giant snowflake shape, but looks more like this giant flying saucer has nestled itself between two large rock outcrops on the shore of Lake Ramsey in Sudbury. (Incidentally, this is the world's largest freshwater lake within the boundaries of a single city -- okay, that status changed when the City of Sudbury amalgamated and incorporated a gigantic area -- there's a larger lake 20 KM northeast, but this lake is still spectacular because it's within a 2 minute drive from downtown Sudbury, and in my mind that counts more)

Science North has plenty of fun things to do for the entire family, all geared around learning about different things about science and the environment and we could have spent two or three full days there -- Alexander could have spent two or three entire days playing at the large "Erosion" table where you get to play with sand and water and build dams, water conduits, etc.

Similarly, we had a great time playing in the giant Lego room and could have spent the entire day there -- we built a giant tower that we were able to make 7 feet tall thanks to some Daddio/Zander teamwork. Man but what I wouldn't do to have that many blocks available in our home. A man can drea, though, can't he?

There is an awesome cavern through the rock that leads into Science North and which I've always loved. (Science North was originally created in the 80's and I've had the pleasure of visiting it dozens of times over the past few decades - but there's always something new and exciting to discover with each visit)

And that's where I took the offical HNT shot for this week's post. After taking the picture above of Alexander and Francine walking through and exploring the cavern, I just couldn't resist turning the camera on my own smiling face.

Hmm, I'm starting to collect a good deal of these shots and wonder if I might create an album of just these shots -- call them the Mark turns the camera on him own giant head series.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

MiniBookExpo Review - Cricket in a Fist

A short while ago I started following a fascinating blog movement started by Alexa Clark, the genius behind the "Cheap Eats" series of books that profiles great restaurants in various cities (like Toronto and Ottawa) where you can get a decent meal without breaking your pocket book. It works this way. Books are offered out on the MiniBookExpo blog, bloggers claim them, get them, read them then post a review. Or, for full details, read the full rules here. The following is a review from a book I claimed:

Cricket in a Fist - by Naomi K. Lewis

I was quite intrigued by the premise of this first novel, which first caught my eye because it was part of a really cool promotion for Canadian literary titles called Fiery First Fiction in which various first novels by Canadians were being featured in bookstores across the country.

And Cricket in a Fist by Naomi K. Lewis is definitely worthy of being part of this promotion. It's a first novel that deserves to be read, shared and talked about.

The basic story begins with two daughters, one in her twenties and the other thirteen years old, attempting to come to terms with the manor in which their mother abandoned their family to become a self-help guru not long after suffering from amnesia during an accident involving a head injury.

Under a new identify, their mother preaches "willing amnesia" to the world while the girls try to sort out the truth of their own past, their mother's past, and slowly unravel the tangled web of truth from amidst the family's long history of secrets.

Some of the longer buried family secrets involve the girls' grandmother's and great-grandmother's survival through the Holocaust -- and many of the elements unraveled throughout the story lead back to a kind of "willing amnesia" needed in order to survive such events and which is a common thread throughout many family members.

This is a good novel with likable protagonists and told mostly through three major points of view. At first, I was bothered by all of the jumping around that occurred in the novel (both the jumping from present to past, to past-past as well as the ping-ponging points of view covered -- there are at least two other "voices" in which the story are told through, bringing it to a slightly confusing five voice tapestry). But as the novel was coming to its intriguing close, I was fascinated at how Lewis brought all elements and twisted story lines together in a way that ultimate paid off in the end and resulted in a satisfying ending.

You can read more about the author in a Q&A on the Fiery First Fiction blog here. And be sure to check out the publisher's page for the book here: Goose Lane Editions. Cricket in a Fist is available online as well as in finer bookstores everyway (such as my own store - Titles Bookstore McMaster University)

Do yourself a favour and check it out.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Little Drummer Boy

I was off last week and we spent a few days at my Mom's house, doing a bit of yard work for her as well as a bit of relaxing. On one of our last visits there, Alexander quite enjoyed visiting my buddy Pete and checking out his drum kit. (Prompting me to speculate about whether Alexander would take a musical career, playing the Neil to my Scott Young)

Well on this particular trip Pete and I captured some video of Alexander horsing around on the drum kit and I slapped it together in a short fun video, including some Rush music, and, of course, more speculation on where this goofing around might lead, considering how Alexander's musical mentors are Pete and Neil Peart. (Whenever there's a chance to play music Alexander very proudly declares "I want RUSH!" so he can air drum like a little maniac. That's my boy!)