Thursday, November 27, 2008

HNT - Almost A Rerun Post

Lately, I've been busier than a one-legged man in a professional ass-kicking contest. Though in this case, the goal must be trying to kick my own ass, because it feels more like I'm spinning in circles than actually hitting any targets.

For that reason I was going to post a "rerun" HNT that was one of my favourite "Half Nekkid Thursday" posts of all time -- but when I went searching for it, I found some out-take shots from several weeks back and thought it might be more fun to post that.

I also wanted to take a quick moment to wish all my American friends a Happy Thanksgiving. For us Canucks the memories of our own Thanksgiving celebrations are a distant memory -- but I always like the way the U.S. celebration of the same holiday does such a good job of ringing in the holiday season and makes me want to watch Planes, Trains & Automobiles, then Christmas Vacation back to back. (Yes, both John Hughes movies)

Okay, gotta go - got my own ass to kick, after all . . .

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Shelf-Awareness Quotation Of The Day

I thought it was neat that I made the "quotation of the day" in the daily e-mail newsletter from Shelf Awareness on Thursday Nov 13 (Issue 802). As you can tell I'm a little behind in email and RSS reads, since I only noticed it now.

Here is the quote which appears in the Nov 13th issue.

'The Most Exciting Thing in the World . . . Just a Book'

"It is a book, which to me is the most exciting thing in the world. But that's really all it is. It's just a book. It's the way that we got it to you that's a lot more efficient."--Mark Lefebvre, book operations manager at Hamilton University's McMaster's bookstore, Hamilton, Ont., talking about the store's Espresso Book Machine, as quoted by the Hamilton Spectator.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

HNT - Let There Be Books

A good part of my days these past few weeks have been about the Espresso Book Machine and the wonder of being able to produce perfect bound books right on the spot from a couple of pdf files. A seemingly endless stream of people have been coming through Titles Bookstore at McMaster University to check out the wonder of the invention from On Demand Books.

The absolute best part about it is that I have been spending a lot of time showing the machine to people who are EXCITED ABOUT BOOKS. Now that just warms my heart.

Not surprisingly, this week's HNT photo is one of my hand flipping through a book produced on the Espresso Book Machine (or, the EBM at our store which we have dubbed McMaster Innovation Press) . . .

And ODB said "Let there be books
printed right on location
in front of the eyes of book lovers."
And there were books,
And they were good.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How Do I Explain This To A Four Year Old?

Ever since we took down the Halloween decorations, my son has been repeatedly asking me to get out the Christmas decorations. He is so excited and involved in all of the holiday decorating activities. It's a sheer pleasure to be a part of that enthusiasm and excitement.

Though scheduling hasn't allowed for it, this past weekend, I partially obliged his repeated requests -- we went to Canadian Tire and purchased 4 light-up candy canes to add to the 6 we bought last year.

While we haven't yet ventured onto the roof nor gotten out the light-up train, tree, snowman and deer that go in the front yard, at least we put up a nice row of candy-canes that bordered the garden in front of our house. It was a good start.

Alexander was delighted.

But when I woke up this morning and went to the front door to turn off the light (which we now leave on all night in the hopes that it deters the petty vandalism and theft that is occurring more and more frequently in our neighbourhood), I noticed that the candy cane lights were gone.

Stolen. Again. All ten of them as well as the extension cord.

Like so many other things from our front yard.

How do I explain this a four year old who has had to endure more than his fair share of thefts of property and fun decorations from the front of our yard in the past year?

How could I possibly explain it in terms he would understand?

And how can I set a good example for my son by not being utterly outraged and describing these "bad people" in terms that I really want to use but which aren't fit for a four year old's ears or ranting about how I would love to have just two minutes with the shit-heads who did this.

I'm fed up. I'm at the point where I want to install a 10 foot electrified barbed wire fence around my home. I'm sick of this bullshit.

Upstairs my son is still sleeping peacefully. Blissfully unaware that some low-life scum-sucking assholes have stolen something very simple but that gave him endless pleasure.

I'm almost tempted to run to Canadian Tire right now, buy ten lights, another extension cord and set them up before he wakes.

But I'm emotionally drained.

Sorry, my dear son.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

HNT - Speed Reading

We haven't even put it into full operation yet (we're still learning how to use it, testing out different paper stocks and getting comfortable with the operation of the machine), but the word is starting to spread that the Espresso Book Machine has arrived at McMaster.

Yesterday, Wade Hemsworth (McMaster Alumnus) was at our store checking out the newly arrived EBM from On Demand Books of New York (which we have dubbed: "McMaster Innovation Press" and chatting with Donna Shapiro (my boss and store director) and I about it. Donna and I have been working really hard for the past half year at trying to get the EBM at our store and we're quite thrilled now that it has arrived and we'll soon be able to offer Titles on Demand.

Wade's article appears in today's Hamilton Spectator which I have yet to see in print. But there is an article online.

Here's the photo that ran along with the article.

Photo copyright 2008 Hamilton Spectator

Fitting for this week's Half-Nekkid Thursday shot.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lest We Forget - A Pittance Of Time

I blogged about this last year, but some things definitely bear repeating - particularly when they capture your heart and make you pause to remember something so significant.

In 1999 Nova Scotia singer/song-writer Terry Kelly was in a drug store in Dartmouth on November 11th. At 10:55 AM an announcement came over the store's PA asking customers who would still be on the premises at 11:00 AM to give two minutes of silence in respect to the veterans who have sacrificed so much for us.

Terry was impressed with the store’s leadership role in adopting the Legion’s “two minutes of silence” initiative. He felt that the store’s contribution of educating the public to the importance of remembering was commendable.

When eleven o’clock arrived on that day, an announcement was again made asking for the “two minutes of silence” to commence. All customers, with the exception of a man who was accompanied by his young child, showed their respect.

Terry’s anger towards the father for trying to engage the store’s clerk in conversation and for setting a bad example for his child was channeled into a beautiful piece of work called, A Pittance of Time. Terry later recorded “A Pittance of Time and included it on his full-length music CD, “The Power of the Dream”.

The video production “Two Minutes of Silence - A Pittance of Time” combines music and theatre in an emotional production that looks at the folly of war. The inspirational songs and dramatic monologues evoke memories both tinged with sadness and joy that ultimately underscore the need for hope and faith in the goodness of humankind.

I'll certainly be taking two minutes to remember and reflect -- and not just the fallen heroes from WWI and WWII, but all of the fallen soldiers and peacekeepers from all of the wars (many of them still going on right now), who are putting their lives at risk so selflessly for a greater cause.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

HNT - RIP Michael Crichton

Not much to say on this Half-Nekkid Thursday except how sad I am to learn of the passing of the brilliant Michael Crichton earlier this week.

I always enjoyed the very cinematic style of his writing and particularly appreciated the way his science fiction was written in a way that broke through the genre to attract readers of more mainstream fiction. His writing style was of that very unique "un-put-downable" nature.

There are so many things to say about Crichton, particularly given his diverse output and experiences over the decades. But one of the things I find quite intriguing is that in December 1994, he achieved the unique distinction of having the #1 movie (Jurassic Park), the #1 TV show (ER), and the #1 book (Disclosure, atop the paperback list)

Michael Crichton 1942 to 2008

Official Michael Crichton website

Monday, November 03, 2008

First You've Got To Last

You can do a lot in a lifetime
If you don't burn out too fast

You can make the most of the distance

But first you need endurance

First you've got to last

- Rush, "Marathon" - Power Windows, 1985

Yesterday, Francine completed her first half marathon in the annual Road 2 Hope marathon. Last year, she ran 10 K in the same race, but set her mind to it that she would complete the half marathon -- lo and behold, she trained religiously every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday -- and then, one year later, she did it.

As her husband and best friend, I'm proud of her.

And as a writer, I'm impressed and inspired.

I've been a sprinter-writer for a long time. I started writing at least somewhat seriously back in the early 1990's. I'm going on two decades now as a writer. And for the most part, I have a minimally successful history of getting short fiction published (I've had over thirty pieces of short work published); some of those stories and poems were reprinted in a collected back in 2004; a couple of plays that I have written haven't yet been published but have been performed by 3 different elementary schools in the Hamilton and Ottawa area; I edited both a small press magazine and a small press science fiction anthology; I ghost-wrote and edited a non-fiction book of biographical sketches on Canadian Prime Ministers, Fathers of Confederation and Governors General; and I did roll-out a novella length story in "real-time" via a blog back in 2006.

But I have only completed the writing of a single novel (which hasn't yet been published), have two other novels that have been on and off the back-burner for a couple of years now, and haven't yet had a novel published.

I would equate Francine's original success in completely a 5 K run the equivalent of completing and publishing a short work (article, fiction or poetry) Sure, it represents sticking to it and working at it -- but doesn't quite represent the more sophisticated determination required to complete a half marathon.

Interestingly enough, two years ago, I took a 10,000 word short story that I had written and decided to answer a friend's question about "what happens next" and turn that into a novel. Under the project/working title name A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK, I started working on this novel in November 2006 as part of a reality series on The Writing Show podcast called "Getting Published with Mark Leslie" -- two years later, it's November again, and while my original goal had been to complete the first draft in November 2006, I still haven't finished it -- reserving myself to slowly chipping away at it bit by bit.

While the ongoing series of interviews with Writing Show host Paula B and interaction with Writing Show guest host Mick Halpin and regular participant Mark Herbst has been a lot of fun, I've really been neglecting this longer project and failing in my goal to complete the novel.

But Francine has inspired me. She was determined to run a half marathon (21 Kilometers) and set a goal of doing it in under two and a half hours. Her time yesterday was 2 hours, 17 minutes and 24 seconds. She not only met her goal but she did it with plenty of time to spare.

Given all the crazy busy things going on at work that have me doing work-related things at home in the early morning and late evening hours at home, I'm not sure where and how I'm going to be able to focus time and energy on my personal writing projects -- but Francine has proven that if you set your mind to something, it can be done.

I have continued to throw excuses out such as work is getting too busy or I've been focusing on my short fiction (both writing and submitting pieces to market) -- but at the end of the day they are just excuses. Francine not only trained for the half marathon and ran it, but she also completed several shorter 5, 10 and 15 K runs in the same year. Drawing the same parallel there's no reason I can't work on short projects while continuing to plug away at the novel and not use working on one as an excuse that the other isn't getting done. Fran never said: "I'm focusing on the half marathon so I don't want to do this or that 5 K race." Nope - she set her mind to it and ensured she could do both.

So I'm going to follow her lead and try to establish a proper "training" schedule. Block certain times away that will be dedicated just to certain types of writing -- and despite the weather that day or how I feel, I should do my best to follow her lead and just do it, in the same manner I watched her do throughout the year.

At the end of the day (and I know Francine will both roll her eyes and yet completely understand the depth inherent in these words), my wife is more inspiring to me than Rush lyrics. (No insult, intended to Neil Peart -- just a huge kudos to Francine)

It's a test of ultimate will
The heartbreak climb uphill
Got to pick up the pace
If you want to stay in the race
More than blind ambition
More than simple greed
More than a finish line
Must feed this burning need
In the long run...
- Rush, "Marathon" - Power Windows, 1985