Thursday, January 29, 2009

HNT - A Custom Book For Your Sweetheart

When you own an Espresso Book Machine, there's no end to the fun you can have creating custom books of your own or using public domain sources.

This past weekend I started fooling around with the creation of a custom book in which we would allow customers the ability to put a picture of their sweetheart on the front cover of a collection of Shakespeare's The Sonnets. I thought it would be a great idea for Valentine's Day.

Entitled Thou Art More Lovely, a title inspired by Sonnet 18 (the one most people know, that begins with: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.") customers can have a picture of their choice (anywhere between 1 inch X 1 inch to 3.5 X 3.5 inches) added to the cover along with a name under the statement "Custom printed for."

Of course, we have a plain version of the book (no custom picture, just a nice red heart on the cover) available for a real cheap price -- but customers can special order a unique one for their sweetheart for only $16.95. [Email me to request an order if you don't live in the Hamilton area and are interested in ordering one -- Titles will gladly ship one out]

I used my own sweetheart for the cover of the book to create some samples that customers could see, using one of my favourite pictures from our wedding day. (I honestly can't remember who took this picture -- it was likely either one of my talented photographer buddies, Steve or Greg who both took some phenomenal pics that wonderful day)

It's far less expensive than the steep price of roses this time of year. And while the flowers, like summer's lease, hath but all too short a date, this book will last a long time (I won't say forever since we know that paper does eventually crumble after hundreds of years). And it's a bit more romantic and unique than the tired old cliche of a box of chocolates (which only last on the hips). Of course, I'm a book nerd, so you'd fully expect me to say something along the lines of a book being the perfect gift.

The only catch is that to get one in time for Valentine's Day, they need to be ordered by the end of the day on Wednesday February 11th in order to pick them up on Friday February 13th.

But, it's always best when you plan ahead for that special love of your life, isn't it?

Of course, the book doesn't say "Valentine's Day" anywhere on the cover, so those who don't order one in time could always get one for their sweetheart for an anniversary or birthday.

After all, as the Bard says, thy eternal summer shall not fade . . . so long as men can breathe or eyes can see, so long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kathleen Robertson's Sweaty Pits

Occasionally I'll take a quick look through people who land on my blog based on certain keyword search results. The queries that direct people to this blog are sometimes really bizarre.

For example, someone recently did a google search for "Kathleen Robertson sweaty pits" (without the quotes) and ended up landing on this page (which is an archived page from 2005).

Since I didn't remember actually blogging about Kathleen's sweaty pits (I like this actress and can honestly say I've never seen her with sweaty pits), I tried to figure out how that happened.

Here's how. The archive page contains several different posts, including two that mention two of the key-word terms. There's a post called Back in Black in which I mention Kathleen as a Hamilton native who was attending a special gala in town. Then there's another post called Mash Pits in which I was complaining about sweating in a cold office (not one of my proudest moments of course). Mystery solved.

Again, it's strange how people end up coming to this blog, but at least our world has a wonderful thing like the internet allowing people to find pictures of celebrities with sweaty pits. God bless the fact that it's used for such useful purposes and not for research or important study.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pow! Right Between The Eyes!

I like that title. I particularly like the way in which the author of this book, Andy Nulman, is going about promoting it.

Andy Nulman has written a book called POW! RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES! Profiting from the Power of Surprise and is offering 200 copies to the first group of legitimate bloggers who simply asks him for one.

The way to ask Andy for a book is to blog about it -- he's asking bloggers to request the book on their own blog and way that we see fit and link that post to his original request on his blog.

This isn't the first time I've heard of Andy or read about his methods of viral marketing using new and fun techniques -- and that's why I'm dying to read this book.

So Andy, if you're reading this . . .


In fact, I'm so curious to read it that, Andy, if you send me a copy of your forthcoming book, I'll send YOU a copy of my short story collection ONE HAND SCREAMING. (It's a decent collection of my previously published stories -- if you like horror and dark humour you're likely to enjoy it -- if you don't then you're likely not to enjoy it -- hey, I have to be honest here as I know it's not everybody's cup of tea)

But in any case I am interested in reading POW! RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES!

Andy, please email me so I can send you my address.


HNT - Erotic Horror

Since Half Nekkid Thursdays are about exposure, I thought it might be appropriate to do something a little different this week. Rather than simply exposing a picture of my physical self, I thought I'd expose a bit of something I recently had published.

My erotic horror story "Switch" was recently published in Black Ink Horror magazine's special XXX issue. This is a special issue of the magazine which has been devoted to extreme horror stories, a little too full of sex, gore and perversion for their regular issues. Limited to 100 copies, this full-colour special issue was just released and certainly exposes one of the most erotic and darkly disturbing story I've had published.

Here's the premise for the story (or teaser, if you will):

When Dr. Connie Watson uses an extremely risky, experimental and morally questionable technique of switching bodies with her sexually deviant male client in order to force his mind into an empathetic state, she gets more than she bargains for.

"Switch" was illustrated by Jacob Parmentier, with three wonderfully shocking pictures that wonderfully add to the presentation of my story in this magazine.

And since I don't want to break the rules of HNT all that much, I thought I should at least toss in a picture of myself. So here's a shot of me at the Chapters in Sudbury back in October of 2004 for the launch of my story collection One Hand Screaming.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Balanced Mailbox

The week didn't start off so nice with one story submission rejection via email and another one in my mailbox yesterday.

But the painful blow of rejection was coupled quite nicely with something else in my mailbox -- the contributor copy of my story "Switch" which appears in Black Ink Horror XXX. This is a special full-colour edition of Black Ink Horror magazine, devoted to horror stories of the extreme variety -- chock full of sex, gore and perversion. It's limited to 100 numbered copies. My story, "Switch" involves an experimental treatment a therapist uses to treat her sexually deviant male client.

It's always nice to achieve that kind of balance in my mail box.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

HNT - Magazine Shot

This week I figured I'd post a picture from the latest issue, the Winter 2009 issue of The McMaster Times (The Newsmagazine for McMaster UniversityAlumni), which includes a brief article on page 10 about the Espresso Book Machine at Titles Bookstore.

In the accompanying shot (below), I'm demonstating the machine, which comes from On Demand Books in New York. This ninth install of the machine worldwide, and the second in Canada, has been dubbed "McMaster Innovation Press" -- you can see the cool wall banner we created for it on the wall behind the machine.

Fortunately, during the demo I didn't once get my tie caught in any of the moving parts of the machine. Good thing too. It was one of my favourite novelty Christmas ties.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How Books Are Made

I saw this hilarious video on BookNinja and had to share it.

Hmm, I wonder how many people watching this believe most of this is true.....?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

2nd Canadian Book Challenge - Midpoint Checkup

Several months ago, I joined the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge. The originator (John Mutford), challenged bloggers to read (and write about) 13 Canadian books (by Canadians and/or about Canadians) in the 1 year period between July 1, 2008 and July 1, 2009.

I joined up, but haven't actually posted any official updates about how I'm doing on it (nor have I properly tracked how I've been doing)

So this post is an attempt to play catch-up and see where I am at about the mid-way point in this challenge.

Let's see how I've been doing and pause to comment on some of the books by Canadian I've read in the past 6 months. (I suppose it's fortunate that I've been keeping a brief noted journal about the books I've read since the beginning of 2008 -- I did it so that I could a) determine approximately how many books I read in a year and b) keep brief notes about the books I read because I have to admit I have a terrible memory if you ask me for details about a book I've read -- I usually leave a book with an impression of "liking it", "really liking it", or "not liking it all that much" but most of the details tend to escape me.)

1) The Killing Circle - Andrew Pyper
Finished Reading: July 21, 2008

Comment: A great story about a writer without inspiration who ends up stealing the story from one of the members of a writing circle. Only, this writer's tale of an evil entity known as The Sandman seems to crawl right out of the nightmarish fiction world and into the real one. A good read with a solid, intriguing storyline. I've always loved Pyper's writing since reading Lost Girls the month it came out. He never disappoints.
Link(s): The Shit You Pull Out of your Ass (Blog Post)

2) Cricket in a Fist - Naomi K. Lewis

Finished Reading: August 3, 2008
Comment: This was a decent and interesting novel by an author I had never read before. See my full review at the link below.
Link(s): Detailed Review

3) Wolf Pack - Edo van Belkom
Finished Reading: Sept 23, 2008)

4) Lone Wolf - Edo van Belkom

Finished Reading: Sept 27, 2008)

5) Cry Wolf - Edo van Belkom
Finished Reading: Oct 2, 2008)

6) Wolf Man - Edo van Belkom
Finished Reading: Oct 7, 2008)
What a great young adult series of novels surrounding a group of four teenagers who happen to be werewolves. When their parents were killed in a forest fire, they are raised as humans by the forest ranger who discovered them. An excellent series and one that I peeled through rather quickly. Easy to see how it won a Silver Birch Award. It's interesting to see van Belkom writing for the young adult market. I've alreadys quite enjoyed his adult horror novels and stories -- this series proves that he is a multi-talented author capable of writing very different types of stories for different audiences. Definitely worth picking up, particularly for those who like the supernatural young adult series like Stephanie Meyer, etc, but are looking for more Canadian content and a setting that is definitely north of the 49th parallel. Each novel is a perfectly self-contained story, but the reader certainly gets much more out of it reading them in sequential order.
Link(s): Edo van Belkom's website

7) In Tongues of the Dead - Brad Kelln

Finished Reading: Oct 24, 2008)
A very avid reader at work (someone who reads tons of thrillers), loaned me this book telling me that everyone important to her has read it. (What a nice compliment and recommendation at the same time) It's about a manuscript in a dead language that a priest has spent his entire life watching -- one day, it all changes when an autistic boy who has never spoken can read it and tells the priest a bit about what he is reading. This is a thrilling, well written and fascinating tale set both in the US and Canada. I loved it. Kelln is certainly a writer to watch.
Link(s): Dr. Brad Kelln's website

8) Wake - Robert J. Sawyer
Finished Reading: Dec 14, 2008)

Comment: I was lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book which is coming out in April 2009. The story mainly follows Caitlin Decker, a smart, energetic and blind teenager who undergoes an experimental surgury to gain sight. The technology involved in giving her sight allows her a "view" of the World Wide Web. As she explores the web, she also discovers there is "another" there, some sort or sentinent being. This first in Sawyer's "WWW" triology is a great start to what I'm sure will be a fantastic series. Sawyer is a wonderful storyteller and I always have a good time with pretty much anything he writes. His characters are genuine and human and the story arcs he creates are filled with intrigue, suspense and an enlightening extrapolation of actual scientific research. I tend to not only enjoy reading his novels, but I always find myself learning a bit too at the same time.
Link(s): Robert J. Sawyer's website

9) Grown up Digital - Don Tapscott
Finished Reading: Dec 26, 2008)

An eye-opening, well-researched book that I would highly recommend. Read the detailed review I gave it at the link below.
Link(s): Review

10) Too Close To Home - Linwood Barclay
Finished Reading: Jan 2, 2008

Comment: I always thought Linwood Barclay was a talented humorist. But he's an even better writer of thrillers. After completing the four book "Zack Walker" series (a fantastic series that merged mystery/thriller writing with Barclay's unique sense of humour), he moved on to an outstanding stand alone thriller last year (No Time for Goodbye) and followed it up with a similarly fantasic tale here. I treated myself to two different mystery/thriller titles for Christmas with some money my Mom gave me. With it I bought Michael Connelly's latest (The Brass Verdict) and Barclay's Too Close to Home. I picked up Barclay's novel right away and was immediately pulled into this incredible tale of intrigue and suspense. The story follows Jim and Ellen Cutter a small-town couple whose neighbours are brutally murdered just down the lane one night. The story begins with a question of what their neighbour, a successful and well respected criminal lawyer, got himself into to spark such a terrifying end to his family. It quickly moves into one in which several different long buried secrets from Jim and Ellen's own lives start to be unravelled, which leads to the question of whether or not the Cutter family were actually the intended targets of this murder. Virtually unputdownable, this is a tale with twists and turns that kept me flipping those pages and had difficulty putting down. Thank goodness I was on Christmas vacation at the time because this one had me staying up rather late at night so I could read "just one more chapter."
Link(s): Linwood Barclay's website

Okay, so I've read 10 books by Canadian authors since July 1, 2008. Not bad at all. I only need to read 3 more to get to the end of the challenge, which shouldn't be a problem because I have at least 5 more Canadian authors in my current "to read" pile.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Working For The Weekend

A buddy of mine from university recently posted a reference to an old Loverboy song in his status update. It's one of those types of Facebook status updates that I'm fond of -- the kind that make you pause for a moment and stirs up a bit of brain activity -- this can easily be achieved without too much effort when you borrow a line or two from a song and put THAT into your updates.

I mean, status updates and Twitter are a neat way to broadcast to the world things that you're currently doing or working on and sometimes they're fun if you're actually doing something interesting.

But let's face it, does anybody really care that Bob from Denver is washing the dishes right now, or that Sally from Saskatoon is watching a rerun of "Who's The Boss?"

Perhaps if Bob was spending the afternoon at the skydiving classes his girlfriend bought him for Christmas or Sally was working on a novelization of that old television show, those would be interesting things. But sometimes those mundane status updates/tweets can be a bit tiring.

"Oh look, John is sitting on the crapper right now."

"Hey, check it out, Samantha is having eggs and toast for breakfast. For the third day in a row."

"Sorry, no time for that, I'm too busy keeping updated on Fred. Apparently he's doing really well on Guitar Hero."

"What are you guys talking about? I'm riveted by Todd's angst over his hang-nail."

But I digress. What I mean to say is I rather enjoy it when people tweet or use their Facebook status updates for either actual interesting or unique things (rather than the daily mundane things), or just to inject a little bit of humour into the world. Let's face it, the world is a pretty serious place with tons of negative things going on all over -- a little bit of humour in small shots is some pretty decent medicine.

And thus back to goofy and silly Facebook status updates that liberate lyrics from music. I always find those fun because there's an ability for others to easily recognize the song you're using and perhaps make a game out of trying to determine the artist and song that you're referencing. A short, silly distraction in one's day, but something that can be a little fun (and doesn't require you to install yet another cluttering application to your profile).

But sometimes I find myself getting TOO distracted on minor things.

Like when my buddy referenced the Loverboy song. (See, I take sidetracks, but occasionally I actually get back to the subject matter at hand)

He was working on the weekend. But rather than just stating it in that boring, mundane way, he injected it with a bit of fun uniqueness and referenced the Loverboy song "Working for the Weekend"

And that's where I started thinking about those lyrics.

Everybody's working for the weekend
Everybody wants a little romance

Everybody's goin' off the deep end

Everybody needs a second chance

- Loverboy "Working for the Weekend" from
Get Lucky, 1981

You see, I'd always thought that the song was referencing the fact that everyone is working in anticipation of the weekend.

IE, they drudge through their week days mindful of the fact that when Friday evening comes, they're free to enjoy life again or "come out tonight" and try to "get it right" or, as the album title the song suggest, try to get lucky.

I always thought the song meant they were working for (ie, for the purpose of) the weekend the way that David Wilcox is "Layin' Pipe" (forgetting the double entendre for a moment and assume he's working a tough construction job) to satisfy his woman with expensive tastes by buying her "the latest things, a diamond ring, a car with an ultra-glide." Like Mr. Wilcox, who (again forgetting the double entendres throughout the song), is working a long, exhausting night shift and taking ten minute breaks to have a cigarette. Wilcox is working for his woman the way Loverboy is working for the weekend.

I figured if the song was about working ON the weekend (as in working Saturday and Sunday), that it'd sound more like Dolly Parton's 9 to 5 (with a weekend kind of twist, of course) and less like trying to get lucky.

But that's just me.

Do you see how I can get distracted and find myself a few moments of silly amusement all because one of my cool dude friends decided to have a little bit of fun with his Facebook status update?

But that's a far better thing than if he dediced to use the status update to simply complain that his hemorrhoids were itchy.

Isn't it?

Friday, January 09, 2009

Does Whatever A President Elect Can

Having been a huge fan of Spider-man my entire life I was tickled to see that Barack Obama will be making a guest appearance in the latest issue.

Apparently in issue #583 of The Amazing Spider-Man (on shelves Jan 14, 2008), a special insert story will appear featuring Spidey and Obama thwarting the evil plans of The Chameleon on Inauguration Day.

Admittedly, I haven't read the comic book much in the past ten years -- paying for the mortgage and food have prevented me from being able to spend the between $50 and $75 on comic books per month that it would likely cost for me to buy all the monthly releases like I used to. I do pick it up from time to time, though, always curious to see what my favourite web-slinger is up to.

I certainly plan on picking this particular issue up -- along with, I imagine millions of others who are curious to check it out.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

HNT - New Year, Old Habits

Okay, so perhaps this photo wasn't taken in the new year -- it was taken a few days before the end of 2008. But it's certainly a habit of mine that isn't going to be changing any time soon.

I have this thing.

Every time I get my hands on someone's camera, I flip it around to face myself, put on a goofy grin and take a picture of myself.

It's fun, and addictive. I'm not sure just how many photos there are of me out there doing this. It's certainly not as fun as it used to day in the days of "film" cameras. In the "old days", when the person developed their pictures they got a "fun" surprise. Now, they simply have to scroll through their digital images and delete my ugly mug . . . but that doesn't prevent me from hamming it up for the camera.

Be careful if you try it yourself. You might not be able to stop.

I took this one when inspecting the new camera my buddy Greg picked up during Boxing Week sales.

That's my wife Francine and my Baba in the background trying desperately to pretend they don't know me.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

MiniBookExpo Review - Grown up Digital

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:

Grown up Digital - by Don Tapscott

Following up on his book Growing up Digital from well over a decade ago, Tapscott returns to study the new generation, dubbed the Net Generation by the author. Based upon a multi-million dollar four year private research study, Tapscott provides an in-depth look into the routines, habits and challenges of this young generation.

This is a fascinating, eye-opening look at the Net Generation, and serves to contradict many blatant assumptions being made about today's youth. Tapscott deftly handles the claims that today's young people are a bunch of spoiled brats with limited attention spans who have had everything handed to them and have no scrupples by analysing facts and statistics and applying information from surveys with over 11,000 youth.

Including detailed statistics and charts as well as quotes and examples from real youth all over the world, Tapscott demonstrates a generation that is not only remarkably bright and skilled at thinking, interacting and socializing in entirely new ways, but that they are active participants in a complex and challenging world, that they are fine analysts and are concerned about basic integrity.

Tapscott not only goes through dynamic shifts brought about by this merger of youth and technology (with concepts such as education needing to change from a traditional "broadcast" style to a more interactive environment), but it outlines strategies and suggestions for how to properly embrace and understand the Net Generation.

This is a timely and well informed book that is easy to read and definitely pleasureable and eye-opening. Despite the hard data, charts and graphs, it is an approachable and fascinating read. The Net Generation is mobilized, skilled and connected in a way that no previous generation every possible could be -- they are changing the world and will continue to change it.

And though Tapscott has many positive responses to some of the "darker" sides of this new world the Net Generation are both navigating through and creating, he does offer cautionary details that youth and the older generations need to be clear about such as issues of privacy (that many are either not properly aware of and are giving up in the pursuit of high level/advanced networking), cyberbullying (often much more dangerous and "permanent" than bullying performed in school yards previous to the turn of the century) and a different look at defining "social skills."

I would highly recommend Grown up Digital to adults of all ages, particularly parents, as there are insightful suggestions on how to properly connect with and understand the Net Generation without being imposing and causing them more frustration. I would particularly suggest that those who have a negative view of the younger generation and their "technology endowed habits" pick it up and start looking at these details in a whole new light.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Favourite Books Read in 2008

Last year I outlined my favourite books read in 2007 -- I thought it would be fun to list the books read in 2008 that I thought were stand-outs.

There are just a couple things to mention before I get to my list.

First, of the 40 books I read in 2008, I'm only going to mention a handful -- I rather enjoyed pretty much every book I completely read last year -- there were a few I gave up on and didn't finish reading. I won't bother to mention those, since I suppose they disappointed me, but all 40 books I finished were good books -- otherwise I wouldn't have spent my time reading them.

Second, these aren't necessarily books that came out in 2008, but rather books I read in 2008. I'm a slow reader and don't often get around to books until a few years after they've been out. Similarly, I'm often privileged enough to get my hands on ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) of books that are forthcoming. So in at least one case of a book I read in 2008, it isn't being released until a few months into 2009.

That being said, here are my top ten picks from books I read in 2008.
I was tempted to add Blaze by Richard Bachman (Stephen King) , Identity Theft & Other Stories (Robert J. Sawyer) and The Book of the Dead (Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child) to this list, but rather than list an author more than once on the same list, I thought I'd pick the one from each author I enjoyed best. Other authors whose books I loved that I read in 2008 included Dean Koontz, Duane Swiercynzski, Gregory Lamberson, Edo van Belkom, Brian Keene, Scott Sigler and John Irving.

I also didn't include the top non-fiction reads I enjoyed from the past year which would be Grown up Digital (Don Tapscott), Deep Economy (Bill McKibben), Talk to the Hand (Lynne Truss) and Raising Your Spirited Child (Mary Kurchinca).

Of course, I have to pause to mention a book that I didn't read in 2008 by which was released that year.

Sean Costello's Here After came out in the fall of 2008 and is one of the best thrillers I have ever read. I had the distinct pleasure of reading the first draft of this novel as Sean was writing it a couple of years ago -- that's why I was delighted to see it published in 2008 by Your Scrivener Press.

In 2007 the one novel I quite enjoyed repeatedly hand-selling at the bookstore was the Terry Fallis novel The Best Laid Plans (a hilarious and wonderfully written book with an Irving-like style of humour). There's always a distinct pleasure in hand-selling a book that helps a reader discover an author they perhaps haven't heard of -- Of course, Terry went on to win the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour for this novel, so it got harder and harder to introduce his book to folks who hadn't yet heard about him or already read the book.

In a similar fashion, in 2008 my favourite book to put into customers hands would definitely have to be Sean Costello's Here After.

I was delighted to have introduced Sean's writing to several thriller lovers who went on to become compelled to read every other one of his books in print. And along those lines, I was even priviledged enough to be able to, alongside author Susie Moloney, provide a blurb for the novel which was printed on the back cover of the book.

"In Here After Sean Costello grabs his readers with both hands; one closes deftly around the heart, offering a touching and devastating glimpse of the loss of a child; the other propels you on a breathless quest, sometimes eagerly, the way a child might lead a parent through a fairground—and sometimes with a startlingly quick chokehold on the windpipe."
—Mark Leslie, contributing author, Bluffs

In all, 2008 was a great year of reading for me and I'm definitely looking forward to the books I'll be reading (and have already read) in 2009. Lord knows the current "to read" pile is already a couple of feet high and I haven't even bought all the ones I'm quite thrilled to read next . . .

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Resolving The Resolutions From 2008

I occasionally make a "public" statement about resolutions on my blog. When I checked back to January 2008, I could only find one statement about something I resolved to do -- and I'm damn glad to see that I wasn't getting all cocky and throwing about wild claims of great things I would accomplish in the year.

Nope. Instead, one of the only public resolutions I made for 2008 was that I would attempt to keep about 3 to 5 submissions "out there" or "in play" in the various slush piles of editor's desks.

Looking back at my submission tracking spreadsheet and journal, it appears I was successful in that. While there weren't often times I had more than 5 stories circulating, I did always have at least 3 of them out there at any given time during 2008.

The results of that dedication to keeping at it are about to be seen, as I have a story coming out in the January issue of Champagne Shivers magazine as well in Black Ink Horror XXX (which is supposed to be shipping but which I haven't seen yet) and the Northern Haunts anthology (which, similarly, is supposedly shipping now but I haven't seen).

I also made several non-fiction sales during 2008 (most of which paid more than any of the fiction sales I made; but in all honesty, there's simply more joy in writing the fiction pieces).

So for 2009 I'm resolving to do a few things writing related.

1) Continue to keep between 3 and 5 stories in circulation at all times during the year.
2) Re-work the completed novel MORNING SON and get it back into circulation with publishers
3) Finish the novel A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK (which has been on a back burner for way too long now) - Paula B from The Writing Show will be so proud of me if I can finally accomplish that. I'd finally have something really cool to reveal in the continuing interviews for her "Getting Published with Mark Leslie" reality series.

I had also resolved to try to read more in 2008. I'm a really slow reader -- even though I have attempted to teach myself speed reading, I enjoy reading at a more leisurely pace. And since I wasn't really show how many books I actually read in a year, I began keeping a journal of the books I read during 2008. Okay, so, not counting books that I re-read or unpublished items I've read (such as manuscripts or unpublished galley proofs from friends I sometimes read), I read 40 books in 2008. And number does include the half dozen books I ended up listening to unabridged audio versions of. (Yes, rather than that normal time wasted walking to work or on other chores, I spent the time listening to the audio version of books -- a very practical, useful and ultimately pleasurable use of my time, methinks)

That means I average reading about 3 books a month. When I look back at the logs, there are some months in which I polished off 5 or more books, and other months in which I barely made it through one. But it certainly was interesting to note. Speaking of notes, upon completion of each book, I made a brief 1 or 2 sentence note about it. That was fun. I plan on doing that again.

But once thing that is very obvious to me is that I really am a slow reader. Oh well -- I think I did well, all things considered, and would have to hope that I can read at least 40 books in 2009. It gives me a goal to reach.

And it also makes me wonder about the math. If I can only read about 40 books in a year, why, then, must I purchase between 50 and 75 books per year? I'm just setting myself up for failure, aren't I? (But then again, there's nothing like reading a book I bought 8 years ago that has waited patiently on my shelves for me to discover it -- then, after reading it I wondered why in hell I waited so damn long to read it)

Friday, January 02, 2009

Beer, Books & Booze

Three really fun things I got for Christmas last week were beer, books and booze. Three of my favourite things.

First, the beer: Hobgoblin beer.

This traditionally crafted legendary full bodied ruby red coloured beer from Wychwood Brewery is strong in roasted malt with a moderate hoppy bitterness, a delicious chocolate toffee malt flavour and slight fruity character. But, most importantly it's the unofficial beer of Halloween. Cool. I enjoyed a glass of it last night with supper. Quite enjoyable.

Next, the books:

Linwood Barclay - Too Close To Home
Michael Connelly - The Brass Verdict

Stephen King - Just After Sunset

J.K. Rowling - The Tales of Beedle the Bard

I started with Barclay's latest thriller, which I finished on New Year's Day. It was incredible. Yes, Barclay, who used to be a columnist for The Toronto Star wrote hilarious satirical essays, but man can he even pen a fantastic thriller. This is his sixth mystery/thriller and they just keep getting better. I've moved on to Connelly's novel now and am about 100 pages into it. Harry Bosch meets the Lincoln Lawyer. So far, excellent.

And now, the booze: Johnnie Walker Blue Label Scotch

Renowned for its perfect balance, this well rounded and velvety smooth scotch with a startlingly complex finish comes in individually numbered bottles. While it is a blend rather than a single malt scotch, it is truly the finest blend I have ever tasted, made from a blend of Johnnie Walker's rarest whiskies. And you can tell this is one of the more treasured scotches available not just from the taste, the individually serial number on the bottle, or the fact my brother in law said is was locked up at the LCBO and had to be walked to the front cash. No, you can tell because it comes cradled in a satin-lined box that is absolutely gorgeous and likely far more luxurious than the casket I end up being buried in.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

HNT - Favourite HNT Post of 2008

I've been involved in Half-Nekkid Thursday (or HNT for short) blog posts for three years now. It has always been a lot of fun trying to come up with something interesting, creative and "nekkid" each week.

So, trying to come up with my favourite HNT post for 2008 is always a challenge. There are so many different reasons to pick a favourite and it's just hard to choose with over 50 different pictures.

Among my favourite shots are the ones in which I appeared with others. Like ones of me and Alexander, one of me and Paul from University of Alberta bookstore, me with my buddy Pete (Levack Pete) or one of me pretending to chase students pretending to steal textbooks.

But my favourite was an evening when RainyPete, blogger and photographer extraordanaire, came over to help me shoot some short film bits we were going to send to Lecram for a project he was working on.

We ended up having one too many beers and then just goofing around with the camera, resulting in one of my favourite HNT shots for the year.

You can read the original post this came from here.

Oh, and BTW, a belated Happy Birthday to you, Pete!

And to everyone, Happy New Years (and for those of you who celebrate HNT - Happy HNT!)