Thursday, May 28, 2009

HNT - LDHS High School Reunion 1992

I recently registered for the Levack District High School (LDHS) reunion taking place this summer. The high school has been closed down, and has been closed for several years. But since the same building is operating as Levack Public School now, the reunion committee has been able to use it for this summer's reunion.

I thought I might post a few pictures from the last LDHS reunion -- it occured in 1992, just four years after high school -- so, not a lot to get caught up on with old high school friends. But it was still fun. This time around, though, many many more years have passed, so there is a lot more catching up to do with old high school friends.

I'm very fortunate to be in relatively close contact with many of my high school buddies, and still able to hang out with some of them on a semi-regular basis. Of course, social media networks like Facebook have allowed me to get back in touch with many more over the past couple of years.

Tom Potts, Michelle Norry Simmons, me, John Ellis

John Ellis, me, Tom Potts, Michelle Norry Simmons

From the gang in the picture above, I know that both Tom Potts and John Ellis will be attending, but haven't heard if Michelle will be going.

In any case, it should be really fun, yes, even though I don't have the really cool dude mullet that I was sporting back in 1992.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sneak Peek At The New Kindle 3

Here is a hilarious new video from College Humour (whoops, I mean College Humor) that I saw thanks to the good folks at Book Ninja (whoops I mean Bookninja). It's a sneak peek at the forthcoming Kindel 3 . . . (whoops, I meant Kindle 3) . . .

Thursday, May 21, 2009

HNT - Backwards Reflection

I'm sitting in my hotel room in Montreal right now -- debating between heading downstairs to the fitness room and lifting some weights or perhaps working on a bit of writing.

Then I remembered it's Thursday - time to post an HNT pic.

Whoops - don't have a camera with me - but I do have my Palm Treo -- a quick scan of the pictures already on my Palm reveal the following image -- a picture Alexander snapped of me about a month ago when we were in Niagara Falls, NY. Francine was trying some new pants on Alexander in the dressing room, and to amuse my son, I pulled out the Palm and started snapping pictures.

Alexander, in turn, wanted to take a picture of his own and snapped this one of me.

Just a couple of four-year old minds keeping them selves amused while shopping for clothes.

Okay, it's about 6 AM now -- time to get my workout clothes and head downstairs. Or should I just flip over to WORD and work on that story I've been itching to finish?

Decisions, decisions . . .

Thursday, May 14, 2009

HNT - Birthday Flashback

I turned 40 last Wednesday. Francine had a small surprise party for me on Saturday night. It was Spider-Man themed. Spider-Man napkins, a cool Spider-Man birthday cake -- the perfect theme for this 40 year old who has grown old but hasn't really grown up.

Among the really cool folks who came to the party were friends I've had almost my entire life. Taki Stewart, Greg Roberts and Steve Gaydos. Steve and Julia came all the way from Ottawa to surprise me, which was really cool.

Taki and Greg reminded me of the time I had turned 21 and we were all in Levack and hoping to get bombed drinking in my parent's basement. We had all the beer and booze we could ever desire and were prepared to drink like . . . well, like 21 year olds celebrating. The only catch was that my Mom and Baba kept bringing down tray after tray of snacks and food -- a supply of goodies even more endless than the drinks at our disposal. We ended up getting so stuffed and filled with food, that it either absorbed all the alcohol or we were too stuffed to drink more.

Needless to say, though, we did have a great time. Nineteen years ago. I dug out an old photo album and scanned the pictures from that afternoon in for this week's Half Nekkid Thursday.

Man did I ever have big hair back then . . . but I'm delighted to say that not only am I still good friends with everyone in the picture, but I also still have my "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad Dog" t-shirt (from a comedy troupe called Skit Row that a friend of a friend was in way back when). It's a little worse for wear, but Francine has let me keep it. Woohoo!

Pete Mihajic, Greg Roberts, Taki Stewart, me, John Ellis

Me,Taki Stewart, John Ellis, Greg Roberts

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Preventative Maintenance

Yesterday, after I was, in my fatherly tone, nagging Alexander and telling him not to pick his nose, he went into a logical explanation about why he was doing it.

"I have to remove the boogers," he said "Because they keep going bigger."

"They keep growing bigger?"

"Yes," he exclaimed. "If I don't remove them, they'll get bigger and bigger and hurt my nose."

"I see," I said. "So what you're doing, then, isn't picking your nose, it's really just preventative maintenance."

"Yup!" And a big grin spread on his face as he repeated the words. "Preventative maintenance!"

You've gotta love the logic of a four year old. How wonderfully creative.

Friday, May 08, 2009

To Boldly Go Wait In Line For Hours

I'm quite excited that tonight I'm going to be seeing the new Star Trek movie with a friend.

I remember watching episodes of the old television series with Jim Turcott in his basement in Onaping back in the early 80's -- he was a Trek fan and his passion for the show was infectious -- he converted many of us into Star Trek fans over the years. A group of friends of Jim are gathering this evening in Sudbury to see the movie and celebrate Jim's memories. While I won't be with them, I wish that I were, and I'll certainly be thinking of Jim and wondering what he would think about this movie . . .

I've heard that for die-hard Trekkies, it's great -- and also for non-fans it's great. Gotta love something like that.

Of course, there's this hilarious spoof of the "reviews" of the movie from The Onion . . . (don't worry, there are no spoilers in it . . . just fun laughs)

Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'

Thursday, May 07, 2009

HNT - Trapped In A Bryan Czerneda Production

Last Saturday I spent a few hours helping a few friends from work who were participating in a the Hamilton 24 hour Film Festival. On 8 PM on Friday night they were given three things that had to be incorporated into a short movie -- and by 8 PM Saturday night, they had to deliver the movie into the competition.

I swung by the set to help them film a short scene in which they needed a middle-aged guy.

Twas a fun few hours. The good news is that they handed the movie in with about 3 minutes to spare. I've got my fingers crossed and hope the movie does well.

It has always been fun making movies. When I was younger, I used to horse around with a camera (a giant VHS camera) and make short goofy films. Always fun times. Having worked with Bryan on a couple short films now has resurrected those pleasures I had from when I was in my late teens and early twenties and endeavoring to make creative short films (Admittedly, my short films were usually spoofs of Conan epics or Star Trek-type adventures -- only one or two of them was anywhere close to being serious in nature/content)

This short film we shot last Saturday was the second Bryan Czerneda production I've appeared in. And for anyone wondering, yes, Bryan is related to my friend science fiction writer Julie E. Czerneda. Apparently the spirit of creative genius flows quite powerfully through the Czerneda clan.

For Bryan's "thesis" film for his final year at McMaster, he created a short film called "Trapped" -- in it, I played a middle-aged teacher of the main character who was, as the title suggests, trapped in a world spinng out of control, confusedly walking through doorways in a desperate attempt for proper self-discovery.

It was a well done film and I'm quite pleased to be in it.

Perhaps, given this trend, I'll be the token middle-aged character guy making a cameo in all of Bryan's films.

My HNT post for this week is a still shot from Trapped by Bryan Czerneda.

We shot the "teacher" scene in my den. Bryan liked my collection of skulls so much that he incorporated Yorick, the skull I often take with me to book signings, into the film. It fit in nicely with the eccentric random book-quoting and babbling professor role I was playing. (Okay, I'll admit - not much acting was involved to pull that off)

Bryan tells me the film will eventually be posted online -- when that happens I'll post a link to it.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Cool News To Hear On My Birthday

Okay, so I heard it a few hours BEFORE my birthday, but who's really checking the facts of anything I post here? Isn't that the beauty of this internet thingy (which I hear, might be really big one day if we all were to just give the internet a chance and stop thinking of it as some sort of passing fad)

In any case, I heard some great news from Tom English, editor of the beautiful anthology BOUND FOR EVIL: Curious Tales of Books Gone Bad.

It has been nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award.

This book, a gorgeous 800 page hardcover bound in imitation leather and stamped in golf leaf, contains 66 stories and is the first ever gathering of the very best stories of diabolical books from 61 different authors.

BOUND FOR EVIL contains a revised reprint of my story "Browsers" (which originally appeared in Challenging Destiny #5 back in January 1999 and was reprinted in my story collection One Hand Screaming in 2004) -- the version of this story was slightly modified to better suit the anthology by Tom English. I modified the story such that the books, rather than the bookstore were the entity behind the strange occurrence at an anonymous bookshop which no real book lover can ever escape from. And, of course, BOUND FOR EVIL is the only place this specific version of the story has ever appeared.

Apart from a couple stories I wrote about snowmen, "Browsers" is the story I have received the most positive feedback from. Here are a few review blurbs that mention it:

"Anyone who reads much short fiction in the small press fantasy and science fiction magazines knows that the style and form of the old Twilight Zone is still very much alive among writers. "Browsers", by Mark Leslie, is a good example. A low-key horror story, it used the time honored method of introducing a character in an ordinary situation, in this case a customer in a used bookstore, and slowly trapping that character in a form of hell. Readers who have enjoyed the experience of losing themselves among the stacks of books in an old musty store will identify with, and appreciate, this story."
- Greg L. Johnson, Tangent Online

"Originality is decidedly rare in horror. Invention is even more rare in horror fiction, thus a sigh of relief at Leslie's 'Browsers'"
- Mick Halpin, Critical Mick

The Shirley Jackson Awards will be presented on July 12, 2009 at ReaderCon 20 in Burlington, MA. BOUND FOE EVIL editor Tom English will be there, as will other authors from the anthology, like Simon Strantzas.

When I Get Older, Losing My Hair

So today is the big 4-0.


I don't feel older. Okay, sure, my stomach has been giving me some strange problems for the past several days. Not sure if it's a stomach virus or something more indicative of my age. And yes, I don't have as much hair as I used to (though it was goofy looking, sometimes I miss that big hair and mullet I had in my 20's). And, okay, my body creaks a little when I move a certain way and I'm not nearly as flexible as I used to be. And while I've a bald spot and receding hairline up top, other hair has sprung up in strange places that hair doesn't belong -- old man fashion.

But in many ways, I don't feel a day older than 17.


I recall my father's 40th birthday and sitting around with the family celebrating it. It seemed like such a landmark and it seemed so darn far away. My father seemed mature, responsible, the fully confident head of our household and, okay, I'll be honest -- OLD. Looking at him that day, I remember thinking how far away the age of 21 seemed to me, nevermind 40. And, lo and behold, 40 snuck up on me and here it is. And yet while I know I must be responsible and if not mature, then at least capable of acting mature when the situation calls for it, I still don't feel "old."

I suppose that's a good thing.

I was going to start listing a bunch of landmark things that I'd hoped to accomplish by this age, but I never really established a list of things I'd wanted to accomplish by the time I was 40.

One thing I've always wanted to do was write. And I've at least had some moderate success in that area. It's nice to know that I've stuck with something for so long that I've been truly passionate about for most of my life -- that feels really good.

From the time I was a young teenager, I remember sitting in the basement on a hot summer day while outside the window a group of friends were running around, laughing and splashing in the pool -- and there I was, sitting at my mom's old Underwood typewriter and pounding out a terrible novel inspired by some Dungeons & Dragons adventures I'd had. There was fun and games to be had outside, but there was a story and characters tearing around inside my head that were begging to be released onto the page. That hasn't changed -- characters, situations and ideas continue to plague me. What also plagues me is being able to find the time to get them all down onto a page. (Although it's a virtual page these days rather than a physical one)

Back back to physical pages, and typewriters, I remember trying desperately to find a photocopier (those were rare back then) so I could copy a story I had typed up and send it to a publisher for publication consideration. (Because otherwise I'd have to re-type it every time I wanted to send that story out) -- technology has certainly made that process easier.

Of course, technology has also taken many things away from my writing time. Rather than sitting in the basement pounding out a story or novel, I spend time goofing around online, a minute here, a minute there -- the next thing you know, an hour has passed and I haven't gotten any real writing done.

Like now, for instance. Here I sit, having gotten up early with the intent to write, but instead I've farted around on Facebook, checked my email, then babbled on a meaningless blog post.

Time I could have spent writing.

Gee, I wonder if, along with my hair, I've also lost that sense of discipline that allowed me to stick to a writing project?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Power Fools

How do I explain to my four year old that the toy power tools made for his age group are not going to have the same power as the ones made for his father?

On Sunday, Alexander and I were in the back yard, doing some spring-type work to get the deck, pool and shed ready for the summer. Having received some really cool Home Depot brand power tools for Christmas from his Uncle Mike (a chainsaw and grass trimmer), Alexander was delighted at the chance to bring them outside for this first time this season.

He wasn't out there using them for more than a few minutes before he came up on the deck, crying.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"My chainsaw and trimmer don't work?"

That was strange. I had heard them running while he was cavorting on the lawn with them. "Are you, sure, Alexander? I thought I heard them running."

"No!" he said. "They don't work. The chainsaw doesn't cut through trees. The trimmer doesn't cut grass."

How does one explain to his four year old that his toy power tools, particularly the ones with cutting/blade type action, are not going to work the same as his father's tools? I mean, sure, perhaps 30 or 40 years ago, safety standards being what they were, kids were often handed circular saws, air powered nail guns and other fun paraphernalia that are too dangerous for most adults to handle -- but safety standards have certainly changed, and our society isn't going to hand a four year old a chain saw that actually can cut through tree trunks.

You see, Alexander has always helped out, participated in chores and work around the house -- he's the hardest working four year old I've ever known. In fact, he works harder than many adults I know. He's always been that way, since the first days he could walk. (We actually have a video of him somewhere near the age of 1, carefully emptying the cutlery holder in the dish washer and walking the spoons and forks over to the drawer that he couldn't even see into, with a delighted smile on his face because he was helping Mommy and Daddy)

So, seeing himself as a useful little helper around the house, it's hard to take the wind out of his sails by telling him they don't make actual working power tools for his age group. I still haven't figured out a nice way to break this to him.

So instead, I said: "Okay, son. First thing next Saturday morning, we'll take those defective tools back to the store and get new ones that work."

I at least bought myself another week.

More fool me.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

They Played The Moose Card

My 40th birthday is coming up this week. And this past Friday I received a letter in the mail from the good folks at Moosehead. (Canada's oldest and largest independent brewery)

Inside was a birthday card that read:

"If you think this is just another birthday card . . .

. . . . . . you don't know JACK."

And inside was a $10 gift card to Jack Astor's Bar & Grill with the Moosehead logo imprinted onto it.

I'm already a huge Moosehead fan, but this wonderful little touch solidifies my loyalty to their brand even more. I just finished reading Andy Nulman's book POW! Right Between The Eyes! Profiting from the Power of Surprise (my review of that great book is still forthcoming on this blog, BTW) and I think that this card from Moosehead qualifies as one of those small things that mean so much Andy talks about, as well as the fact that I wasn't expecting a birthday card from a beer company.

I'm not sure who foot the bill for the actual gift card, but it's a pretty brilliant marketing investment. Chances are that I'm not going to go into Jack Astor's and spend a mere $10. Sure, I could do that. But it's more likely that I'll spend more than that. And when I ask for what's on tap, you can be sure I'll be hoping they have Moosehead Lager (that's standard operating procedure for me anyways, but the gift card certainly inspires that behaviour in me).

But even more so, you can be sure that I'll be telling my friends about this experience, offering both companies more word of mouth marketing. That, and perhaps, just perhaps, I'll even blog about it, potentially meaning a few more pairs of eyes will read about how impressed I am with the good folks at Moosehead.