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Monday, March 30, 2009

Zander And The Chocolate Factory

The other night, I finally finished reading Charlie & The Chocolate Factory to Alexander. I fondly remember this book from my childhood and was glad to share it with my son.

Interestingly, when I picked up the first Harry Potter book I remember being filled with that same sense of wonder that reading the Roald Dahl book gave me -- and not all that dis-similar when you look at them. A young impoverished boy struggling through his days is given a chance to enter into a magical world of wonder and discovery.

Of course, this second read-through of the Dahl novel wasn't quite so fun for me as I remember it as a child. Alexander enjoyed it, though, particularly the very last scene in the novel when the glass elevator goes crashing through the roof of the factory (he's rather fond of smashing and crashing)

In any case, shortly after finishing reading the book, the locally owned Walker's Chocolates had an open house. People could go on a tour if they brought non-perishable food items for the local food bank.

And off we went to get a tour of the Walker's Chocolates factory in Burlington.

It was a decidedly fun afternoon. We got to learn a great deal about how they make their different chocolate treats and watch the various stages of the "life" of a hollow chocolate bunny. It was great to see how the hollow chocolate figures are made, and the stages they go through before they are complete and ready for the shelves. Not only that, but they flattered me by insisting that I wear a hair-net. yes, it was decided that I actually had enough hair to warrant wearing one -- wOOt!

Quick note -- Harry Walker, the owner, was not eccentric like Willy Wonka -- and the Oompa-Loompas must have had the day off, because there wasn't a single one in sight.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Halfway Around The Bay

Francine just left to run in Around The Bay -- North America's oldest road race.

She'll be doing a 15K relay with one of the friends she runs with regularly on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

The first half of the race is what Fran will be running. The race begins on York Blvd., 1 block west of Copps Coliseum and proceeds east on York which turns into Wilson Street to Sherman Avenue. At Sherman Ave runners turn north and then east at Cannon Street. Runners stay on Cannon Street which turns into Britannia Ave to Parkdale Ave. Runners then turn north at Parkdale Ave and east bound at Melvin Ave to Woodward Ave, and then north on Woodward Ave to the Beach Strip. That's where her partner Muriel, will take her running chip and do the second half of the race, completing the circuit around the other half of the bay of Hamilton Harbour. After crossing the Canal lift bridge the race turns onto Eastport Drive to Northshore Blvd. The race will turn west bound onto the rolling hills of Northshore Blvd., and then west onto Plains Rd. to Spring Garden Rd. Just past Woodland Cemetery awaits the Valley Inn Hill leading up to York Blvd. and the finish into Copps Coliseum at York Blvd. and Bay Sts. Here's a Google Map of the race.

I'm continually amazed at how far she has come since she first started running a few years ago. We used to run together, and made it up to the 5 K mark. But at about the time Alexander was born, I fell behind, haven't run anywhere near as often as Francine, and never made it past 5 K. When I run now, I usually only do about 2.5 or 3 K and at that, it's usually on the treadmill downstairs rather than outside enjoying the scenery.

But she's off -- she'll be doing the first 15 K of the stretch and starting at 9:30. It's a rainy morning, and I'm hoping the rain slows down so she can run with less hassle.

Alexander is still sleeping and I'm about to go back to doing some writing/editing work. Here in my clean, warm, dry basement, while she slogs through downtown city streets on a cold, wet March morning.

I love her conviction. She continues to inspire me.

Go Fran!

Fran running Around The Bay in 2008

Thursday, March 26, 2009

HNT - The Boys Of Chorus

Usually, whenever our family is getting ready to do something, poor Francine has to contend with the antics of a couple of four year old in the house. Namely, Alexander, who is 4, and me. Yes, although I'm almost ten times my son's age physically, I have to be honest and admit that I'm just as amused by the same things my four year old finds fun.

For example, the other day when we were all getting ready to head out, while Francine was in the bathroom getting ready, Alexander and I paraded down the hallway in our underwear singing the "We're the Boys of Chorus" song from that old Bugs Bunny cartoon "What's Up, Doc?"

You remember it, don't you?

Bugs is talking about his first big gig on Broadway, and then they flash to him and three other guys doing a warm-up chorus number at the beginning of the show, and singing:

Oh we're the boys of the chorus
We hope you like our show
We know you're rooting for us
But now we have to go . . .

Alexander loves performing this song with me and we do it every chance we get.

Poor Fran.

In any case, I thought a "boys of Chorus" pic would be appropriate for this week's HNT picture.


If you want to want the entire video (it's about seven minutes long, but I swear when I was a kid I thought it was a 20 minute epic story) you can watch it online here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Do Do Do Lookin' Out My Back Door

. . . okay, I was looking out my back window, actually.

This morning I got up early to do some writing. I've been working at another draft of my novel MORNING SON -- going through it with a red pen and a wicked spirit, tolerant of no word or "phrase" that derails the story in any way, boldly striking out the offending ones and hopefully feeding new life into the ones that remain and partnering them with newer, better word choices. (Okay, I know, it's a fanciful way of saying I'm editing and making revision notes)

When I went upstairs at about 7 AM to get a refill of my coffee, I was struck with how powerful and beautiful the morning sky was. Since my novel MORNING SON is a play on words with MORNING/MOURNING and SON/SUN, and does include a key scene that takes place during a spectacular sunrise, I thought I would try to take a quick picture of what I was seeing.

No, I'm not a photographer, but I did my best to capture the beauty of the colours in the pink and purple "cotton candy" clouds.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Boo Hoo Bird

I recently bought a copy of Jeremy Tankard's new book Boo Hoo Bird for my son Alexander.

With our entire family being huge fans of Jeremy's first book (Grumpy Bird), we were delighted to see this character and his friends return for another adventure.

I had the chance to meet Jeremy a couple of years ago at Book Expo Canada and was able to get a signed copy of Grumpy Bird for Alexander, which we have read repeatedly over the years.

Grumpy Bird tells the story of one day when Bird wakes up too grumpy to eat, play or even fly. "Looks like I'm walking today," he says, and stomps off. As his friends join him on his walk, a bit of silliness ensues and Bird finds it's difficult to stay grumpy with so many friends hanging out and having fun.

It's an incredibly cute story, wonderfully illustrated, and one we've read time and again.

Jeremy's second book, Me Hungry is another cute story -- this time about a caveboy eagerly seeking out a snack. Alexander has also enjoyed that one, but not nearly as much as he likes Grumpy Bird (which we also have a nice signed poster of on his wall)

That's why I was delighted to read Jeremy's latest book, bringing back Bird and his friends, with a cute story about what happens when Bird and Raccoon are playing catch and Bird gets bonked on the head.

In the classic style of Grumpy Bird, it takes a common situation and turns it into something everyone can smile about.

I strongly recommend Jeremy's books for kids and adults alike. Particularly if you're a grumpy bird. After reading them, you'll have one less reason to be grumpy.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Who Was That Lens-ed Man?

My good buddy Greg Roberts, photographer extraordinaire, has created a SoFoBoMo blog.

The SoFoBoMo project is kind of like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), except it's for photographers and isn't geared towards ONE particular month, but rather a 31 day period. Thus, SoFoBoMo is short for The Solo Photo Book Month.

Several years ago, Greg took some photos for me that I've been using as author photos for various things such as on books, websites, author profiles, FBI most-wanted lists, etc. You can tell he's good because in the photos he makes me look somewhat intelligent and pensive.

Greg's skills in photography are quite varied -- he does great portraits and slice of life pictures, great landscapes and wonderful textural shots as well. I'm curious to see what sort of mix he'll bring to this particular book project or if he'll focus in on one area.

I've long been hoping to see Greg put together a book of photographs and am thus quite looking forward to following the progress on this fun, fast-paced project.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Twitbook

I'm normally okay with change. Sure, for most of us, the initial moments of change are unsettling -- it's human nature, after all. But I like to believe I'm open-minded enough to check out the change and see what's good about it.

Like Facebook -- the last few times they made changes, I found it uncomfortable at first, but after a day or so managed to intuitively find my way around and roll with it. No harm done, life goes on.

But this last update (about a week ago now), in which they basically tried to change Facebook from, well, from being Facebook and into a Twitter-like environment, is a bit more difficult to accept.

It's not longer intuitive -- no longer easy to check out what my friends are up to -- at least not as easily as before, IMHO.

And, a week later, despite my initial reluctance to get all flustered over the change and try to find some good with it, I'm throwing my hands up in the air. It's simply taking too long to figure things out -- and I don't have a lot of time as it is. It's meant to be a momentary distraction, a fun quick break (usually in the early morning before I take off to work) then on with the real parts of my day.

It's no longer Facebook. It's, as one of my friends pointed out: Twitbook.

Sigh. I like Twitter being Twitter. I like Facebook being Facebook. I like MySpace being MySpace. I like Second Life being Second Life. You get the point. Anyone who tries to make a single application/networking flatform do ALL those different things that draw people to each of them might not be barking up the right tree.

People use or login to the applications they do because they like them for the different and unique things they bring and can offer.

And I can't help thinking that this whole Facebook update is akin to the same grand failure Coke faced when it introduced NEW COKE.

It's 1985 all over again, this time in the virtual world.

I'm wondering when they're going to come to their senses and bring back "Classic Facebook?"

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Happy Bookstore Accidents

Here is Michael Tamblyn's presentation of 6 Things That Could Change Publishing for the Better, which was presented at the BookNet Canada Tech Forum 2009 in Toronto on March 12, 2009. Michael is the CEO of BookNet Canada.

The forum was a great day and this was a phenomenal presentation to sit through last week. It's even better to be able to see it the second time around.

I love Michael's presentation style -- entertaining, lively, engaging, filled with the perfect mix of insightful and intelligent information delivered with Michael's sense of quirky humour. There's always a nice combination of slide and presenter when he "performs." (I'd say that he presents, but he's not just presenting, he truly is performing) The editing of the video of the presentation (or the performance) was also quite skillfully done which makes it almost like being there.

Something I made a note of during the presentation was when Michael talks about the "Happy Accidents" that happen when you're browsing in a bookstore. Such a perfect term to describe the experience.

But the 6 Things mentioned are interesting and definitely worth taking a serious look at.



HNT - POW!

Yesterday I received a book in the mail -- part of a blogger's chance to get the book for free from Andy Nulman. It's called POW! RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES: Profiting from the Power of Surprise by Andy Nulman.

All I had to do was ask for it on my blog. (Okay, so maybe I begged a little)

And now it's here.

Woot!

I can't wait to read it. Looks like an awesome book. If the title interests you, go check out Andy's blog, where you can get a feel for his writing style. Once I finish reading the book, which I'll have to immediately add in to the "books I'm reading" list, I'm going to be posting a review here (as well as on Goodreads, Amazon, Chapters/Indigo, etc)



Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mourning Son

Has it really been six years since I lost my father?

It feels like just yesterday. And the pain, though not as sharp as it once was, is still acute.

At the beginning of the year, when I was making my annual "writing goals for the year" plan, I specifically mentioned that I would pull my novel Morning Son back out of the drawer, give it yet another read-through and re-write, and send it off to a publisher. It has been a couple of years since I last sent it out for consideration.

Although I normally write horror, this novel is a contemporary tale of a man's quest to lay his father's ashes to rest. I wrote it in an attempt to face what had been a fear that had plagued me for much of my life -- the fear of losing my father. So in many ways, there is an element of horror in the story. When I was younger, I remember waking in a cold sweat, tears in my eyes and practically screaming because I'd had a dream that my father had died. It seemed to be the most terrible thing that could happen. And so, what I often do with my fears is incorporate them into a story. Of course, despite it having been an exercise in facing my fears, the novel is ultimately about a son discovering a new love for his deceased father as he uncovers hidden family secrets and learns much more about the man, many things he never knew while his father was alive.

A couple of years ago, I blogged about working on the novel Morning Son while on Manitoulin Island with my dad and cousin. One afternoon I shared a bit of the novel in progress with him, and though we didn't often have lengthy in-depth discussions (we preferred to just hang out in each other's company; not much conversation. Either we were goofing around and telling each other jokes, or we were just somehow comfortable in the silence between us), that afternoon when I'd shared a scene from the novel with him was one of the most wonderfully intimate moments we'd had when I was an adult.

Of course, I blog regularly about my dad. How could I not?

Just a few days ago, I pulled Morning Son out of the filing cabinet where it has been resting, and started working at reading it again and making some notes for another re-write. Then I can send it off to publishers again.

The experience of working on this novel, which is, in many ways, a tribute to my dad, is almost like having him here again.

Almost.

Another St. Patrick's Day and another beer tipped in celebration of the man I still miss so much.

I love you, Dad.

Monday, March 16, 2009

For Those Who Find My Blog Too Verbose

After over a year of resisting, I finally signed up for Twitter.

My main reason was that I was afraid I would find it fun, and thus too distracting. Lord knows I have enough fun things to distract me away from my writing time.

So I signed up yesterday.

Well, lo and behold, it IS fun and distracting. Sigh. More fool me.

I'm fascinating by the concept of Twitter as a "micro-blog" and since I've been having so much fun using my Facebook status updates for fun and games (such as posting silly lyrics and planting ear-worms in the minds of my Facebook friends), I thought it would be neat to sign up for Twitter and have a bit more creative fun.

And for those of you who think my blog posts are too wordy, the great thing about Twitter is that you're limited to 140 characters in total for each post. So if I wanted to be verbose, I'd have to do it in a series of chunks......

Well, I did roll out a novel on a blog a couple of years ago, testing the format and trying to tell the story through the POV of the main character as a blogger -- perhaps I'll come up with something similar for Twitter -- I know other writers have done so; it might be a fun creative endeavour.

In any case, if you want to follow me on Twitter go the following url:

http://twitter.com/MarkLeslie

Saturday, March 14, 2009

How Many Books Are You Reading Right Now?

One of the presenters at BookNet Canada Tech Forum 2009 had mentioned a couple of times during his presenation of the Sony ebook Reader the fact that he often reads more than one book at a time, and switches what he reads based on the mood he's in, where he is, etc.

I can understand that. When I used to commute into Toronto, I'd always have some sort of thin book (usually a paperback or mass market book) that I kept in my laptop bag, for reading on the GO train. I'd save the hardcovers or the really thick books for the bedside table.

But I found it would be an interesting question from one booklover to another not to ask "what book are you reading?" but rather "how many and which books are you reading?"

As for myself, here's a breakdown of the books that are currently in my various "in progress" reading piles.

Me Minus 173: From 328 Pounds to the Boston Marathon
Alicia Snell
I started reading this on Thursday morning when I was on the GO Train heading in to the BNC Tech Forum in Toronto. Alicia had done a book event at my bookstore in Hamilton the day before, was an incredibly fascinating and motivating speaker, and when she read a couple of passages from the book I knew I had to read the rest of it in its entirety. (Interestingly enough, since I helped format the book for her -- she printed it on our Espresso Book Machine -- I had read at least the first paragraph of each chapter and bits throughout. Here's the cool thing. While formatting the book, I had to keep reminding myself to STOP reading, and get back to formatting, because her writing draws you in so powerfully. For example, the book opens with the following line. "There is a fat world and a thin world and I have lived in both." How could you NOT want to keep reading when the writing is that compelling? I'm currently on page 111.

The Book of Negroes
Lawrence Hill
I bought the book back in October 2008 when Lawrence was the Writer in Residence at McMaster. And again, though I was moved by Lawrence's talk and reading when he was in the store and wanted to pick up the book immediately, there were just too many other books on my "in progress" pile to add it at the time. I'm kicking myself over not simply pushing those other books aside now. I often do that. I hang onto this book I bought for months or even years before I pick it up to read -- and then, once I read it, I curse myself for putting off such a fantastic read. Larry's book is like that. He is a marvellous, brilliant writer. His story is vivid and tangible; his characters are continually in my heart nomatter when I put the book down. It's easy to see why he is winning so many awards and getting so much acclaim for this incredibly powerful novel. I'm on page 137. (FYI, in the U.S. this novel was published under the title "Someone Knows My Name")

Hannibal Rising
Thomas Harris
I hate wasting time when I can be doing something with lost time. There are many moments in a person's day where short bursts of "reading" can help fill the time (waiting in line, waiting in traffic, walking to and from work, etc) Since it's difficult for me to always have a book with me, I decided a few years ago, that I'd select books I wanted to read, and listen to the unabridged version of them. I then copy the files to my mp3 player and keep it handy for when I'm driving and don't want to listen to the continually repeated top 40 crap on the radio, or while I'm on the treadmill, or walking to work, or waiting in line at the grocey store, etc. I've read a few of Harris's other novels and was particularly fasinated with the character of Hannibal. There were some great passages in the book Hannibal that offered an insight into the mansions of the mind of Dr. Lecter as well as his childhood, so when Harris came out with a look at Hannibal's childhood, I knew I was going to enjoy that exploration. This unabridged audio version I'm listening to is read by the author and is quite good. I'm halfway through disc 4 of 6 (not quite sure what page number that is)

Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King
Lisa Rogak
A friend sent me an ARC of this book several months ago -- and again, though I wanted to pick it up back then, I found myself only recently grabbing onto it. I've always enjoyed a behind the scenes look at this brilliant writer, and get the sense I'll get a good view of it. I started reading it about a week ago, but ended up not being in the mood for it and so picked up Larry's book instead and started plowing through that. (When I mean plowing through a book, I should mention that I'm a terribly slow reader......so my kind of plowing is often slower than the average person's plowing through a book). I'm on page 21.

The Need To Kill: Inside the World of the Serial Killer
Steven A. Egger
This is, at it appears, a profile of various serial killers, a look into the pathology of them. One of the most fascinating courses I took back in university was a class in Criminal Behaviour in which our instructor (who used to work for the RCMP) spent some time teaching us about psycopathy and other fascinating things that are now more popularly know thanks to television shows about police procedure and crime scence investigations (such as Criminal Minds, which is among the more intelligent of these shows, IMHO) To me, this book is useful reference material for my own writing -- as I'm reading it, I'm storing bits of information that I am likely going to use in my own fiction. I'm on page 187.

First, Break All The Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently
Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman
I'm not actually reading this book in the traditional sense. Instead, I'm skipping around through it. This book was highly recommended in a wonderful management orientation program I'm attending at McMaster -- and so I've been doing readings from it based on the various topics we've been covering over the past 8 sessions of the "class" -- so I'm doing a lot of jumping around within this. (I'm sort of on page 195, 28 and 223)

A Short History of Nearly Everything (Special Illustrated Edition)
Bill Bryson
Here's one of those books that I know is going to take me a loooooong time to get through, but which I keep on the back burner for a while. As a basic overview of the history of scientific learnings, it's a fascinating read -- and it is giving me all kinds of insights into discovery and basic science from way back. Like the serial killer book, this one can be considered reference for my writing. Inspired by the intense research Robert J. Sawyer often delves into when he begins working on a new novel, I have always found it fun to learn a bit about specific scientific areas that I'm not familiar with, often finding that just by reading about these things I am inspired to ask "what if" questions that turn into science fiction stories. This one, though, doesn't delve into anything too deep, which is good to give me a generic overview. I'm really enjoying it. But it's often too much for my little mind to digest in large chunks. So I have decided this will be one of those books that I pick away at in small chunks. I'm on page 171.

So there are 7 books that I'm currently reading.

And I'm a bit surprised to see how many non-fiction books are on my list. If you were to ask me, off the top of my head I'd likely tell you that 80% of what I read is fiction and perhaps 20% is non-fiction and that at any given time I likely have 1 fiction book and 1 non-fiction book on the go. Similarly, I one a Sony Reader and quite enjoy it -- only, I haven't read a book on it in a while -- and it was during my GO Train ride that I thought I should have downloaded something to read on the train (as slipping that VERY thin Sony Reader out of my bag is so much easier than a conventional book -- and reading standing up, etc, is also easier with the Sony Reader than a traditional printed book)

But upon looking at the books on my "currently reading" pile I see only 2 fiction books and 5 non-fiction. I never would have guessed that.

I'm not even going to start listing the books in my "to read" pile, as there are at least 30 or 40 books I've bought in the past year or so that I still have to pick up, nevermind the other dozen or more books that I'm currently wanting to purchase......

So, how many and which books are YOU reading right now?

Friday, March 13, 2009

They Say You Want An Evolution

Yesterday I attended the BookNet Canada Technology Forum 2009: evolution or REVOLUTION.

What a fantastic day, with a great series of speakers.

The topic, as often happens these days in the world of bookseller, continued to focus on new media such as ebooks, etc, with particular attention to mobile devices. While stats show that people might be reading fewer books, stats also indicate that people are actually reading a LOT more than ever before -- (one must NOT discount the reading that happens online, on mobile devices, etc)

We had a chance to see presentations about Indigo's new shortcovers offering of digital content (during the presentation by Indigo CTO, Michael Serbinis, I uploaded a story of my own* and then an hour later, my buddy Randy from Waterloo's bookstore tested out downloading the story to his iPhone -- nothing better than a "let's check this out" kind of demo. I was amazed at the simplicity of this tool -- of course, I'm not surprised, having worked with many of the incredible minds at Indigo both in the business and within the IT group, at how well this new venture works)

There were great presentations involving online communities, audio, ebook readers, and various visions of changes currently affecting and immediately forthcoming within the book industry. (And yes, the wonderful Espresso Book Machine was mentioned -- I also brought some sample copies of books we printed off on our machine to show various people)

I'm still quite impressed at the way Harlequin has mastered the world of ebooks so quickly and efficiently, offering some new lines available only electronically (ie, born electronically rather than books that were converted to e-book form) If you look at the demographic for loyal Harlequin readers, you'll be amazed at how quickly they have adapted to consuming this content in a whole new way. And talk about loyalty and customer interaction. Something most publishers would kill for.

As always, the folks at BookNet Canada put on an incredible line-up of presentors, the audience was filled with incredibly bright and dynamic people from the book industry, engaged and asking lots of great questions, and, at the end of the day, while filled and satisfied, I'm already eagerly awaiting next year's event.


* The story I uploaded was "Active Reader" which originally appeared in Dissections: The Journal of Contemporary Horror in Feb 2008. Interesting fact -- this story offers a chilling look at discount/loyalty cards and what could happen if info tracked from one of them gets into the hands of a disturbed individual. You can read the entire story online for free -- go check it out. I have since also uploaded Distractions, from my book ONE HAND SCREAMING, which is another dark humour piece.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

HNT - Contemporary Hamilton Author

Quick HNT post this week, and it's all about the self-promotion. (Okay, who am I kidding, when is it NOT about self-promotion?)

This week I was added to the rosters of the Hamilton Public Library's list of Contemporary Hamilton Authors, complete with an author photo that my good buddy Greg Roberts took a few years back.

Since this photo was taken in what used to be my upstairs writing den (what is now Alexander's room), I know it's more than 4 years since the photo was taken. I'll need to have Greg back to take some author photos in my new dark, shadowy basement den. Oooh, creepy. And yes, that file folder being held together with black electrical tape behind me is STILL being used. That is where I track my writing submissions, rejection letters, etc. And THAT is the real "nekkid" part of this HNT post.

I found it interesting that I was listed in the Hamilton Library database twice. Separate entries for ONE HAND SCREAMING and NORTH OF INFINITY II. I was listed once as Leslie, Mark and then another time as Leslie, Mark 1969-

The good folks at the Hamilton library are going to merge both of those listings into a single, self-promoting, Leslie, Mark.

Check out my profile here -- and then go to the library and check out one of my books. Of course, if you don't live in the Hamilton area, then you really should ask your local library to get ahold of my books, which are both easily available from major book wholesalers in Canada and the U.S.

Photo by Greg Roberts

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Something Eerie Coming Up

I was going through my calendar recently and remembered that I'm going to be one of the author guests at EerieCon 11. (April 17-19, 2009)

I attended my first EerieCon (a celebration of Fantasy, Horror & Science Fiction) last year and quite enjoyed it. A smaller convention, held in Niagara Falls, NY (just across the boarder at a hotel that is practically a stone's throw away from the spot where you wait patiently for the border guard to ask to for your passport, to declare your citizenship and ask if you're bringing any fruits or vegetables across) this is a fun and intimate con attended by a wonderful mix of folks from the U.S. and Canada.

Last year at EerieCon, I had the pleasure of meeting Joe Haldeman, one of the very first sci-fi authors that I ever read and getting him to sign my well-worn mass market copy of The Forever War which I'd read multiple times since first getting it in the mid 70's.

Francine likes EerieCon because while I'm doing the writer/nerd thing and cavorting with my genre buddies, she's out at the outlet malls in Niagara Falls, enjoying the shopping experience. Alexander is just delighted with the hotel room pizza parties that we have when we travel. In all, last year it was a wonderful mixture of family "vacation" time combined with some fun writing work time. (Yes, though it's fun, I consider attending a convention work since it's about networking and when you sit on panels, you do need to do your homework to prepare for it -- and when you are attending a convention you're "on" as an author, hoping to meet and chat with fans)

I'm doing a reading at 12:30 on Saturday April 18th, and am also sitting on the following panels:

- Music To Read By
- Does Anyone Make A Real Horror Movie Anymore?
- Genre Crossing
- What's Your Object When On A Panel?
- I Want You, Beloved

Last year, one of the most fun panels I sat on was one with Sephera Giron, Nancy Kress and Caro Soles and where we discussed "Getting Away With Murder" (The discussion was regarding how and why you would kill off a major character in a story or novel? Is it a good idea? What was your readers' reaction?) You can read more about EerieCon 10 and that panel here.

EerieCon 10 - Nancy Kress, Mark Leslie, Sephera Giron, Caro Soles

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Nicely Bleak

This morning I was reading through a short story that a friend had written, making comments, and suggestions on an early draft of a tale she'd written, when, at once particularly bleak, poignant and ultimately sad moment, I made the comment:

"NICE!"

Then I paused and looked at it. In the particular line, the writer was describing a terribly sad and devastating moment in a person's life. And there I was writing "Nice!" It made me wonder if someone else were to see this would they think that I was thrilled at the concept of this terrible turn of events?

I reflected back on how often that sort of thing happens between writers and writers and editors. The writer makes an intensely moving statement that captures the proper sense of sadness and loss, and the editor or other writer says: "Wonderful!" or "Nice!" or "Great!" If I go back through my own work that had been commented on by friends and editors, I wonder how often I'd see that sort of thing. Of course, not once did I believe that the person writing a positive comment on a particularly terrifying or ultimately sad moment was commenting on the moment itself, but instead on how that moment was nicely portrayed by the writing.

It's a good thing we writers understand what is meant by those comments, otherwise we'd have a really skewed view of those friends.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

HNT - By His Skill He Draws You In

Yesterday at Titles Bookstore McMaster University, we had a special author appearance by Douglas Smith, doing the Hamilton launch of his book Impossibilia. (Actually two versions of the book. The limited edition hardcover (limited to 300 signed and numbered copies), which retails for $18.00; and the even more limited edition jacketed hardcover (limited to 100 signed and numbered copies) which we're retailing for a steal at $28.00.

But in addition to Doug's great new book from the award winning PS Publishing, we also launched a special collector's edition movie companion book to the film "By Her Hand, She Draws You Down" (A TinyCore Pictures in association with Southpaw Pictures film, directed by Anthony G. Sumner) which was based on Doug's haunting short story of the same name.

With the purchase of either of these hardcovers from Doug, Titles is giving away a copy of the 116 page book (which retails for $11.99) featuring Doug's original story, notes on writing the story, the director, producer and actor notes on making the film, the original storyboard for the film, pictures from the set, sketches used in the movie as well as an interview with Doug (done by yours truly)

We still have a small handfull of Doug's books left, and I doubt they're going to last. One has only to start reading a Douglas Smith story in order to get draw in to his brilliant prose and vivid characters.

The official movie companion book to Douglas Smith's BY HER HAND, SHE DRAWS YOU DOWN was printed on our Espresso Book Machine from On Demand Books.

For this week's HNT post, here's a picture I took last weekend after I printed the first test copy of the book. (For this first test my cover design was a little off, as you can see the spine text wraps around the front a bit -- but with a bit of tweaking, I managed to correct it and the version we're printing now is, like Doug's writing, stunning.)

My hand holding the first test copy of BHHSDYD, featuring actress
Zoƫ Daelman Chlanda on the cover. The EBM is in the background


Douglas Smith chats casually with the crowd after doing a reading

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Ode To Beaker

A friend of a friend posted this on Facebook and I just HAD to share it here (mostly so I could easily find it and watch it every once in a while . . . . okay, I'll admit it, watch it once a day)

Man, Beaker and a great piece of music.

The perfect medley.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Six Hundred and Sixty-Six Hands Screaming

I found it amusing that my horror collection One Hand Screaming was listed on a website (Rediff books - India's largest online bookstore) with a price of 666 rupees.

Yes, 666, the number of the beast, or mark of the devil.

(And it usually ships within 45 working days -- wow - that makes the standard 1 week wait around here for ordered books seem lightning fast)

How wonderfully fitting for a horror collection.

And yes, there is at least one specific reference to Satan in the book -- my story "Tricky Treater" which appears in OHS and was originally published in Crossroads magazine features the father of lies disguised as a little trick or treater.