Monday, November 29, 2010

Canada Reads 2011 Reveals A Brave New Canada

I was recently asked, as a book blogger, to write a short guest post for the Canada Reads blog.

My short POV about the process appears in this post today on the CBC Books/Canada Reads website along with posts from . . .

Charlotte Ashley of Inklings
Jennifer Knoch of Keepin' It Real Book Club
Chad Pelley of Salty Ink
Steph VanderMeulen of Bella's Bookshelves

Apart from the fact that I have the least interesting named blog of the bunch (the dry and boring "Mark Leslie's Blog" as opposed to something interesting I could have named it such as "Book Nerd's Realm" or even "This Guy Who Likes To Post Stuff"), I was honoured to be asked to write something up and appear beside these fine bookish peeps.

My own blurb spoke about the "Brave New Canada" this different approach resulted in.

Unlike many literary competitions, this one, which was a result of opening it up to the general public (with a very heavy dose of active social media buzz taking place), provided not only a fantastic Top 40 and Top 10 list, but also resulted in what I think is a unique and refreshing Top 5 list all contending for the top prize.

There are 3 first novels (The Best Laid Plans, The Birth House and The Bone Cage) competing for this honour as well as one last novel (Unless from the late Carol Sheilds).  One of the contenders is a graphic novel (Essex County) and another was originally self-published (The Best Laid Plans).

In my mind this makes for a great list. But let's take it a few steps back and consider the Top 40 list.  In my post on the Canada Reads website I called it a good yardstick to measure the current Canadian literary landscape.

And to that end, I thought I should post a link to each of the Top 40 books listed and remind people that this competition is about discovering great books they might not have otherwise checked out. Yes, the Top 5 books are going to get a lot of airplay and a lot of exposure -- which is great and something I look forward to.  But I'd like to pause throw out the Top 40 list again to offer people looking for great book gifts to give this Christmas -- because selecting from among this fantastic list of books, you really can't go wrong and chances are you'll find something for almost any reader.  Just click the links below to get to the Canada Reads posting for the book to learn more about it.  Then again, there's always Google, and of course there's always your friendly neighbourhood local bookseller who'll likely chat with you about the books.

A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall
Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright
Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant
Conceit by Mary Novik
Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
Drive-by Saviours by Chris Benjamin
Elle by Douglas Glover
Essex County by Jeff Lemire
Far to Go by Alison Pick
February by Lisa Moore
Galore by Michael Crummey
Heave by Christy Ann Conlin
Inside by Kenneth J. Harvey
Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill
Moody Food by Ray Robertson
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
Room by Emma Donoghue
Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop
Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb
The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis
The Birth House by Ami McKay
The Bishop's Man by Linden MacIntyre
The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan
The Fallen by Stephen Finucan
The Girls Who Saw Everything by Sean Dixon
The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe
The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart
The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden
Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden
Twenty-Six by Leo McKay Jr.
Unless by Carol Shields

Friday, November 26, 2010

DarkLit Fest of Durham

Tomorrow (Saturday, Nov 27th), I'll be one of the author guests at the very first DarkLit Fest of Durham, which will be taking place at the McLaughlin Branch Auditorium of the Oshawa Public Library.  The event has been pulled together by librarian and author Joel A Sutherland.

Just as there's a chill in the air, the first annual DarkLit Fest of Durham will provide fans and writers with the opportunity to talk with some of the top names in the mystery, fantasy and horror genres!  Join bestselling authors, editors and publishers as they discuss all aspects of writing and give advice on how to get published. This one-day event will include readings by authors, book signings and sales, meet-and-greet reception and pitch sessions with publishers.

I'll be sitting on a panel discussing how to sell your writing to publishers and editors as well as doing a reading and signing books.

Along with Kelley Armstrong, the following authors, editors and publishers will be guests of honour.
 It should be a really fun event and a great day. And a chance to catch up with some writerly buddies I haven't seen in a while.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

HNT - Luck Maker

Yesterday, the top 5 selections from Canada Reads 2011 were revealed. Originally a list of the Top 40, then culled down to the Top 10, and now the Top 5 finalists, the process this year has been different than before, because it has involved voting from readers.

The top 5 novels are:  The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou, The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis, Essex County by Jeff Lemire, The Birth House by Amy McKay, and Unless by Carol Shields

A great top 5 list, and, as someone suggested via Twitter yesterday, it was nice to see a selection that didn't include "the usual suspects" --I myself am intrigued to see a wonderfully diverse and inclusive list.  But even going back to the Top 10 and Top 40 lists, what you have are some VERY intriguing reads from across the Canadian literary landscape that are all definitely worth checking out. Kudos to CBC, the CBC Book Club and readers from across our country for helping create such a fascinating group of shortlists.

I was amused to read Terry Fallis' blog post yesterday about making it to the Top Five. Subtitled "I'm a basket case" this has been the kind of reaction Terry has had whenever his writing has been selected as a nominee, a prize winner, etc. It's hilarious to see his humble reaction to having people praise his writing, and Terry continues to suggest that he has been lucky.

I'm thinking that perhaps luck has something to do with his success, but strongly believe that often people make their own luck -- and Terry is the perfect example of this.

After spending years crafting a satirical novel about a decidedly different kind of MP, when Terry was faced with a brick wall in terms of getting anyone, publisher, agent or editor to look at his novel, he didn't give up. He kept working at it.

He decided if the traditional publishing world was going to ignore him, he was going to boldly work at getting his novel out there, getting it into the hands of readers. So he podcast the novel, then self-published it. And despite the hard work involved in flogging your own book, Terry did just that -- he hit the street, spoke to booksellers, talked people (like myself) into carrying his self-published book.

(Admittedly, I was leary of Terry when he first contacted me -- I've been a bookseller long enough to have seen more than my fair share of self-published books that were more for a tiny niche market with a limited readership rather than something that might sell to the general public in a bookstore -- but after I checked out the free online samples of his novel, and I was no less than a couple of pages into his book, I was immediately hooked, loved his prose. The subject matter of politics has never done anything for me, but Terry's approach and writing style won me over immediately.  I called Terry back and practically begged him to come to the bookstore at McMaster to do his book launch)

And once the book was out, Terry never stopped working. He kept hitting the street, kept working at promoting it and attracting readers. He took a chance by submitting it for considering to the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. Against strong odds (and a great short-list of nominated books), he won.  That led to a publishing contract with M&S. But Terry never stopped working at marketing his novel, at spreading the word, at connecting with booksellers and readers in person at events and online.

Sometimes luck, good luck, is the result of hard work, persistence and taking chances. Terry never stopped working hard, never stopped trying something new, never stopped taking chances, and never gave up. It wasn't an easy path. Sure, we can all look at him now with a glean of jealousy and say "Yeah, sure, look where he is now, lucky guy."

But let's not forget just how hard he worked to make his own luck.

So, for HNT this week, I'm posting a picture of me reading Terry's novel -- yes, the book in my hands is the original self-published version.  To quote from an old series of cigarette ads, Terry, "you've come a long way, baby!"

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Reader's Dilemna

I've had a serious problem for years.

The problem is that I constantly buy too many books every year - way more than I can possible read in that same year. You see, I love reading, and I love books, but I'm a slow reader and I've found in the past 5 years that I have much smaller chunks of time for reading and yet my tastes in what I WANT to read has expanded. What is a book nerd to do?

Two things are helping me with this: eBooks and audio books.

eBooks, particularly ones I can carry around on my iPhone, which is always on me, are helping me get more read. If I'm ever stuck somewhere for more than a couple of minutes, I can make the best use of my time by pulling out my iPhone and filling in the "waiting" with reading.

I don't yet own a KoboReader (affilate link), but tends to be the where I've done most of my ereading. (though I have half a dozen installed eBook applications on my iPhone and have bought eBooks on pretty much every platform -- part of my book-buying sickness seems to have transcended into the digital landscape -- I've gravitated to Kobo's platforms/applications)

Kobo wifi eReader

The second thing that is helping me read more would be audiobooks. There are a ton of great places to get audio books, such as (free serialized books delivered in podcast format) the hot new iambik (a collection of literary fiction from wonderful independent presses) and the classic (an acoustical liberation of books in the public domain -- man I wish I had that when I was attempting to read 4 Victorian novels a week when getting my English Language & Literature degree). BTW, both iambik and LivriVox were projects brought into the world by Hugh McGuire, one of my literary/techy heros (he brings both those worlds together quite beautifully, satisfying book nerds and tech fans alike)

Similar to my ebook dipping into various pools, I consume my audio books through various sources. One of the ones with the widest content for new books would be (affilate link)

Audiobooks at! is a bit different in that you don't pay per book, but it's more of a combination between single ebook purchases and a subscription fee. The subscription fee starts at $7.49 per month for 1 book credit per month, then, after the first 3, moves to $14.95/month for the basic service. So, without purchasing anything else, you can get 12 audio books for $180.00 (that's assuming the full price - first year using the first 3 month promotion would be closer to $160) -- given the purchase price for books on CD (and the limited availability of them compared to an instant download, that's a pretty decent deal, because the cost would likely be well over $300.

I used to think that listening to an audio book was "cheating" and less work than reading a book. However, taking advantage of various audio book options that exist now, I've been able to "read" while doing other mundane tasks -- such as driving and walking to work, waiting for the train or bus, washing the dishes, going for a jog, etc.  I had tried listening to books many years ago and wasn't impressed with the production of them -- however, I've found that, if the narrator is a good one, and the production quality is sound (sorry, couldn't resist the pun), listening to a book can be a very rewarding experience.

In any case, just considering these two options of eBooks and audio, I've been able to slip in more reading than before.

So, I still have the problem of buying more books (now in various formats) than I can read - but at least I can consume these books in various forms and at different times.  For example, currently, I'm actively reading an ebook, listening to an audiobook and reading a hardcover book. I can have 3 or more books on the go, depending on where I am and what format is most convenient for me to consume in different situations.

Got to love that.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, yes I buy more books in a year than I can consume, but that also gives me the incredibly wonderful pleasure of finding a book that's been in my "to read" pile for half a decade and re-discovering it (ie, reliving the historic joy of wanting to read it in the first place, then the joy of actually digging into it -- it's like a self-gift that keeps on giving)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Vinyl Cafe Plug

This past weekend's The Vinyl Cafe (hosted by Stuart McLean), paid tribute to Canadian bookstores and booksellers. Along with an interesting look at how Stuart first fell in love with the unique community-oriented atmosphere of the local bookshop, Stuart mentions some of his favourite bookstores and talks to three different booksellers.

Of course it's natural that Stuart, whose show, along with stories, essays and music, chronicles the fictitious adventures of Dave, the owner of a second-hand music store, his wife Morley and children Stephanie and Sam, would engage in a conversation about the mystique of the bookshop -- particularly when the motto of his show (and the fictitious store Dave runs) is "We May Not Be Big, But We're Small!"

It was a great episode, featuring conversations with Paul McNally of McNally Robinson in Winnipeg, Mike Hamm of BookMark in Halifax and Andrea Minter of Russell Books (interestingly described as a bookstore so perfect that it brought a colleague of Stuart's to tears).

And though this episode didn't feature a "Dave & Morley" story, it was another fine one nonetheless, what with all the "bookstore" love contained within.

You can listen to the episode via podcast by clicking here. Better yet, if you aren't able to listen to the show each week when it airs, subscribe to the podcast feed for The Vinyl Cafe and listen to it at your own convenience.

I thought I'd also post a picture of Stuart's latest book, The Vinyl Cafe Notebooks. While nothing beats listening to Stuart read one of his essays or tell one of  "Dave & Morley" stories, his books, are still fantastic to read, and, given my obsession with the printed book, we've got quite a collection of them at our home. 

 You can get this book at any of the stores linked to above or mentioned in Stuart's episode.  Or you can find a Canadian bookstore via a quick and easy search on  (If you're reading this in the U.S. you might want to search via, which will also include links to stores in Canada)

The book itself is quite beautiful in terms of design, binding and presentation, and here's a blurb from the Penguin Canada website for it.

"Selected from 15 years of radio-show archives and re-edited by the author, this wonderfully eclectic essay collection gives a glimpse into the thoughtful mind at work behind The Vinyl Cafe. From meditations on peacekeeping to praise for the toothpick, The Vinyl Cafe Notebooks runs the gamut from considered argument to light-hearted opinion. Whether McLean is visiting a forgotten corner of the Canadian Shield, a big-city doughnut factory, or Sir John A. Macdonald's gravesite, his observations are absorbing, unexpected, and original. With thought-provoking proposals about the world we live in and introductions to the people he meets in his extensive travels across our country, The Vinyl Cafe Notebooks is informed by McLean's intimate relationship with Canada and Canadians. Yet the collection is also an intriguing look at the writer himself—his past, his present, and his vision of the future. Sometimes funny, often wise, and always entertaining, The Vinyl Cafe Notebooks is sure to provide a wealth of reading pleasure that fans will return to again and again."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

HNT - Getting It Enright

Last week at the Scotiabank Giller Prize reception and ceremony I was in the presence of many of the movers and shakers within the Canadian literary scene; almost too many wonderful authors to name, but also a healthy number of media personalities and those who help bring that culture to the masses.

So it was with great pleasure that I got to meet Michael Enright in person for the first time.  Michael is the host of CBC Radio One's Sunday Edition, a show that Francine and I hate to miss.

The Gillers were packed with a ton of people, many friends and colleages I knew were there but didn't get a chance to see or speak with, and many others I later found out were there but that I didn't see.

I didn't bump into Michael until I was on my way out. But I couldn't resist a chance to stop and chat with him for a few minutes, let him know how much my wife and I enjoyed his radio program (yes, gushing fan), but more importantly, ask him how he was able to read so many books.  Michael was one of the 3 jury members for the Scotiabank Gillers, and as such, had to read 98 books. I'm one of the jurors for the 2011 Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic and will have to read a good many more books than I can normally consume in a year, so needed some advice.

Michael told me that his secret was the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission). He said when he needed to try to read undisturbed, he would take some books with him and get on the subway and just ride it around (with a full loop averaging about 48 minutes or so) -- occasionally he would have to wear noise-cancelling headphones, but for the most part, on the subway your cell phone is rendered signal-less and you can travel, amongst many others, in your own enclosed world and get a whack of reading done.

I should know, since I did get a lot of reading done in the 7 years I commuted between Hamilton and Toronto on the GO Train (although there's no cell-phone cancelling happening there)

In any case, it was great to meet Michael, to let him know in person how much Francine and I enjoyed his work, and, of course, to find out this great strategy directly from him.  As our chat wrapped up my "fanboy" ways took over and I asked if it would be okay if I snapped a quick pic of the two of us.  And that's this week's HNT picture.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Celebrating Classic Canadian Compromise

It's a classic tale of East and West coming together to resolve an issue that has, interestingly enough, brought Canadians together to talk about books and about publishing.

Yesterday, when Gaspereau Press and Douglas & McIntyre announced The Giller Plan (which sees D&M aquiring the trade paperback rights to the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize Winner, The Sentimentalists, by Johanna Skibsrud), we saw the most wonderful of compromises being reached.

I call it a wonderful compromise because it's a compromise that doesn't really compromise the original intent of Gaspereau to remain true to their dedication to manufacturing their books in a manner that honours their content.

In some ways it's the classic Canadian compromise, where everybody gets to win -- the author, the original publisher and their dedication to the craft, a kindred spirit publisher with the ability to produce in larger volumes to meet demand, the booksellers who, every day, yearn to put books into the hands of their customers, and the readers, who can now get ahold of the book in one of three formats.

Now, The Sentimentalists is available in the original hand-crafted hardcover that brought all this attention, all this supply and demand worry, the original most broadly available Kobo ebook version (which was never out of stock) and a trade paperback.

With an expected ship date of November 19th for the paperback version, this announcement comes at the perfect time, meaning the book will be available broadly in physical form to meet the popular demand.  But at the same time, customers who yearn for the beautifully crafted hardcover will likely get it as well (although in some cases, there will likely still be enough people wanting a copy that they'll have to wait)  Although, ironically, the people willing to wait were likely relatively okay with the situation -- my concern was for those who might only consider buying the book while there is all this attention on it, those whose attention might quickly revert to some other media-attention darling, perhaps the latest celebrity expose or another title with a bit less, shall we say, literary merit.

Me, I'm holding out for the beautifully hand-crafted version; but I'm delighted that as a bookseller I'm going to be able to offer customers the choice between that original version and the more widely available trade paperback version.

And please don't get me wrong. Despite my comment about popular books with "less than literary merit" and my personal desire for the original hardcover edition, I'm far from what you might call a literary snob -- I read across the spectrum, and admittedly spend most of my time reading more popular fiction and non-fiction titles as well as regularly romping through the genres. I mean, I write horror fiction, after all, which might conflict a tiny bit with literary elitism. (And no, I'm not dissing horror novels or the speculative genres, because I find merit in those novels I read - I'm just addressing what's a typical association in people's minds)

The most interesting thing about this whole issue, in my own mind, is the hearty discussion it has caused. The conflict over Gaspereau's conviction and the public demand wonderfully brought even further attention to the Scotiabank Giller prize winning novel's author and publisher -- not a day has gone by in the past week since Skibsrud's novel was announced the winner that the story hasn't been getting broad media attention -- something the Giller was always attempting to do in its celebration of the finest of Canadian literature.

And if you can't get enough about this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize, you should definitely check out the other 4 novels that were shortlisted for the award -- all of them are definitely worthy of attention. These novels are David Bergen's The Matter with Morris, Kathleen Winter's Annabel, Sarah Selecky's This Cake is for the Party and Alexander MacLeod's Light Lifting.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ode To My Wife

I'm the writer in our house -- the one who toils away in the early morning hours and late at night in solitude attempting to push out creative efforts of stories, poetry, articles, etc.

But my wife Francine is quite the creative spirit herself.

I'm the official lunch-maker in our home. Each weekday morning I compile everybody's lunch and get everything ready.  Fran usually has some sort of salad and typically uses the same favourite salad dressing which she keeps at work.

Last week, on the weekend, she purchased 3 bottles of salad dressing and on Sunday night asked me to include one of them in her lunch the next morning so she could transfer it into the fridge at work.

I forgot.

So, at lunch time on Monday last week, instead of an angry phone call, here's what she emails to me. The following text and nothing more.

Ode to My Salad Dressing

There you sit,
All 3 of you,
Watching, waiting
To be picked up
In my salad
at work,
While you sit,
Watching, waiting
In the fridge
At Home!

Fran is hilarious.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

HNT - Where's Marco

While I was at the Giller awards the other night, a friend tweeted that she had spotted me in the crowd during the televised portion of the evening.

Therefore, for this week's Half-Nekkid Thursday, I thought it'd be fun to post a couple of "Where's Waldo" style pics from the televised event and see if you can spot me lurking in the crowd. Okay, I wasn't lurking so much as beaming with delight that I was there. But still a fun exercise. (Just look for the light glistening off my balding dome, one from the front, one from the back)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

For The Price Of A Good Meal In This Town

The Scotiabank Giller Prize was handed out in Toronto yesterday to Johanna Skibscrub for her novel The Sentimentalists at a gala reception, dinner and awards ceremony.

It was an amazing event. I felt like a child at my first Santa Claus parade. I got to sit at a table with Nino Ricci, M.G. Vassanji and Vincent Lam. Just one of the many marvelous "book nerd fanboy" things that delighted me to no end. (And I think I did a semi-okay job of looking somewhat composed and didn't skip around like I wanted to)

Of course, speaking with other booksellers who were there last night, there's a bit of a conundrum in that, we ALL want to do nice front and centre displays of Johanna's book in our stores, but there's not a lot of stock to be had.  The core philosophy of Gaspereau Press is a commitment to making books that reinstate the importance of books as physical objects -- most of their books are hand-made and thus take a long time to produce. In today's world of mass-produced products, one has to admire that commitment and how the publisher has stuck to their guns, despite a lot of pressure.

However, ever since the shortlist was announced, The Sentimentalists has been a bit hard to get ahold of. And now that it has won, it'll be a little harder to get ahold of, at least in physical format.  The ebook of
The Sentimentalists
, though, is available, through KoboBooks, which means that customers can either buy the harder to find, hand-crafted trade paperback version, or an ebook. Two interesting extremes.

Ebooks, of course, while popular and rising, still represent such a tiny amount of sales in our industry. Will the book's limited availability in printed form prevent it from getting onto and staying on the various bestseller lists? Will the limited availability mean people aren't able to purchase it?

Throughout the evening and at the closing of the event, founder Jack Rabinovich reiterated his statement:  "For the price of a good meal in this town, you can purchase all the shortlisted books. Therefore, buy the books and eat at home." Beautiful statement, worth repeating.  CTV host Seamus O'Regan repeatedly stated one should read all 5 of these great books.

Of course, today, booksellers across the country will be scrambling to put up displays, but many of them won't be able to display Johanna Skibsrud's book.  Perhaps the displays will be of all the 5 books instead, with a congratulatory note to the winner, whose book is, unfortunately out of stock.  Perhaps the Giller Effect this year, might be instead of the 712% increse in sales for a single title (seen last year on Linden MacIntyre's The Bishop's Man), will be split across all 5 books. Good for all publishers, good for all 5 authors, good for all bookstores.

But back to the hand-crafted concept and the, interestingly, opposite of that, the ebook. (This isn't a slight against ebooks because I buy and read them.) But isn't it funny that there are the two extremes? A hand-crafted, carefully produced product, then, on the flip side, a simple, non-elegant, digital file?

Given that this great compromise has been made in an effort to help get the novel into more reader's hands, why shouldn't Gaspereau make a POD version available so that booksellers such as Titles Bookstore McMaster University who have an Espresso Book Machine right in the store can quickly print and bind a book to keep up with customer demand?

Why not have a hand-crafted, beautifully produced hard copy, a simple, POD perfect bound trade paperback version, and an ebook.  Yes, the hand-crafted version is the true unique, rare and collectible artifact that many many readers will still seek out. And there are those who will prefer the convenience and portability and availability of the ebook version. But what about the lost sales to those who WANT to buy a print copy of the book, but just can't get it?

Interesting conundrum Gaspereau faces. I'm curious to see how this pans out.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Giller Thrill

I'm currently President of Canadian Booksellers Association, so I'm supposed to be somewhat composed and dignified and represent my colleagues across Canada by speaking up on their behalf, by talking with media about issues and challenges that are pertinent to their day to day lives and by working on various projects designed to assist them in being successful as they serve communities and enrich the culture across our great nation.

I think that on most days I do okay and maintain at least some semblance of composure. 

Even last summer when there was a bit of a media frenzy related to Amazon vs Indies and I had to debate Michael Geist on Jian Ghomeshi's Q on CBC radio, appeared on various radio programs across Canada and also appeared on CBC and CTV speaking up on behalf of independent booksellers, I managed to remain at least relatively composed.

But on days like today it's really hard to keep the book nerd fanboy inside of me in check.

Because on days like today, I have the honour of attending the seventeenth annual dinner and award ceremony for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Tonight, in my role with CBA, I'm honoured to have been invited to attend the black tie reception, dinner and awards ceremony in Toronto in announcing the winner and honouring the distinguished finalists of the Scotiabank Giller Prize:  David Bergen, Alexander MacLeod, Sarah Selecky, Johanna Skibsrud and Kathleen Winter.

Five great novels by five great Canadian authors. I'm delighted and thrilled that I get to attend an event that honours them, as well as just be part of what has been a groundbreaking campaign by a television station to support a literary event.  CTV has been covering the awards and highlighting the authors for the past several weeks, launching such programs as the "One Country 5 Books" pledge, and will be broadcasting the event live tonight on Bravo! BookTelevision and

I remember meeting CBC legend Peter Gzowski at a literary award event more than a decade ago and being practically speechless as I shook his hand and thanked him for his wonderful Morningside program which brought our nation together every weekday morning. This past summer I managed not to embarass myself (at least not too much), when I got to hang out with and introduce Shelagh Rogers at the CBA Libris Awards. (Okay, I gushed a little bit, but can you blame a guy who relishes in her fantastic The Next Chapter program?)

So tonight I'll be there, trying to maintain my composure as I hang out in a room filled with beautiful book nerds, authors, publishers and many other people from our literary and entertainment industry and just soaking in the excitement and thrill of getting to be part of it all.

But, inside, I'll be busting at the seams, trying not to act like an overwhelmed fan at an Elvis, Beatles or Justin Bieber concert.  God, some days it's just so hard to keep the gigantic book nerd inside of me under control.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Prelude To A Reflection

 I recently posted Episode 17 of my Prelude To A Scream podcast. The latest episode features my story "Requiem" which was originally published in Darkness Within magazine #2 in 1999.

"Requiem" is the result of spending an afternoon sharing "true ghost stories" with a bunch of my colleagues from the Coles at St. Laurent Shipping Centre in Ottawa. One of them mentioned this tale about a haunted cabinet in which the ghost of a young woman was visible in the mirror. That sparked the inspiration for this tale about a lonely rich collector of haunted artifacts whose purchase of a Victorian bureau completely changes his appreciation of his prized possessions when he is suddenly able to see all of the ghosts he has collected through the reflection from the bureau.

In a slightly dark humour manner, I envision what might happen if you were to thrust a bunch of ghosts from different eras into the same small space. Would they bicker and fight like two pre-teens in the back seat on a day-long car ride?

The tale also explores the pain of unrequited love that a lonely man might feel towards a ghost, knowing he can watch her repeatedly but never truly be able to act upon his love.

This podcast contains the full audio version of the story as well as a bit about the origin of the tale.  I also talk a little bit about the process of looking back at a previously published story and the temptation I had to re-write and revise the tale based on feedback provided to me by a good friend since the first appearance of the tale in print.

You can download the MP3 by right-clicking here, or simply listen to it online using the flash player embedded below.

"Requiem" was reprinted in One Hand Screaming in 2004. The print book is still available at Chapters/Indigo as well as Amazon or you can order it through virtually any bookstore (particularly if you like supporting your local independent bookstore, which I highly encourage) You can also get the Smashwords ebook edition which is available for $0.99 direct from Smashwords, or via KoboBooks, Sony, Diesel as well as the Apple iBook store.  Up until Nov 15, 2010, you can get the entire ebook free on Smashwords if you use the coupon code WX78G.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

HNT - Decorations Moved

It's been pretty busy around our house since Halloween, so I haven't had time to completely put the oodles and oodles of Halloween decorations away. I did have time, however, to get them moved off the front lawn and front of our house and into the garage.

But that just makes for a really weird experience when you're in our garage. Particularly at night when you look over your shoulder because you get this strange feeling that someone is watching you.

It's a little eerie.

Francine isn't a fan of it, but I kind of get a kick out of the new temporary look of the garage.

Alexander, on the other hand, has all these grand plans about how it's time for us to get the Christmas decorations up.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Post Halloween Blues

The day after Halloween always brings with it a bit of melancholy.

Oh, who am I kidding? The blues start to kick in at about the time that more than fifteen or twenty minutes pass without any trick-or-treaters having coming to the door. I look at the time and realize that it's simply too late for the younger kids to be out there.

So, with a forlorn sigh, I step outside, take one last look at the decorated yard, and then unplug the lights, turn off the fun special effects and blow out the candle on the jack o lantern for one more year. The slightly charred smell that the flame has left on the inside of the pumpkin still lingers in an eerily comforting, yet mocking scent.

I feel, perhaps, like Linus when yet another year passes and the Great Pumpkin has taken a pass on his pumpkin patch.

All the talk about ghosts and goblins, the decorating, the pumpkin-carving, the fun, the ghost stories, the costumes, are put aside and packed away for another year.

But, like Linus, my faith is still strong, and I can start counting down the days until next Halloween.