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Friday, October 29, 2010

All Hallows Read - Give A Book This Halloween

I absolutely love Neil Gaiman's idea of giving books for Halloween.  The concept, as suggested, is simple. In the week of or on the night itself, you give someone a scary book.

It's being called All Hallows Read and there's an FAQ on the website and a suggested hashtag of #AllHallowsRead. It's not about having to buy a new book, it's just about giving or sharing a book with someone else -- adult or kid's book, it's about celebrating the love of reading.  Have I mentioned that I love the idea?

I launched a collection of my previously published horror stories, One Hand Screaming, back in October 2004.  Over the years I've received a lot of great feedback from people who have enjoyed it. Even today (with the expansion of it's availability into ebook and via the Espresso Book Machine at retail locations around the world), I continue to get comments from people who read it and quite enjoyed the tales included within.


Thus, in the spirit of giving someone a book this Halloween, though I will be giving someone a hard copy book with a recommendation, I thought I'd share, right here, a free copy of my book with as many people who want it.  Given that it's a backlist title, the ebook has still sold nicely through Apple, Barnes and Noble, Diesel, Sony and Kobo - the price of $0.99 is a pretty decent one and a low risk.


But I thought I'd post a code here that would allow people to download it directly from Smashwords in a variety of formats, for free.

Consider it a Halloween treat from me and a way of being inspired by the great All Hallows Read concept.

So, if you'd like a free ebook version of ONE HAND SCREAMING, simply go to Smashwords and use the following code: WX78G   (Like Halloween candy that you don't need to consume immediately, the code will be good until November 15, 2010)  The book is available in 10 different formats, including ePub, Kindle, Sony, Palm, etc -- so you should be able to read it on your computer/laptop or whatever ereading device you prefer.

If you'd rather listen to some of the stories in audio format rather than read it, feel free to download one or more of the following episodes of my Prelude To A Scream Podcast, where those, too, are free (Although, as of this writing, not all the stories are yet available in audio -- the free audio is a work in progress)

Browsers (a haunted bookstore tale - free audio link)
Distractions (a disturbed writer's attempt to free up more writing time - free audio link)
Nervous Twitching (nobody here but us chickens, running around with heads cut off - free audio link)
The Bogeyman Can (an over the top "control your kid" product for parents - free audio link)
Almost (an urban legend tale from a different POV- free audio link)
Phantom Mitch (a bereaved man's ability to scratch at love beyond the grave - free audio link)
Erratic Cycles (a lonely man is lost on a deserted highway after midnight - free audio link)
That Old Silk Hat They Found (a different way of looking at snowmen - free audio link)
But Once A Year (a man's best friend returns from the grave on Halloween - free audio link)

Enjoy.  And Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

HNT - Great Little Pumpkin

My son has been having trouble getting to sleep at a decent time. Sure, we get him to bed early enough, but he tosses and turns, quite restless.

It seems that, like his father, he's pretty excited about Halloween coming.

Yesterday, at breakfast, the two of us debated over whether or not we'd be writing letters to The Great Pumpkin (referring, of course, to The Great Pumpkin Peanuts books, "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" and "The Great Pumpkin Strikes Again" that we'd been reading at bedtime lately -- since, oh, about the end of August . . .)

In any case, I thought I'd post a picture of Alexander and I on his first Halloween, when he was dressed up as, you guessed it, a great little pumpkin.


I think the little guy is eyeing the 6 foot skeleton that I had standing in front of the garage. And though he might look a little wide-eyed in the picture, he has never been afraid of the decorations and Halloween themed displays (unlike his old man, who is afraid of virtually every shadow) -- he has always loved romping around and helping me set everything up.

But I really love the grip that he had, even back then, on his trick or treat container.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Little Things

My wife has this wonderful way of making the little things around our house more fun and seasonal -- a little something extra she does to make things just that much more special.

Case in point: Halloween. It's one of our family's favourite celebrations. And it's not just the decorations that are put up, both inside and outside the house, but it's the little things, the extra touches, that make things special. It's the wonerful giant jack o lantern cookie jar in the kitchen, the Halloween hand-towels, dish cloths table runners and table cloths; it's the glow-in-the-dark spider-web pillow case on our bed, it's the festive tea-light holders. It's even the hand-soaps in our bathrooms.


Okay, the ghost and pumpkin hand-soaps are seasonal - the foamy frog soap is just a standard, year-round thing.  But, notice the "house of usher" style tea light holder in the background?

Yes, it's just another one of those little things that Francine invests into making things just a little extra special.

Little things that make a huge difference.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Piracy VS Obscurity

I believe it was Tim O'Reilly who originally coined the aphorism that the problem for most writers isn't piracy, but obscurity.

I first heard the phrase via Cory Doctorow, who is definitely a writer who helped to spread the concept by offering up pretty much all of his print novels for free in electronic format.

So recently, when I discovered half a dozen different pirated e-versions of Campus Chills (an anthology I edited last year featuring horror stories from some of Canada's finest horror writers) sitting on a peer-to-peer file sharing site, I paused for a moment and wondered if I should be angry or pleased.

I've decided that I will be bemused that more than a single someone would actually take the time to pirate and share something I had a hand in creating. (I won't go so far as flattering myself, because there are some pretty well-known "names" attached to the anthology, and it's likely those names that attracted the thieves)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Audio

"Almost anything is possible in the cold, dark and lonely hours following midnight on Halloween."

That's the opening teaser line for a recently recorded episode of the Prelude to a Scream podcast.

Given the time of year, I thought it would be good to record one of my Halloween stories.  Episode 16 features the tale "But Once A Year."

"But Once A Year" is a Halloween story and one of my ventures into the realm of dark humour. It's the tale of what happens when an old man working the graveyard shift at a gas station/convenience store is visited by his recently departed best friend.

While writing the tale I couldn't help but toy with the humour of the situation. I mean, how WOULD Harry react when his old pal Ted stumbled into the convenience store from the cemetary across the street and try to casually bum a smoke off him? It's not terrifying so much as obsurd. So I had a good time with the tale.

The story, which was originally published in 1995 in Crossroads magazine, was reprinted in my book One Hand Screaming.

And now, in time to get you in the mood for Halloween, the audio version is available to be enjoyed for free.

Download the MP3 by right-clicking here, or play it in the built-in audio controller below.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Eight More Days Til Hallowen

Halloween III - Season of the Witch came out in 1982 and was unrelated to the previous and following Halloween movies which featured Michael Myers.  (Warning: This blog post contains Spoilers - so if you haven't seen the movie and intend to, proceed with caution, as I'll be giving the ending away)

And although, once I started watching it, I was disappointed with the fact that Michael Myers wasn't in it *, the movie won me over.

* (I should note that, although Michael Myers wasn't in Halloween III, there is a cute scene where there's a TV playing in the background featuring an ad for one of the other Halloween movies)

The basic story involves a plan by the evil owner of a mask company to kill children all over the U.S. on Halloween using specially developed masks with embedded computer chips that interact with a high frequency to be broadcast on a special program on network television.

The beauty is that the horror is about mass consumerism and seems to take the evil scheme of a sinister adult putting "razors in apples" and the associated fears of Halloween to a whole new level.


For those reasons, though critics despise the fact that the movie diverted from the rest of the franchise, to me, it's a more interesting film that says a lot about our culture and society.

One of the most annoying "ear worms" that live in my head to this day (and was the genesis of the title of this blog post) and replays itself in the days leading up to my favourite holiday, are the television commercial jingles advertising for the Silver Shamrock Halloween Marathon.


Thus, the "Eight more days 'til Halloween" as seen in this YouTube clip.

 

Of course, one of the more wonderfully kinds of moments for me, involves something seen in this YouTube montage.  "It's almost time. Don't forget to wear your masks!"  What a wonderful sense of foreboding and dread.

 

And I just love the way the movie ends. After struggling to put a stop to the whole event, Dr. Challis, the movie's main character, is on the phone with a station manager, attempting to get the program pulled off the air.  He succeeds in getting two out of the three taken off the air.  But the third station continues playing the program, and the screen strobes between Challis yelling "STOP IT!" and the flashing Silver Shamrock pumpkin.  Roll credits.



Most Hollywood movies tend not to end in such a way, with the bad guy succeeding. (Okay, except perhaps for horror films where one last quick and final scene reveals that Jason or Freddy or Michael Myers is seen to still be alive at the very end)

But that's one of the things I loved about this film.  I think I'll watch it again some time this week.

While wearing my Silver Shamrock mask, of course.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Catcher In The Why?

Every year I like to pick up one or two "classic" novels -- books that are commonly praised and studied but which I haven't yet had the pleasure of enjoying. Sure, there are tons of great new books coming out each year, but there are still countless backlist and classic titles that I haven't yet experienced. I know I'll never catch up and read them all, but it's fun to make an attempt to go back and check them out.

One of my best experiences with this was almost ten years ago when I picked up Fifth Business by Robertson Davies. This is a book I studied back in Grade 9 but which I didn't finish reading -- nor did I particularly care for it at that age (when I was, perhaps 13 or 14)

But when I read it in my late twenties I was blown away with just how well-written it was, just how great a book it was. I kept saying: "No wonder they MAKE us read this novel. It's a truly great read."  Then, of course, I thought back and considered how I wasn't able to appreciate it at an earlier age. Was it because I wasn't yet ready for it and couldn't enjoy a really well written novel with a compelling tale, intriguing characters and interesting underlying themes of morality, spirituality and synchronicity, or simply because it was forced on me?

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is another one of those classic books that is often studied in English classes; but it is one that I never studied or read.

So I picked it up recently to give it a go.

I was sadly disappointed. Both with the book as well as with how deflated my expectations were.

My reaction to this novel was:  "Really?  This is a classic?"

The main character, Holden Caulfield, was not only not sympathetic, but he was pretty much a jerk. The voice the story is told in is an annoying snotty-faced punk's POV.  Okay, I'll give Salinger credit for that, because he properly captured the essence of the self-directed and desperate search for identify and belonging POV of the teenage years, if that is what he was shooting for.

But if this novel hadn't been a highly praised classic, I likely would have put it down after half a dozen pages. The story is basically a couple of days in the life of an annoying jerk of a young man that doesn't really go anywhere or do anything but do a heck of a lot of navel gazing. There's too much repetition in the voice of the narrator, more so than to simply sprinkle the book with the angst and frustration of the main character, nor to get across his youth -- for this reader, it simply got in the way of my attempt to enjoy it.

Yes, I know, this novel is praised for it's accurate portrayal of angst, rebellion and confusion, and I'll admit that it has that, but, my God, for a short novel (just over 200 pages) it seemed to drag on way too long.  It strikes me that the same result could have be derived through a short story without having to make the reader suffer through 200 pages.  Or perhaps this reader has become conditioned to actually have to enjoy the story or at least sympathize with the main character to get through a novel-length work. (Short stories require less of an investment of time, so perhaps I'm more likely to hang-in there if the main character isn't so likeable)

Or maybe I'm so out of touch with my teenage self that I can no longer appreciate the point of view Salinger wrote the novel in. I am a middle-aged man, after all. But, in many ways, I still often feel like the awkward and geeky 17 year old (just many years older, with a lot more responsibility on my shoulders and a lot less hair on my head), so perhaps I'm not all THAT out of touch. After all, when I've read other novels and stories featuring teenage protagonists, I'm able to sympathize with their POV quite easily.

In any case, I'm glad that I read this novel, even though the experience wasn't all that enjoyable. What does THAT say about this book loving nerd?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

HNT - Audio Wonderland

On a recent episode of CBC's Spark (a program I rarely listen to "live" on radio, but more typically via a podcast subscription), host Nora Young put out a call for people to send in pictures of where they were when they listened to Spark.

So I submitted the following picture, which will be this's week's HNT submission. (I was actually listening to an episode of the Spark Plus podcast - the regular weekly feed with bonus additional audio, such as full interviews - while taking this picture)



I tend to listen to Spark, and a slew of other podcasts and audio books in one of two places -- my twice daily drive/walk in to work and when I run (although I don't run, either outside or on the treadmill, as often as I should be). Since it takes about 20 minutes each way, that allows me 40 minutes of time to either "read" or listen to programming that is of particular interest to me, rather than losing those 40 minutes of down-time.

For my podcast subscriptions (which are automatically downloaded for free via iTunes and synced up to my iPhone without having to do anything more once I set the subscriptions up), I listen to a variety of different writing, book and technology & culture podcasts, such as Spark, The Next Chapter (both from CBC radio, and both of which I rarely catch "live"), and podcasts such as CBC Book Club, The Writing Show, Bookrageous, Dragon Page Cover to Cover and Six Pixels of Separation.

But I have also started listening to more audio books over the years, taking full advantage of various sources for audio books, like the traditional CDs (converted to mp3 of course), and places like Podiobooks.com. It has certainly been a great way to get more reading in. I'm a really slow reader, so ANY way that I can squeeze reading a few more books in each year helps me with the ever-growing "to read" pile that, like compound interest on a bad debt, keeps growing bigger and bigger with each passing day.

That's why I was delighted to see yesterday's official announcement about Iambik audiobooks -- although, I must admit, I already got a bit of a "heads up" about it by listening to the Six Pixels podcast mentioned above (or, specifically the "Media Hacks" episodes that come through the Six Pixels feed, in which Mitch Joel sits around with folks like Hugh McGuire, Chris Brogan, C.C. Chapman, Julien Smith and Christopher S. Penn and discuss things going on in digital media and culture).


Iambik's "catch phrase" is "At Iambik we make audio out of books we love."



Unlike traditional audiobooks, Iambik partners with print publishers and authors, working with a collection of skilled independent audiobook producers around the world (something tapped into beautifully by LibriVox, a collective of people around the world bringing free audio content for their favourite public domain works and headed by Hugh McGuire, who also heads up Iambik)

Iambik is a wonderful natural progression, or next step in the a hugely success world of audio wonders that LibriVox provides.  Why? Because Iambik records both new books and old ones -- essentially, it goes after great books that might have been overlooked by traditional audio publishers.

You've got to love that.

So, again, despite the fact that I already have an incredibly rich and wonderful selection of great audio to listen to and enjoy, another great new option pops up, bringing me even MORE content.

I'll consider it both a blessing and a curse.

I wonder if, one day, just like listening to books in audio format helped me "read" more of them, a new technology will emerge where a chip can get implanted in my head and allow me to "read" books while I'm sleeping instead of just the random dreams that scroll through my head.  That would be another great way to make use of "down time" and get more reading in, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Amazon Mobile App

Last week Amazon announced a mobile app (currently only available to US customers - because, yes, I tried to find it via my iTunes account the second I heard about it) that would allow a person to scan a barcode on a product in a physical location that would bring them to that item's listing on Amazon and they could easily check further info, customer reviews and, of course, purchase the item.

As the manager of a bricks and mortar bookstore, my first reaction was along the lines of "Oh great, now it's even easier for customers to come in, browse what we have, then go buy it elsewhere, yet again abandoning their local bookstore and sending their money not just out of the neighbourhood but all the way to the US."

But after less than a minute of thinking about it, I had to be honest with myself and admit it's a pretty ingenious application.

After all, let's be entirely honest here -- bricks and mortar bookstores have been physical showrooms for places like Amazon for over a decade. This new application just makes it easier for customers to make the purchase online at Amazon from their mobile device much more easily.

Again, I'll admit that it's a brilliant play by Amazon. Yes, just because they're a major competitor and their cut-throat tactics continually frustrate me as someone who is trying to keep a bookstore afloat doesn't mean I can't recognize and admit when they do something that's pretty darned shrewd.

But on the flip-side of that coin, I find it interesting that with the release this application, Amazon is admitting that, as good as the experience of browsing their online site is, nothing can come close to the experience of heading over to see your local bookseller and either being captivated by the unique merchandising display, or getting first-hand information about a title from a trusted curatorial source.  They're admitting that they kind of need phyiscal real-world locations to help them build sales.

I worked for an online bookseller for long enough to know that much of the merchandising and efforts made to run the website are all about trying desperately to re-create and one-up the experience of browsing for a title in the real world in a real bookstore.  And, while there are fantastic add-ons to the online experience, such as customer reviews, automatic "if you like A, you might like B" product suggestions generated on the fly and social-media styled online communities, like Indigo's Community, Goodreads or LibraryThing, there's still something ultimately unique about the serendipitous experience of walking into a physical bookstore.

What I'm talking about in terms of serendipity might not be that you spoke with a friendly and knowledgeable bookseller (which is usually what one talks about when they praise the benefits of shopping at your local bookstore), but of little things like the ultimate chance "encounter" with a book on a shelf in front of you that is noticed perhaps not the way it was purposely merchandised, but the way it's slanted slight because a customer or staff member, just seconds before you walked past, pulled out a book beside it.  It catches your attention, you pick it up, discover an author and title you'd never heard of before, and voila, quite by accident, another beautiful moment of serendipity is born.  Or maybe you're in there killing time when you overhear a conversation between another customer and a bookseller, and it leads you to check out something you hadn't intended to.

Those are the types of unique things (and there are literally dozens more different ways this could happen each and every time you set foot in a real live bricks and mortar bookstore) that make the physical experience so powerful and irreplaceable.

In a way, with this new mobile application, Amazon is fully admitting this very thing, and, in their bold and progressive manner, are capitalizing on it.

You can throw your hands up in frustration and complain that, yet again, a monolithic company is taking advantage of the little guys -- but what does that get you? More gray hairs? Another day older and deeper in debt?

I'd like to look at how, I, as a bricks and mortar retailer, can take advantage back.  And let's remind ourselves of two key things:

  1. Amazon has a pretty amazing catalog and one of the world's best search tools for books. Booksellers, as much as they hate to admit it, often use Amazon to quickly find and search for titles before ordering it through the publisher, wholesaler or distributor.
     
  2. Customers have always had the ability to find out about books in their local bookstores and then go to buy them on Amazon. Some just choose to support their local bookstore over finding the best/lowest possible price. This application simply saves those customers who weren't going to buy it in their local bookstore anyway time.

So, it's the second item I'm curious to exploit back. If the customer was coming in to my store to use me and my staff and my physical location that I pay rent for and sweat buckets over trying to keep the business open and be there again tomorrow to open the doors and continue to serve my local community, how can I at least get back some of what I'm losing when they walk in, use me and leave me to buy the book elsewhere?

The same way that Amazon allows for affiliate links to give a tiny percentage of credit back to the originating source, is there some way that I can sign up to get an affiliate fee for any sales I'm losing to Amazon through use of this app within my store (or even GPS-enabled, within the proximity of my store?) If one existed, I'd sign up for it. 

(And in full disclosure, you'll notice a whack of hotlinks to Amazon throughout this article -- they're all affiliate-embedded links - meaning, if you click the link and follow it to Amazon and then make a purchase from Amazon, I'll get a teeny tiny % of the sale to Amazon as an affiliate fee. And if the volume ever increases, I might actually make a few dollars. But if, as a bookseller, I was able to even get back a small percentage on 10% of the sales I've lost to Amazon over the years, it'd help pay many of the bills -- think about how that might add up over time, going from getting 0 to getting a small percentage of those lost sales.  Yes, it sounds like "deal with the devil" material, but the business is becoming less about margins, which are already razor-thin in the book industry, to being more about market share)

Remember, Amazon is pretty much admitting that they use physical bricks and mortar locations to build their sales.  A bizarre symbiotic relationship could be developed in which, rather than simply "stealing" those sales, they create a way to "give something back." It might, in the long term, be a better option to continue to allow customers the ultimate choice -- to always have the bricks and mortar plus online options available to them.

Can the folks behind IndieBound create a similar application so that as a customer I can have this wonderful convenience, but also the choice to support local and independently operated bookstores?  (I already use the IndieBound iPhone Application all the time and find it wonderful to merge convenience with supporting local businesses)

What other things might an independently operated bookstore do to try to take advantage back without removing the convenience and choice from the customer?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Independents' Day 2010

On Saturday October 16, 2010, bookstores across the country will be hosting promotional events in celebration of Independents' Day -- a national campaign championing the cultural and economic contributions made by independent bookstores operating in communities across Canada.

Independent bookstores are at the heart of the neighbourhoods they serve, catering to local tastes and interests, encouraging lively exchange via store-sponsored book clubs and author events, and knowledgeably and passionately connecting readers with books they love.  On Independents' Day we celebrate their importance as local cultural hubs and vitial contributors to Canada's diverse literary community.

Independents' Day is now in its fifth year, and has been slowly growing and gaining momentum each year. The focus of the day allows local bookstores to spotlight and raise awareness of a few key issues that affect their businesses, including:

  • The importance of independent bookstores in promoting regional/local literature, works that might slip off the radar by purchases being done from a single central location for a chain
  • The contribution independently owned businesses make to their local economy -- ie, money spent at one's local bookstore helps sustain the local economy, create local jobs -- indie businesses often support local causes (teams, schools, charities and local arts organizations)
  • The role independent booksellers play in creating a community that favours the arts and promotes economic success by encouraging artists and innovators to stay there
  • The potential for major parts of Canada's bookselling industry (a chief disseminator of Canadian culture) to fall to foreign ownership.


Here is a listing of just some of the events that will be taking place at bookstores across Canada on Saturday, October 16th.  There's also a Facebook Page with links to various activities and events.

If you don't see your neighbourhood bookstore on the list, don't despair -- this is just SOME of the stuff going on. Many more booksellers are out there featuring events, hosting authors, and doing something a little bit special just to celebrate this day.  Give them a call, or better yet, drop in.  Even if your local bookstore isn't doing any advertised event for this, Saturday October 16th is the perfect day just to swing by and check them out, just to say hi, just to engage in a little bit of that experience of a bookstore as a cultural meeting place of minds.



You never know just what you'll come across.

As for myself, in my role as President of Canadian Booksellers Association, I'll be visiting Another Story Bookshop (315 Roncesvalles Avenue, Toronto) and Mabel's Fables (662 Mount Pleasant Road, Toronto) along with Toronto Mayor David Miller (the author of Witness to a City) who is showing his city's support for local bookstores and local businesses and helping to celebrate "Independents' Day."


·   
The biggest challenge for this day, of course, might not be having nothing fun to do or nowhere to go if you're a book lover, but trying to decide where to go and who to see.  There are simply too many great authors being featured in too many great bookstores across the country to be able to see them all.  But what a great problem to have.

Imagine a dystopian future where there are no local bookstores, no celebratory events in your own neighbourhood, no local place where you can meet an author, meet with fellow book lovers, where there are no strong ties to local communities and local art cultures, where you can't experience the serendipitous joy of walking into a bookstore without a clue as to what you want and walking out with a truly unique treasure in hand. 

If imagining that frightens you even a little, then you really should get out on Saturday and celebrate your independents.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

HNT - Father And Son BBQ

This past weekend we took a quick trip up north to spend Thanksgiving with my Mom and help her get the house and yard ready for the fall.

While turkey was the main menu item, we also had a chance to BBQ.  After all, the weather was absolutely perfect for being outdoors.

Of course, every time I BBQ at my Mom's house, I can't help think back fondly to all the times I BBQ'd with my Dad, both when I was little and then later when I was an adult. Some of my fondest memories of my Dad involve standing or sitting near the BBQ and just chatting and enjoying the moment.

Me and Dad at the BBQ, 1998

Alexader, of course, is fond of the BBQ experience and even though he is only 6, he has long been an activie participant in the whole father/son BBQ ritual whether it's at Baba Jean's or at home.  He even has his own little BBQ so he can cook alongside his old man.

Me and Alexander at the BBQ, 2010

I thought it was neat to have this picture of Alexander and I taken at about the same spot where Dad and I did so much BBQing over the years.

I still miss my Dad so very much, particularly when I'm hanging out in a spot that used to be "ours" -- but having Alexander there to share in the BBQing, and create our own new father/son BBQ memories makes it easier, and a lot more special.


Friday, October 08, 2010

Neat Heat

Francine and I started watching the ABC television show Castle about midway through the season last year.  (It might have been around the time when ABC "paused" FlashForward for a while during the Olympics)

At first, I thought the premise of a writer getting to shadow a New York cop and her team was a little far-fetched. (Yes, despite the fact that I'm a writer and would love to be able to do that myself)  But then again, one can only suspend their disbelief so much for different shows all at the same time. After all, I'd already hesitated on buying a similar premise for The Mentalist (a civilian working with a police force).  And for Medium, I still find it easier to believe Allison can communicate with the dead rather than how closely she would work with the DA's office and police force.

But the writing, and particularly the interplay (especially the offhand humour) between the four main characters of the show (the obvious sexual tension between Castle and Beckett) are well done. The mysteries and storyline are intriguing and it's a show we regularly enjoy.

So when I found out that Hyperion books actually produced a real-live print version of Heat Wave, the first "Nikki Heat" novel that Richard Castle has written and published as part of the storyline of the television series (as inspired by his time with Kate Beckett), I had to check it out.  I mean, I just love the fact that there's this Brechtian element to the whole process -- nevermind the ingenius marketing of a book. Think of the gigantic viewer base for a television show and see if that can spin-off a following of readers -- intriguing concept, because it's not a media-tie in novel based on the characters on the show -- it's a novel referred to in the show and "written" by one of the characters -- beautiful three-dimensional fictional interplay.  I fell in love with the idea immediately.  And it made me pick the book up.  I love anything that makes people pick up books.

Another interesting thing they've done with the television series is introduced some real-life mystery writers into the storyline.  I fondly remember a poker game where Richard Castle is hanging out with Stephen J. Cannell, James Patterson and Michael Connelly, (all of them real-life best-selling mystery writers and playing themselves on the show) as if they're all great buddies.  Another beautiful superimposing of reality and fiction.


I just finished the novel.  At just under 200 pages, it was a quick and easy read. And it was interjected with much of the mirth and ribbing and humour as appears in the television series.  The mystery itself was interesting and engaging, and overall it was an enjoyable tale.  I will admit that, as I read the novel I was distracted with picturing Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic in their roles as Castle and Beckett, and comparing the characters of the novel with the characters of the television series.*

One main difference between the novel and the television series is that the sexual tension between Jameson Rook (the writer) and Nikki Heat (the cop) comes through a lot more quickly in the book.  In the television series, that kind of tension is stretched out and teased over many seasons and that works nicely for a weekly hour-long series.  But in a novel, you do it differently, so the characters actually get hot and heavy about mid-way through the book.  I like the way they've written it into the book, because that not only works on its own in the novel, but also further teases the folks watching the television program.

Naked Heat, the follow-up novel, is due out this fall.  It might even be out.  And I'll admit, I'll be looking for it. I'm intrigued to keep reading, to find out where the fictional Richard Castle will take his storyline.


* Just an interesting aside, but in the quick and brief research I did while writing this post, I learned that Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic are both Canadian actors.  Nathan is originally from Edmonton, Alberta and Stana is originally from Hamilton, Ontario (yea, go Hamilton!)

Thursday, October 07, 2010

HNT - Craft Beer Home And Away

I was in Chicago earlier this week. And when I travel, one of the things I love to do is find and enjoy locally brewed beers that I would otherwise not be able to get at home.

Thus, with my meal Sunday evening, I tried out Goose Island's Honker's Ale (pictured below).  It went quite nicely with the steak and asparagus I had -- a fresh hoppy and malty taste that I'd definitely love to have again. (Of course, I see that Goose Island has a whole slew of other beers - next time, I'll be torn between having Honker's Ale again or trying some of their others)



Then, upon returning home, I enjoyed a locally brewed one I'd picked up at the LCBO last week:  Grand River Brewing's Galt Knife Old Style Lager.  It was interesting that this beer reminded me a bit of the Goose Island beer.  It had a very pronounced hop taste to it, although it was a bit more intense than the US beer.  This brewery is just around the corner in Cambridge, Ontario, so I'm definitely going to check out their other beers -- especially interested in checking out their seasonal Highballer Pumpkin Ale.


In all, it was fun to try out both a local craft beer I hadn't tried before as well as one from Chicago.

And, of course, to fulfill the HNT portion of today's post, that's my hand holding the Grand River Brewing beer.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

State Of The Blogosphere

I just took an interesting Technorati "State of the Blogosphere" survey which was emailed to me.  It takes about 15 minutes.  Thought I'd post the invite here for other bloggers out there to discover.

 
Since 2004, Technorati has been tracking the Blogosphere through our State of the Blogosphere study. The goal of the study is to create a complete snapshot of the activities and interactions that make up the Blogosphere by asking you, the bloggers, to share some information about your habits. The survey includes questions like how, when and why you blog. Is this a side business, full time job or something you do for fun?

Please feel free to send
this link to other bloggers you know. And be sure to check back on Technorati.com in November for a summary of the results.
The 2010 State of the Blogosphere Survey: http://research.opinionguru.com/mrIWeb/mrIWeb.dll?I.Project=A17275

Monday, October 04, 2010

Talk On Demand

I'm currently in Chicago at Graph Expo 2010 where later today I'll be giving a luncheon keynote talk about my experiences with the Espresso Book Machine.

An executive from Xerox contacted me a little while ago after seeing my talk from BookNet Canada Tech Forum that I did with Hugh McGuire (and which you can watch online) and asked if I could come down to give the same talk at Graph Expo.  (Perfect timing, of course, for the news that Xerox and On Demand Books have teamed up to expand the reach of the Espresso Book Machines.

I'm quite eager to see more of this technology make it to more bookstores everywhere. While it seems simple, the ability to produce a book within minutes right on the spot at the point of sale is a revolutionary technology that can allow a small bricks and mortar bookstore an opportunity to discover an entirely new revenue stream while preparing itself for the perfect bridge between digital and print:   books distributed digitally and produced locally on demand at the point of purchase -- this is a significant improvement in the book industry supply chain where publishers and bookstores lose millions of dollars each year warehousing, shipping, then pulping books.

Last March, when I was honoured to appear on stage beside Hugh McGuire as we talked about Trailblazing: Leading the Way to a New Kind of Supply Chain, I got to use a little bit of "potty" humour by throwing up a slide of a toilet.  And though I've modified my deck of slides for the talk I'll be giving at noon today, I knew I just had to keep the toilet shot in there.

There are simply some jokes that I just can't resist using.

But in all honesty, I'm rather excited to be at this Expo to get a chance to check out some of the great new technology that merge printing and digital like never before (I've heard that this is the first year at Graph Expo in which there are no offset print displays set up -- that everything being showcased is digital) as well as to share some of the wonderful experiences I have had as a bookseller using an Espresso Book Machine.

This is an exciting time in our industry, a marvellous merger and collaboration between authoring / publishing / printing / distributing / bookselling, and these are definitely exciting times to be a bookseller.