Wattpad

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Navigating the Digital Tipping Point of the Book World

I collected a group of essays I wrote which were originally published on The Mark News website. I've been writing a series of articles there which are mostly reflections on the publishing industry from a bookseller's perspective.

I recently made the book (Living at the Tip) available via Amazon - it's actually exclusive to Amazon. I know, I know - how ironic considering that many of the articles criticize the behemoth and that I mostly work in rivalry to them. But such is this grey world we live in.

In any case, the ebook, which normally retails for $1.99, is free for the next couple of days.


Living at the Tip: Navigating the Digital Tipping Point of the Book World

We’ve been at the tipping point between traditionally printed and digital books for well over 10 years. Looking around the industry, at one end you’ll find naysayers who continue to stick their heads in the sand, believing that digitization couldn’t possibly change a centuries-old industry, and at the other those who believe "The End is Nigh!" and all traditional players should just pack it in.

These articles, published on The Mark News between Nov 2009 and Oct 2011 outline one bookseller's perspective on the changes facing the industry and the possibilities that exist when exploring bold new collaboration between legacy traditions and new technology.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Final HNT

Every Thursday for the past six years I have been posting half nekkid pictures of myself as part of a world-wide blogger phenomenon. No, the pictures weren't always risque nor did they always involve some sort of half-naked state; but the posts were often about revealing myself in some way shape or form even when no additional skin was being revealed.

That has been part of the wonder of HNT. People participating in it have continued to interpret the HN in HNT in various ways.

For me, it has been a great thing to be forced to post a single themed blog post each week. Even on "blog dry" weeks where I wasn't able to chisel out some time to toss some thoughts into the blogosphere, I always found time to HNT.

I'll miss it. I'll miss the people. Yes, part of the weekly ritual was visiting as many other HNTers as you could to see what they were revealing. In that manner it was an incredible community building experience. Through HNT, I developed many friendships that continue to last, and I've even had the great fortune of meeting some folks I met through HNT in person. I'm pretty sure that, as time passes, I'll meet more friends that I originally connected with through HNT.

Why?

Because, it might have started between a small handful of blogger friends back in May 2005, but Osbasso has created a truly remarkable phenomenon that will last well beyond this "Final HNT" post.

Osbasso collected together a special "Farewell HNT" in which he asked a group of us, many of whom have been in HNT from the early days, to either come out of retirement for one last horrah, or to offer up a pre-scripted HNT post.  They all appear at HNT Finale for history's sake.

My final HNT post, the official one, appears there.

For that post, I used one of my favourite HNT pictures (the ad hoc "unmasking of Darth Tater" that turned into an entire series of a goofy adventure in which my son and I battled Darth Tater and his Clone army) - In the last year, I returned to a "re-write" of the original tale, and it was almost as much fun the second time around -- though, admittedly, I was in "edit" mode, trying to fix some of the previous storyline and make improvements on my prose and some of the bad attempts at humour.

You can read the whole zany storyline by starting here. Or if you prefer unrevised history, it was originally posted on Jan 12, 2006.


I also included my very first HNT post - a shot of my "Spooky Eyes" boxers. This was originally posted on October 27, 2005. In it, yes, I flash a bit of skin, but I also do something I'm rather fond of doing (and have done shamelessly on this blog for years) - I mention a forthcoming book signing - yes, it's often about the self-promotion for me, isn't it?


But I'll tell you the reason I went with these old classics is that I had trouble trying to picture what my LAST HNT picture would be.

Maybe because I wasn't quite ready for HNT to end . . . maybe because I didn't want it to end.

And, being the constant rule-breaker that I have been, I'm not entirely sure this will be my last HNT post.

Who knows.  We'll see.

To all the friends I have made, to the entire community of HNTers, I wish you one last fond Happy Half-Nekkid Thursday. Hope to see you around the blogoshere and elsewhere.





Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Beautiful Animated Christmas Card

I recently received an animated Christmas card from a friend in the UK.

It was made by Jacquie Lawson called Christmas at Chudwell's.  It featured a lovely little magical Christmas moment featuring a bird flying a star down to a small bookshop in a village and waking up the animals hanging out there as the store lights up for Christmas.

It was a wonderfully heart-warming little card.


It called back the incredible feeling of warmth that comes from a truly personable and intimate shopping experience. Okay, and the fact that it was a lovely little boutique bookshop made it that much more enjoyable to this book nerd.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

As another Christmas Eve begins to slip away, and, the annual family snuggle-read of Twas the Night Before Christmas is done, the magic reindeer dust has been spread outside and the chocolate milk and cookies have been left out for Santa, I bask in the moment and cherish all the things I hold dear.

Alexander reading How The Grinch Stole Christmas


Alexander about to start spreading magic reindeer dust
The spreading begins - too fast to catch without a blur
Alexander moves at lightning speed, spreading reindeer dust
As we settle down and wait for Santa to come while we sleep, warm thoughts flow through my heart.

May you, dear reader, find that same sort of peace and love and warmth -- if not on Christmas Day, then in the New Year which is almost upon us. This is my simple wish.

May Peace and Love be with you.

Merry Christmas. 

And, God bless us, everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Blue Christmas (Porky Pig Style)

One of my favourite short Christmas songs is the "Porky Pig" version of Blue Christmas (written by Billy Hayes & Jay W. Johnson and made popular by Elvis). 

Apparently it was originally recorded by a New Jersey DJ who later changed the credits from "Porky Pig" to "Seymour Swine & The Squealers"

I love to sing this version of the song whenever the real song comes on the radio. Francine and Alexander (who are typically trapped in the car when I am doing this) begin excessive eye rolling and a chorus of "Stop! For the love of all things holy, please just Stop!"

That makes me want to sing louder, of course.

Here's the video.

Enjoy.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

HNT - Three Wishes 2011

This being the final "Three Wishes" themed HNT, I thought I'd do what I normally do during a "structured" HNT post.  I'd break the rules and do my own thing. Why mess with the old Mark Leslie Tradition of doing that.

But speaking of tradition, I love the fact that Osbasso, the founder of HNT, created this themed type of post - it was meant to be a way for HNTers to go visit other members they didn't know, read about them and get to know them through the words and images they posted on their blogs. What a beautiful village-building activity. I applaud Osbasso for creating it and I applaud those who (unlike me every year) have embraced it.

I know I have gotten to know some other HNTers through this and cherish the experience.

Here's a link to my previous "Three Wishes" based posts since 2006

2010 - 3 Wishes 2010

2009 - Three Wishes 2009 (I got pretty creative with the descriptive post names, didn't I?)

2008 - Three Wishes 2008 (fell into a pattern, didn't I? But I modified it slightly for 2010 & 2011)

2007 - Gift of the HNT 2007 (shooting for a Gift of the Magi type name methinks)

2006 - Gifts of the HNTer (again with the Magi thing - I fall back to certain patterns a lot)

This year I simplify in my own way with three simple wishes in the realm of Dicken's A Christmas Carol, looking at Past, Present and Future.

For Those From HNT of Yore (Past)
May you look back on the many years of HNT, on the joy of a community of bloggers from around the world coming together with a fun common purpose, at the friendships and laughs you shared. There are even those whom you might have known from HNT of past who are no longer with us. Either no longer blogging or who have, sadly, passed on. May you relish in the memories of the thoughts, feelings, smiles and tender moments shared. HNT was about community, about sharing, about getting to know one another (and being given a fun and playful way of doing it) May your thoughts and memories of it warm your heart.

For Those From HNT Present
You're involved in HNT at as significant a moment as the days it was first beginning and perhaps even what some refer to as The Golden Era - although Golden might be different depending on a person's perspective, because often the "gold" comes through the discovery of a great new community of like-minded people, through the discovery of the fun of sharing and the wonderful intimacy that can stem from it. Enjoy this moment, enjoy the feeling and soak in the moment. Yes, this is a simple wish for you to properly "Carpe Diem" - but not just in HNT, in all the things that you do that bring you joy. May you absorb the joy and wonder of each moment for everything you do. Those joys will become the memories you one day will cherish and reflect back on.


For Those From HNT Future
If 2011 marks the end of HNT, how can it have a future. Ah, that's the magic. Just like in the letter from a newspaper editor to Virginia, discussing how Christmas lives in your heart, the magic of HNT is in the future carried forth by all past and present participants who go forth and continue to share the love and wonder that made HNT special. You see, HNT isn't merely a weekly ritual, it's an excuse for community, a wonderful weekly reminder to share and connect. May your future bring that same sentiment to many things that you do, not just in blogging, but in your physical day to day life. Pause, take a moment to share something of yourself, to expose something and to look, listen and attend to those who are doing the same around you. That's part of what makes the world a better place. That's part of the ongoing gift you can offer.  Even if you're reading this or other HNT posts from the past many years from now, remember, it wasn't just about risque half-nude pictures, it was about people forging connections, engaged in the spirit of community. Be inspired by that to do the same in your own unique way and you'll enrich the world of those you come into contact with.



And, because it's HNT, I offer up a few pictures of the Christmas ties I've been wearing. I have tried to wear a Christmas tie every day for the past couple of weeks. I like ties. I particularly like novelty ties. But what I like best is how a novelty tie can sometimes inspire a smile in those who see them. Even if I only make one person smile from seeing a fun goofy tie, it makes my day to know that a choice of the way I dress has momentarily lifted someone in some small way.





This last one is a really fun one - have a closer look at the various snowmen



Happy HNT for all those from HNTs of Past, Present and Future!




Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Silly Christmas Lyric Meme: Frosty The Snowman

Back in 2006 I started a silly Christmas lyric meme where I take a song we hear countless times during the holiday season and discuss something that confuses me about it or is worth exploring if merely for the humour . . . (feel free to play along and share your own silly thoughts about Christmas lyrics on your own blog)

The Rules: Pick a Christmas lyric that inspires silly thought and discuss it. Then either tag people or simply invite your readers to chime in with their own silliness.

Feel free to use the "Cousin Eddie" image by copying the following code and replacing the '(' and ')' with '<' and '>' :

(a href="http://markleslie.blogspot.com/2006/12/mark-leslies-silly-christmas-lyric.html")(img src="http://static.flickr.com/136/321235351_90abf16624_m.jpg" alt="Mark Leslie's Silly Christmas Lyric meme" /)



The Song: Frosty the Snowman. Written by Walter "Jack" Rollins and Steve Nelson and first recorded by Gene Autry in 1950. (Original title "Frosty the Snow Man")


Lyrics in Question: "He led them down the streets of town right to the traffic cop. He only paused a moment when he heard him holler "Stop!"

The Comment:  Before I dive into the lyrics I must confess that the song has always confused me. I've often questioned why Frosty would be a jolly, happy soul. I mean, sure, if the hat had some magic in it and brought Frosty to life, what sort of life would it really be? I explored that in a dark humour story I published a long time ago called "That Old Silk Hat They Found" - the story looks at what "life" might really be like for poor Frosty . . . born to the world with no legs to romp around on and feeble twigs for arms . . . . you can listen to the story for free via a podcast or even read the ebook version in my new ebook Snowman Shivers, which contains two of my snowman horror stories. Available on Amazon and Smashwords.

But enough of the self-promotion . . . on to my "over the top" analysis of the lyrics.

I think that there's evidence Frosty is a delinquent and a bad influence. After all, the moment he is created he goes thumping around over the hills of snow - one might imagine just how wreckless he is being, the kids following him as if he's some sort of Pied Piper figure, likely mimicking him in his wanton destructive behaviour instead of spending time with their family or perhaps even studying quietly, reading, volunteering at a soup kitchen or attending mass.

Frosty even admits that he's here for a good time, not a long time

"Let's run and we'll have some fun," he says. "Before I melt away."

In the manner of bad influence rock stars, his melting away is an obvious ode to the concept of it being better to burn out than to rust. It's all about short-term living big.

He obviously won't have to own up to the consequences of his inhibitions and can run wild, leaving the children to clean up the mess he leaves behind as he runs here and there, all around the square laughing as the children try to chase him down.

His biggest indiscretion, of course, is the example he sets for the kids when he disobeys the traffic cop in the song. Instead of following the police officer's orders, Frosty merely pauses a moment, then, obviously, continues his horseplay, showing the kids that it's okay to run wild and carefree, paying no attention to any sort of law and order.

Of course, the clincher is that, at the end of the song, you can imagine him saying, in his best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice, the line made famous in the original Terminator movie:  "I'll be back! (again some day")

I say we should ban this song because of the terrible example it sets for kids.

What about you? Are you with me on just how nasty and terrible an influence Frosty can be on the kids? Perhaps it's another song. Steal this idea for your own blog or share your thoughts in a comment here. Have fun, be goofy. Go ahead, it's okay. Frosty would want you to do so . . .

[To read my previous Silly Christmas Lyric commentary, check out 2010 (Here Comes Santa Claus) 2009 (I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus), 2008 (Silent Night), 2007 (Silver Bells) and the original 2006 (The Christmas Song)]

Monday, December 19, 2011

Good, Good, Good Merchandising

Okay, I couldn't help trying to write the title of this blog post "to the tune" of Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys (as opposed to Good Vibrations by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, which is still a whole lotta fun in its own right)

But I have to say, I'm often impressed when a retailer can take a normally boring item (in this case, cases of soda pop) and turn it into a festive display.

The Metro on Upper James in Hamilton did it again, and I couldn't help but snap a pic of the simple magic of a good display.

Alexander high-fives the diet pepsi snowman at Metro
To the left was a gigantic "fireplace" display made from cases of assorted Pepsi branded pop. The pics I snapped of that were too blurry to use - but it certainly makes an effective display.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Light Tour 2011

Last night we took another one of our family Christmas light tours. It consists of piling the family into the car, getting a box of donuts from Tim Horton's (ensuring we have the seasonal candy cane ones and that Alexander has his favourite hot chocolate, which is a normally made hot chocolate with a half shot of regular milk added - it cools it down because he can't handle it too hot but also can't wait to start drinking it) and doing a tour of neighbourhoods and houses that go a little Griswold.

Last night we found a new house while on route to ones we already knew about.

It's located at the corner of Dunsmure and Glendale in Hamilton. And it's pretty darn fantastic.

All the pictures below were taken at that same house (and are evidence that I'm an amateur photographer, taking quick shaky shots on my iPhone)



When asked, later in the evening, which of the houses was his favourite, Alexander said, the one with the Santa who had "Ho Ho Ho" on his underwear.  A bit hard to see in the picture immediately above, but Santa did moon us, showing off a neat pair of Christmas undies that I don't yet own (and I own a lot of fun Christmas boxers.....)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

HNT - Christmas Tree of Hope


This being the final "Christmas Tree" themed HNT, I thought I'd take a quick retrospective over the various "Christmas Tree" themed HNT posts I've put up here.

Last year, I sort of went off topic, but at least it's a Christmas theme.  2010 - Christmas Vacation at Chateau Leslie.

In 2009, I was riffing on Charlie Brown in 2009 - Markie Brown Christmas Tree.

2008 was a father-son theme, with Alexander and I in front of the "boy's" Christmas tree in our rec room downstairs. Simply titled Christmas Tree 2008.

Oh Christmas Treat was my HNT post from 2007, which included my very first Christmas HNT picture (a bit risque and more of the commonly understood version of "nekkid" in this one) and returns to the themed Christmas CD that I reposted about in 2010.

In 2006, I posted a jokish HNT (yes, because all my other ones are soooo serious) called Francine's Christmas Fantasy. Yes, this one shows a bit of skin in the "traditional" HNT nekkid sort of way.

And, when I was young and foolish and first beginning HNT, I took the "Nekkid" thing seriously and posted Bare Naked for the Holidays, using a strategically placed ornament to cover up the most private of parts.

This year, I really wanted to build a Christmas tree made out of books, part of capturing some of the excitement of the viral Christmas tree picture. I ran out of time, so I thought I'd take that viral Christmas tree made out of book picture and add a fitting star to the top of it (fitting in my "slap Mark's head on something" sort of way I like to do for HNT)
Of course, I thought I'd post some random pictures of Christmas trees that I found online, just to share in the bookish love. You can find a lot more via a quick Google search. It's lots of bookish fun.



So, can you tell that I'm a person who has some books on his Christmas wish list . . . . ?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Heard That!

From 1999 until the late summer of 2006 I worked in downtown Toronto but lived in Hamilton. I took the GO train to work because it was an easy walk from Union Station in Toronto to the Peter Street office where I worked.  The whole commute was about 3 hours per day.

I filled a good part of my commuting time on the train reading and writing. In fact, in the first year of my commute I composed the first draft of a novel. (Interestingly, as I began to make more and more friends on the GO train, my productivity decreased. Yes, chatting with friends was fun, but it had a negative impact on my writing)

I traded the 3 hour daily commute in shortly after my son turned 2 to work at Titles Bookstore McMaster University. I was barely seeing him, and the 10 minute commute to McMaster was a delightful change. It was good to return to the physical world of bookselling and fascinating to re-learn all the things I'd spent the previous fourteen years learning. Academic bookselling was an entirely different beast with rules I was simply not familiar with.

My time at McMaster was a good one.

But, after five years, it came time for another change.

I decided to leave right after the last Rush period this year. The last day of September 2011 was my last day.

It was difficult to leave a job that I quite enjoyed and was so passionate about. But I was leaving to partake in a incredible new journey, a delightful new role and for a company that I had admired since their very first days.

I started as Director of Self-Publishing & Author Relations at Kobo in October 2011. Having spent the past three years building up a self-publishing business via the Espresso Book Machine at McMaster, it was the right move at the right time for me. I got to expand upon an activity that I was incredibly passionate about and return to a similar role that I enjoyed when I was a data-wrangler before I left for McMaster.

Over 2 million ebooks! 

The only down-side, it seemed, apart from being able to regularly work on the sales floor and put books directly into customer's hands and all the greatness that comes from that face to face interaction with book lovers, was a return to the commute.

And, given Kobo's location in Toronto, it wouldn't be a simple GO train ride. The passenger train route would likely add an additional half hour to 40 minutes to each way's journey (if I wanted to start as early as I like to start each day). The other option was to drive in.

Admittedly, I was worried about the daily drive in to Toronto.

But I have made the best of it.

With audio books.

Yes, even on the days where the traffic can be nail-biting, steering-wheel poundingly frustrating, I just sit back and listen to either the slew of podcasts that I subscribe to or one of the many audio books I have enjoyed since starting my job. Since the beginning of November (less than a month and a half), I have listened to 9 audio books.

For a person who values reading, and has always wanted to get more reading done but not been so good at reading quicker nor finding time to get as much reading done as possible (you see, whenever I spend a good deal of time that I could be reading writing - another passion that I hold dear), this daily commute has been a blessing.

In less than two months I turned what would have been wasted time into the consumption of books that would normally have taken me 4 or 5 months to read.

Got to love that.

So, three cheers for great audio books.

Three cheers for filling in my time with a useful, worthwhile and delightful activity.

And three cheers for an exciting new job that I adore!

If anyone is counting, that's nine cheers. The same number of audio books I've "read" so far since I've started my new job.


Friday, December 09, 2011

Searching For A Solution

There's been a lot of chatter lately about Amazon's Dec 10th strike on independent retailers.

It has long been known that customers will walk into a bookstore (for example), browse contents, then go home and order the very same merchandise they were looking at from Amazon.

This week, Amazon announced that if customers used their price check app to scan an item in a retail store, it would give them up to $5 off the price of the item purchased on Amazon.



First, I should note that books aren't included in this promo and that it's not even an option in Canada.

But that being said, such as announcement will be booksellers understandable riled up. After all, Amazon has been kicking booksellers in the head for a dozen years. 

ABA put out a statement yesterday, a public letter to Jeff Bezos; a beautifully written post on the Advent Book Blog called Dear Amazon: You Really, Really Suck generated a lot of buzz. And various other articles about it have appeared.

Let's face it. Even though the $5 offer isn't really all that good (just part of many different "sleight of hand" and "smoke and mirrors" effects that Amazon likes to play, it has been long known by booksellers, and now documented in a survey that 39% of people who bought books from Amazon said they first looked at the book in a local bookstore.

Let's face it. Amazon does one thing amazingly well. They have a world class search engine.

Even as a bookseller, I'll use Amazon to find the book I knew the customer is looking for so that I could drop the ISBN into my own inventory system (which has, no matter where I've been a bookseller, has ever been so robust)

So why not turn things around, make a preemptive strike and offer customers a discount off any book that they first found on Amazon, but end up buying from your store's stock?  I'd suggest perhaps 20% as a good starting place, and adjust up or down to your comfort level. All they have to do is bring in a printed screen shot of the book on Amazon to your cash with the book from your store's inventory, and they get the discount, no questions asked.

The reality is (assuming most books have a 40% margin for booksellers), that if you don't sell this book by the end of December 2011, you'll be returning it to the publisher anyway. And taking a 20% hit off the margin at the retailer's most lucrative time of the year is, in my calculations, a much better prospect than the costs of returning the book during the year's most lowest volume month for book sales.



In any case, on Saturday Dec 10th I plan on doing an Amazon search and then printing off the screen shot, then bringing it to a local bookstore.  As I purchase the book, I'm going to make sure I inform the cashier or bookseller that I used Amazon to find the book, but then came to buy it locally in my own community from a retailer who pays local taxes, hires local people and supports my local economy.

I'm not expecting a discount for doing this - but it'll sure feel good making the gesture.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

HNT - Getting Into Christmas Spirit

This week's HNT features a couple shots of the new Meaghan Smith CD that Francine and I got signed at her Hamilton show the other night.

In a beautiful story-tale way, it snowed in Hamilton the night before Meaghan came to town on her "It Snowed" tour. Beautiful giant flakes of the white stuff, sending a wonderful thrill through our son's heart (he already has grand visions of snow forts and sleds and shoveling).

No, the snow didn't stay, but it was still fantastic to see Meaghan perform "It Snowed" the next day, and the magic of seeing her perform certainly still lingers.

For those who don't know, the song (written by Smith) opens like this . . .

It snowed, it snowed, it snowed last night
Everything is sparkling with diamond light
The road is buried four feet high
Honey, let's play hookey 'cause it snowed last night

Francine, Alexander and I fell in love with the song a few years ago when we heard it on the radio while driving around looking at Christmas lights.

It Snowed is the title track off her new Christmas CD, a delightful addition to our Christmas music collection. I am, in particular, a fan of how she has modified some of the Christmas songs adding her own unique flair and style.

Getting to she Meaghan and her husband (Jason Mingo) perform was a special treat.  It was a small, intimate tour, not one for the whole band -- but perfectly suited for the intimate space The Pearl Company and the wonderful performance by the couple. Fran and I sat with a couple of friends I used to work with at McMaster, Laura and Matt - so it was fun to see them (Matt, knowing we were fans, poked me on Facebook to let me know about the forthcoming show - thanks, Matt!)

Meaghan has such a beautiful voice, a wonderful style and it was a real treat to see her and Jason perform and interact with the audience. We lined up to get our new CD signed and chat with the personable artist who stayed to see every single person who wanted to chat with her.

So, this week's HNT features my big giant thumb showing off the signed CD.



Good times - a fun memory of a great show, and now a great new holiday CD to add into our annual mix.




Tuesday, December 06, 2011

I Lost My Virginity at 16

I lost my virginity at 16. My Tesseracts virginity, that is.

Tesseracts is a long-running, award winning speculative fiction anthology series. Although I have submitted fiction to this highly competitive series (edited by a continually rotating assignment of editors) I haven't yet made it in. Thus I have thought of myself as a Tesseracts virgin.

A Tesseract is the four-dimensional analog of the cube


I suppose if I was going to lose my Tesseracts virginity, this is a delightful way to do it. So this time I get to wear my editorial hat and be involved in selecting the stories that will appear in the next incarnation. Tesseracts 16 guidelines were announced this week on Edge Publishing/Tesseract Books website.

I am tremendously proud and honoured that I am going to be the editor for this next round.

The theme for Tesseracts Sixteen is "Parnassus Unbound." The anthology will focus on art, music, literature and cultural elements which are integral to the story.  And yes, Parnassus refers to the Greek mythology of the fountain Castalia (at the base of Mount Parnassus) whose waters could inspire poetic brilliance.

Tesseracts Sixteen: Parnassus Unbound will be published in the Fall of 2012.

Full submission guidelines appear here: Tesseracts Sixteen Guidelines

Submissions close: Feb 29, 2012 (yes, a whole extra day)


Thursday, December 01, 2011

HNT - Author Pic for Haunted Hamilton

In late September, my buddy Peter Rainford and I spent a few hours one evening touring around Hamilton and getting some night-time shots of various locations that I covered in my forthcoming book Haunted Hamilton: The Ghosts of Dundurn Castle and Other Steeltown Shivers, which is due out from Dundurn in August 2012.

We visited several spots and when we were at McMaster Pete took a few shots of me under the McMaster Tower archway. (McMaster being significant for me given that I worked there at the bookstore from 2006 until the end of Sept 2011 -- and yes, there's a chapter in the book about the campus I love so much)

In any case, here's the author photo that Dundurn is planning on using for the back cover of the book.

I thought I should share it now - and what better time to share than on HNT.

Photo © 2011 - Peter Rainford

And yes, I'm trying to look all serious and "authorly" in the photo. (But it does work much better than the terrified look on my face when I was doing the research for the book - man, some nights while I was compiling information I scared myself silly)

Not sure if they'll use a cropped version - one of the things I like are the shadows cast from the metal frame housing the light under the archway - adds a nice eerie feeling (or at least, I felt a little eerie when posing for the picture - but then again, I just at shadows - Pete had to calm me down a few times)

Speaking of forthcoming books, the reason I'm up so late and blogging is that I just read through, signed and sent back a contract for an anthology that I'm going to be editing. Details forthcoming.

2012 is going to be a busy year filled with two books coming out and at least one more being worked on. No rest for wicked writers I suppose . . .

Happy Half-Nekkid Thursday!

Monday, November 28, 2011

NaNoNoWri

I love the concept of NaNoWriMo (for those who don't know what it is, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It was started in 1999 by Chris Baty and meant to be a socialization of a personal and "sole" activity. With the goal of writing 50,000 words in a single month (November), registrants post and share how they are doing towards that goal.

More than a quarter of a million people participate each year, and the number continues to grow.

I have participated in the past. I'll likely participate in the future again.

But right now, I'm just happy when I can get ANY writing done.

Which was why, Saturday morning, I got frustrated when my writing got cut short by an activity that frequently occurs when I'm in the middle of something.

I was "in the Zone" and composing what I thought was an important moment in a novel. I came to a part where one of the characters was going to say something about a subject where he was supposed to be knowledgeable and authoritative.

I, of course, was nowhere near authoritative or knowledgeable about the subject -- that's my cue to doing a bit of research.

And therein lies the mistake I made.

I took a quick moment to check a fact, do an internet search about a topic so as to ensure my character was speaking with the correct degree of knowledge. That "quick moment" of research turned into fifteen minutes of reading about the topic and about a related topic, getting drawn in and interested in learning more.

The next thing I knew, the writing flow had been broken. I was no longer in the Zone.

In that same fifteen minutes, I could have likely written another 500 to 1000 words. But alas, those words remain unwritten.

quill writing from wpclipart.com
This is a mistake I regularly make - the trick is catching myself in the midst of it so as to prevent the "full stop" that occurs. A strategy I have employed in the past (which tends to work) is inserting a note for myself to pay attention to during the re-write. So, instead of breaking the narrative flow by more than a few words, I insert a line in the middle of the sentence [just like this - just a few words] and then, satisfied I have recognized a moment that needs to be addresses when I have the time, I continue writing.

During the re-write phase, or when I'm about to quit for that session, I do the research and substitute in the appropriate word or detail.

Example.

Robert turned toward the instrument panel and noticed that [the proper technical name of the radial dial] was glowing [alert colour]. He immediately sounded the alarm and called Steve on his cell phone.

In the example above, once I do a bit of research to determine the proper technical name of the radial dial on the monitoring device Robert is looking at and whether the alert colour is red or orange, I return to them and insert the details.  Note that the research doesn't have to be into real stuff. This could be a piece of speculative fiction in which the instrument panel system Robert is observing is entirely fictitious but I need to look back to my own notes or where this detail was previously mentioned in the novel and merely fill in the info there.

It's a useful device. One I should remember to use so I don't get all carried away with the enjoyment of the research.




Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday OR "Occu-buy" Chaos?

One wonders about the whole "Occupy" movement. Despite the "we are the 99%" slogan being used in wonderfully, creative ways, the movement consists of a relatively small percentage of the population dedicating an incredible degree of time and effort into bringing a serious issue to our attention.

It all started just a few months ago and was gaining some traction world-wide.

Interesting though, that there are issues with a bunch of people wanting to stand up and make people pay attention to social and economic inequalities that exist throughout the world by camping and planting themselves in public places.

I suppose there isn't as big a deal made over the fact that, for Black Friday, a slightly larger group of people in many more parts of North America, were setting up tents and sleeping bags so they could "camp" outside retail spaces to be there when the doors began to open.

Cartoon 11/22 from Wesley's Cartoons - Dec 3, 2009


On one side, a bunch of disruptive people with a desperate message are looked down upon. On the other, those perpetuating capitalistic culture are just part of the norm.


And yet I look at incidents like the one recently reported in the Los Angeles Times in which a woman used pepper spray on her fellow shoppers in order to get to the deals first at a Wal-Mart and I just shake my head.

Cartoon: The Spirit of the Season from The Boiling Point by Mikhaela B. Reid
Google "Black Friday Violence" and you'll see this is a trend that has been growing.

Sigh . . .


Thursday, November 24, 2011

HNT - Seeing Santa

This past weekend Santa arrived at Limeridge Mall.

We headed over to the mall to see the incoming mini parade which included Sir Topham Hatt (from Thomas the Tank Engine), a couple of ponies from My Little Pony, as well as a few other characters, bagpipe musicians and mall staff dressed as Santa's helpers handing out fun activity/colouring books for the kids.

I hoisted Alexander on my shoulders so he could get a good view through the crowd.  Then I readied my iPhone to take a few pictures and remembered that there was a front facing cam on my new iPhone. So I snapped a couple of quick pictures to test it out.


Then, as things begin to start, it was cute how he was yelling out: "I see Sir Topham Hatt!" at the top of his lungs as the characters began their march far far down the hall.

At that point we knew it was a good idea to take him to this. (We'd debated on attending the Parade in Toronto which was the same day, but the concept of the drive plus the possible 5 hour wait just to get a good spot just wasn't feasible given our schedule of activities and chores for the weekend. This little event was enough to kindle the fun excitement of Christmas without overpowering it with long waits and being stuck in a huge crowd far from the comforts of home)

I took a few pictures of the characters and Santa, but I'd been more eager to see the look of joy that I knew must be plastered on my son's face.

So I switched to the front facing camera and took a few shots.


Ahh - got to love this smile as the various characters are marching by.


And this one, waving at Santa as he passes in front of us.

Got to love Christmas, and, in particular, the excitement and joy my son gets in the various little traditions that we do together which make it that much more special.