Friday, August 31, 2012

My Favourite Haunt on Locke Street

My new non-fiction title Haunted Hamilton is starting to appear in various local stores.  I thought it would be fun to try to spotlight those stores, to encourage people not just to go check out my book, but to check out everything these wonderful stores have to offer.

Today's feature is Epic Books on the always awesome Locke Street in Hamilton.

It's my favourite place to haunt when I'm on Locke Street. (Okay, I usually bounce between Epic Books and Locke Street Bakery which is my second favourite haunt - they have the best bagels!  Then again, there's the wonderful Cheese Shop on Locke -- aw, who am I kidding? Once I head down to Locke Street, I'm there for the afternoon -- so many great places to visit. But no visit to Locke is complete without popping in to Epic Books)

Epic Books at 226 Locke Street South, Hamilton, ON

Epic Books on Locke Street is a fantastic little shop run and staffed by avid readers/book lovers.  It is always a great pleasure to pop in and talk to Jaime, the store's owner, about what she is reading as well as new events and activities in the bookselling and publishing world.

Epic Books owner Jaime
There are, as Jaime blogged about the other day, signed copies of Haunted Hamilton: The Ghosts of Dundurn Castle & Other Steeltown Shivers available on the shelves.  They are right up front in the section facing the front door that features local interest and local author books.

And, speaking of this great bookstore, I'll be joining several other local authors at the Epic Books table (just outside 226 Locke Street South) pretty much all day during the annual Locke Street Festival on Saturday September 8th  (it all starts at 10 AM), signing copies of Haunted Hamilton and some of my other books. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hamilton's Most Haunted Bookshop

My new non-fiction title Haunted Hamilton is starting to appear in various local stores.  I thought it would be fun to try to spotlight those stores, to encourage people not just to go check out my book, but to check out everything these wonderful stores have to offer.

Today's feature is Bryan Prince Bookseller in Hamilton's Westdale neighbourhood.

Bryan Prince Bookseller - 1060 King Street West, Hamilton, ON

The other day I popped in to Hamilton's most haunted bookshop -- Bryan Prince Bookseller -- to sign copies of Haunted Hamilton

I jokingly call it Hamilton's most haunted bookshop because it's a long time favourite, a modern classic bookstore that is regularly haunted by some of Hamilton's finest book lovers and also haunted by some very fine booksellers that I have had the privilege of working alongside many years ago.  The shop, which transferred hands in Feb 2011 to new owners Kerry Cranston and Tracey Higgins, still bears the name of the original owner, the well-respected Bryan Prince, whose spirit still lovingly haunts the bookshop.  (Bryan is alive and well and enjoying retirement - you don't need to have died to leave your spirit in a place - for further exploration of that theme, check out my short story "Spirits")

It's always great popping into Bryan Prince and talking with the staff, who are bred-in-the-bone die-hard book lovers.

They had informed me that they had already had to order more stock of the book in, since it keeps flying off the shelves. I love it when that happens, particularly when it happens with one of my books.

Tracey and Frank pretending to read my 2 recent books

Incidentally, they also had copies of Tesseracts Sixteen: Parnassus Unbound (an awesome new sci-fi anthology from Edge that has a Sept release date) - so I signed copies of those as well.  Then I had Tracey and Frank pose for a few fun shots.

Shiny Happy Booksellers!
A great local bookstore to check out (and not just because they have stock of a couple of my books - they're good all the time)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Beautifully Strange Tales

Earlier this year I was asked by Five Rivers Publishing if I would be interested in writing a forward for Susan Forest's new story collection Immunity to Strange Tales.

I was at once honoured and delighted. I had read Forest's writing before and quite admired her style; the chance to read an entire collection of her work and get to introduce it was rather rewarding.

The book, which is a collection of 12 short stories, came out this month and is now available in print and eBook format.

Here is an excerpt from my introduction to the book:

"This collection is entitled Immunity to Strange Tales, however, once you start to read the stories you'll likely realize that there is no immunity to the beautifully strange tales contained here. As a reader you'll be swept away by Susan Forest's poetic prose, fall prey to the charms of the worlds and characters she paints, be held under the spell her tales cast on your imagination and very soul.

If you were to read a standard biographical statement about Susan Forest, you'd likely find some sort of note that she writes science fiction, fantasy and horror. The fact is, she doesn't just write in these genres, she transcends them, weaves elements through them that blend cold hard reality with the fantastic. She takes the reader on unexpected speculative journeys, forces them at times to pause and reflect on a grave matter or surprises them with a bizarre and unexpected humorous turn of events."

I then go on to describe a few of the tales, highlighting a couple of common themes in her fiction -- the very Canadian themes of the struggle of the individual in society and a sense of isolation.

This is an excellent book of speculative stories by a talented writer that is definitely worth checking out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Haunting The Haunted Shop

My new non-fiction title Haunted Hamilton is starting to appear in various local stores.  I thought it would be fun to try to spotlight those stores, to encourage people not just to go check out my book, but to check out everything these wonderful stores have to offer.

Today's feature is The Haunted Shop in Niagara on the Lake.

Store front of The Haunted Shop - 126 Queen Street, Niagara on the Lake

The Haunted Shop which is a gorgeous little store filled with all kinds of paranormal themed merchandise and goodies, is run by Stephanie Lechniak, co-founder of the group Haunted Hamilton and also co-author of the wonderful forward for my book.

Stephanie Lechniak in the wonderful paranormal shop she haunts
When I popped in last Sunday to sign copies of the book, I snapped a few pictures.  The photo below, of Stephanie and I, was taken by the always awesome Haunted Hamilton Mum Cathy (her official title)

Me, Stephanie and the book

 Stephanie had also posted a few shots of the book in it's setting, so I thought I'd share.

Haunted Hamilton on the shelves of The Haunted Shop
Haunted Hamilton feeling right at home in a creepy setting
If you're near Niagara on the Lake, The Haunted Shop is a must-stop location for all things paranormal.  The beautiful little shop is packed with all kinds of spooky themed products and displays. Hard to imagine just how much great stuff they can pack into this little store. And they do daily ghost walks starting from the store every night at 8:30 PM.

Not only that, but I was able to find this awesome package of ghost poop there.

Authentic Ghost Poop from The Haunted Shop
Although, upon closer inspection, I suspect it's not real ghost poop, but rather tiny marshmellows -- it looks a heck of a lot like the Snowman Poop that I bought last winter -- yes, it's easy to fool this believer.

Incidentally, there's now a Facebook Page for the book Haunted Hamilton.  Feel free to like it; heck, you can even go so far as to love it too. I won't stop you.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The KJA In TO For CA

Imagine if someone wrote the novelization for Pink Floyd's The Wall, The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band or the Rush album 2112 at the same time the music was being produced.

That's exactly what the novel Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson is.

Anderson and Rush drummer/lyricist Neil Peart collaborated on the project. The Rush album Clockwork Angels is set in a steampunk universe in an orderly and controlled world ruled by The Watchmaker. The entire album explores the theme and story of Owen Hardy, an apple farmer who seeks to explore the wonders of this world and sets out on his adventure.

It is a fantastic science-fiction novel by one of sci-fi's most talented minds. Combine that with the creative spirit and energy that goes into a Rush concept album and you have a fantastic mix of music and prose, certain to delight fans of the band and sci-fi fans alike.

Kevin J. Anderson is appearing tonight at the Chapters on John and Richmond (142 John Street) at 7 PM for the world premiere launch of this book, which is published by Toronto publisher ECW Press.

I'm sure there'll be a huge line up.

I'm hoping to be one of the first in line.

KJA at BEA in NY in June 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Escape From Discatraz

A few weeks ago, Francine, Alexander and I spent a marvelous week at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  We stayed right on the resort at the Yacht & Beach Club Resort area -- arguably the finest resort pool setup in the entire Disney area (sand-bottom pool, a fantastic water-slide, a lazy river, a pool volleyball area, hot tubs, waterfalls, the whole nine years).

The most magical place on earth is anywhere I go with Alexander & Francine

The setting was ideal.  Our room at the Yacht Club was at the farthest end of the resort, offering the best view across the lake of the nightly fireworks at Epcot (which was a 5 minute walk away).  The next closest resort was Disney Hollywood Studios, a short ferry-boat ride away, which we went to for 3 of our days there, due to the Star Wars themed attractions there. 

Fran and I took advantage of the path and boardwalk around the lake (about 1.4 KM around) and the various paths that led around the resort, enjoying morning jogs before heading off to the theme parks or relaxing by the pool.

Our room location at the Yacht Club

It was a glorious and wonderful vacation -- and unlike anything we'd ever done.  For the most part, prior to this, our idea of a vacation had been taking 2 days and going overnight somewhere that was typically within driving distance.  Going for 7 days and staying at a fancy resort was a definite first for us.  And it won't be the last.

However, there was one thing that was a but of a challenge for me. I'm a gum-chewer. I always have been. I enjoy chewing gum (subtly) after a snack or meal as a way of freshening my breath - it stems from a lifelong habit begun in childhood of using gum (usually spearmint gum) to settle an uneasy stomach.

I usually have a pack or two of gum on me.  But when I arrived at Disney, I had just a couple of pieces left in a single pack.  So I set about trying to find a piece at the Yacht Club gift shop. Then the Beach Club gift shop.  Then at the various gift shops at the Magic Kingdom. Then again at the shops at Downtown Disney.  No dice.

I thought I would be smart and check out the hotels across the street from Downtown Disney -- after going to three of them, I found out we were still on Disney grounds. One of the ladies working there explained that gum was not to be sold anywhere on Disney property. I asked her how to get off Disney property. In my mind it was a bit of an attempt to Escape from Discatraz -- yes, it's the most magical place on earth, but part of me, even at that early point in our trip, just wanted to step into a non-controlled part of Orlando, a normal, open and regular place - nothing magic, just mundane and real, bugs, scratches and all.

And I really wanted to get some gum.

She pointed out that there was a way out, but it was about a ten minute drive from where we were.  So I set off on my journey, late at night.  When we had finished at Downtown Disney and Francine and Alexander were waiting for the shuttle bus to take them back into the heart of a magical place, I was planning my temporary escape from Discatraz.

Let me pause for a moment to talk about the gum thing at Disney.

I completely understand, and strongly agree, with Disney's policy about gum. In general, people are pigs and will thoughtlessly spit their gum out wherever they are and have other people stepping in it and ruining their shoes. Just like some smokers will careless toss their butts wherever they please (typically out car windows on the highway), believing that the entire world is their ashtray. It's really too bad that thoughtless and selfish people like that ruin it for those who actually take responsibility for their own actions and behaviour. 

Yes, I chew gum practically all the time -- but when I'm finished chewing I either swallow it or spit it into a napkin to be deposited into a garbage can.

In any case, I respect Disney's choice, and I'm glad they have that policy.  But it did make my little venture a challenge.

My "Escape from Discatraz" jog-hike

Fortunately, I had changed from the sandals I had been wearing during the day and into my running shoes.  The walk was about a 1.8 kilometer hike from the shuttle buses at Downtown Disney -- it was out at the end of Hotel Plaza Blvd and out to a gas station/convenience store at S Apopka Vineland Road (on the way to Highway 400 - Interstate 4).  It was a hot night (temperatures near 100), and I was already tired from a long day exploring Magic Kingdom.  But I half-jogged the route, made it to the gas station, purchased a few packages of gum as well as some cereal bars, beer and other goodies to snack on.  By the time I got back to Downtown Disney to take the shuttle back to our resort (the last one of the night, I might add), my shirt was entirely drenched and I was a little exhausted.  I was perhaps even a little smelly -- but not my breath. Because I had my gum.  ;)

Fran, of course, was a little worried about me, since I didn't end up getting back until well after midnight.

But the task was complete - I had escaped from Discatraz, then made it back.

And while I chewed gum for the rest of my time at Disney World, I ensured that not a single piece of it ended up careless spit out onto the grounds, but rather properly disposed of. 

I think Walt would have been proud.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Done Book, Almost-Done Book

Yesterday two fun things happened in the world of Mark's books.

I received the edited version of I, DEATH from my editor/publisher Ian at Atomic Fez in a giant box, complete with a red pencil and popcorn (the kind for packing, not snacking)

The thick, phone-book sized manuscript contains lots of detailed notes, questions, spilled coffee (and potentially other types of beverages on this manuscript), and cat footprints. I wonder how many of those red pencils he went through trying to help mould my words into something useful.

Now it's time to burn the midnight oil working on Ian's brilliant suggestions, making revisions and ultimately ensuring it's a much better novel than the one I handed in.  (There's always a special thrill of getting to work with an excellent editor)

Yesterday, I also learned that Haunted Hamilton: The Ghosts of Dundurn Castle & Other Steeltown Shivers is now in stock at my old haunt, Titles Bookstore at McMaster University.  (Chapter 15 - Haunted McMaster, page 117, covers not just the ghosts of the main campus, the downtown campus and the haunted Keg Mansion in Toronto - home of the founding McMaster family, but also talks about some fun spooky times had at the bookstore when Titles teamed up with the folks from the ghost walk group Haunted Hamilton)

You can order it from McMaster bookstore online, or, heck, just drop in and ask for it there or at your closest local Hamilton area bookstore -- chances are if they don't already have stock, they will very soon.