Saturday, April 06, 2013

Culture By The Minute

Earlier this week I appeared on a local Cable 14 program called "Culture by the Minute"

Mark Leslie and Jill Downie
Hosted by Jeremy Freiburger from CoBALT Connects, the show airs every second Monday at 5, 6, 8, 9 and 11:30pm, spotlighting Hamilton community, art, and creativity.

Mark Leslie, writer (not Mark Lefebvre or Mark Leslie Lefebvre)  ;)
The focus this week was on a couple of local writers (me and Jill Downie) and GritLIT, a fantastic literary festival taking place this week/weekend.  There is, as always, a stunning line-up of writers at GritLIT, and I'm delighted to take part this year in the Closing Night Cabaret on Sunday evening.  The show also did a spotlight on the awesome Bryan Prince bookstore.

Jeremy Freiburger and Mark Leslie

It was fun to, during the show, do my invisible hat-flipping technique (look Mom, no hands) where one minute I'm talking as Mark Leslie the author of Haunted Hamilton, the other minute talking about my role as Director of Self-Publishing at Kobo, and the next moment celebrating the local bookstores in our community with my Canadian Bookseller Association hat on.  It's a good thing I have such a big head.

Here's a link to the show - or you can watch the embedded video below.

Friday, April 05, 2013

They Say You Want A Revolution . . .

 . . . well, you know, we all want to change the world.

Sorry, I couldn't resist the title for this blog post.  Not when it's about Emily Craven's E-Book Revolution Podcast. She wants to change the world for the better, and her blog and podcast are two places where she does that, by providing interesting and valuable content for authors.

I had the pleasure of meeting Emily at World Fantasy Con in Toronto in late 2012, and we recently synced up to further discuss all the writerly things we had chatted about when we met at that con.

During this hour long discussion, Emily and I chat about

  • The benefits of self-publishing as well as my love of being a hybrid author
  • How indie authors and Kobo are partnering with bricks & mortar book stores and how Kobo Writing Life authors can take advantage of that.
  • How a digital author can sell copies of their work at events and functions in the real world
    A bit about my experiences using the POD Espresso Book Machine and how indie authors can take advantage of them either locally or through Lightning Source
  • How self-published authors can use Kobo Writing Life to sell pre-orders of their books.
    The fun of global book launches.
  • How traditionally published authors can use self-publishing to bring new life to their out-of-print back list to increase the sales of their front list from publishers.
  • Why the 99 cent model and drive to free and zero pricing is unnecessary and can be detrimental for authors in the long term.
  • I, of course, also slip in a few blatant self-promotion moments - how couldn't I ask people to check out my books?

We also talk about really smart publisher moves such as Harlequin's recent purchase of print rights of Bella Andre's The Sullivans novels, and Hugh Howey's similar deal with Simon & Schuster for WOOL.

In all, it's two writers talking about writing (which is always a good time for this book nerd), but if you listen very carefully, throughout the entire podcast there's a very subtle, almost undetectable sound of me switching the multiple hats I wear as author, bookseller and self-pub guy at Kobo.

Click here to go to the podcast website.

Or right click and download the mp3 file.

To check out Emily's books (at Kobo, of course - you know you wanna), click here - or check them out on her website.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

I Swear This Is A Guest Post by Julie Czerneda

I am delighted that this blog is part of Julie Czerneda's blog tour celebrating the launch of her fantastic new novel A Turn of Light.

Cover art by Matt Stawicki

Many of you know Canadian author Julie E. Czerneda as the former biologist turned science fiction novelist published by DAW Books NY. You may have read her Clan Chronicles series, or be a fan of Mac or Esen from her other work. Maybe you’ve heard she’s an editor. Also true. This spring, however, prepare to meet the Julie you don’t know. After three years of work, she’s letting out her whimsical side with the release of her first fantasy novel, A Turn of Light, also from DAW. The setting, Marrowdell, is based on pioneer settlements in Ontario. There are toads. And dragons. The magic? All her own. 

For more about Julie’s work, including book excerpts and upcoming events, please visit

Photo by Roger Czerneda Photography

@$%#*@&! BIFFLEPOP!

By Julie E. Czerneda

An essential aspect of world-building for my fantasy, A Turn of Light, involved swearing. No, not by me. I’m a “misterchristiescrispybiscuits” kinda gal. When I do utter a four-letter word, the family comes running, knowing something awful’s happened. It’s not that I’m a prude; I simply prefer to save cuss words for significant moments.
My characters would have their moments too. But what should they say? Nothing familiar, I decided. I’d already laced much that was throughout Marrowdell, from baskets to beer to watercolours. It was time to add a good dose of “other” to the Rhothan culture. Oh, and have fun, that too.
Most of all, it was my chance to weave the belief system of my settlers into the story.
Violette Malan did a great post on swearing in fiction recently. ( She makes the point that profanity only exists when there are religious beliefs in a society to profane. After all, how can you “damn” someone if there’s no hell? I’d chosen to make my characters belong to a society with ancestor reverence rather than worship any deities. (Why? That’s another post.) In Turn, bones are kept in ossuaries and visited regularly. Records of ancestry are important. The dead are considered to watch over the living, with benign intent. Some believe they grant wishes; most do not. Certainly if you misbehaved, there could be an immense number of disappointed ancestors taking note.
Who better to swear at?
That said, I wasn’t writing anyone who’d be disrespectful or risk ancestral ire. Plus it would get old fast if I had someone cry out “By Grandfather Ernst’s Bones!” or “My Mother’s Skull Will Crush Your Mother’s Skull!”
I decided, since everyone had a wealth of ancestors in common, they should have an equal wealth of non-specific exhortations. Ancestors .... something something.
Out came the thesaurus.
Ahem. After writing a few samples, I discovered this approach offered a wonderful opportunity to reveal important character details, as each would have preferences. The more peculiar, the better. What incited a given outcry would necessarily vary too -- from the trivial to the vital. Indeed, fun to be had.
I chortled, I did.
Thus, in A Turn of Light, you’ll hear “Ancestors Blessed” for “praise be” or “thank goodness.” “Ancestors Witness” for “as fate would have it” or “truly” or “it’s beyond me to change.” Then there’s the more -- interesting -- stuff.
A cheerful Rhothan might say “Ancestors Blessed and Blissful.” A worried one, “Ancestors Desperate and Doomed.” There’s “Ancestors Hot and Bothered” for those moments of temptation. Feeling perplexed? “Ancestors Crazed and Confounded” might do, or “Ancestors Daft and Ridiculous.” In a pickle? “Ancestors Battered and Bent!” One of my favourites, when asked for one too many favours, “Ancestors Twice Put Upon and Tormented!”
From Julie’s notes. There are more. Photo by Roger Czerneda Photography

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

From Beyond The Grave

Carol Weekes and I co-wrote a story that was published recently in the Grinning Skull Press anthology From Beyond the Grave edited by Michael J. Evans.

For some, death is not the end. There are those who are doomed to walk the earth for all eternity, those who are trapped between one plain of existence and the next, those who, for whatever reason, cannot or will not let go of the lives they left behind. These are the vengeful spirits, the tortured souls, the ghosts that haunt our realm. Welcome to FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE, a collection of 19 original ghost stories

Our story, entitled "Face in the Window" involves increasingly annoying nocturnal visits from an old neighborhood drunk which seem to only get worse even after the old man dies.

Here is a brief scene from the opening of the story:

The dog usually barked at strange sounds in the night, but this time she simply sat up, the hair on her back bristling, and bolted up the stairs toward the bedrooms. Ron Nathan listened as her nails slid over the hardwood floors.  Judging from the direction of the sounds, she was scrambling under his bed.

    "Casey?" he called out to the terrier.

    She let out a mournful bark, then went still.

    "What the hell?"  He snapped his paperback closed and placed it on the coffee table, glancing at the clock on the wall.  It was a few minutes after midnight.  He became aware of just how quiet the house was when the refrigerator clicked on in the nearby kitchen, making him jump.

    Casey’s actions had raised goose bumps on his arms because she never acted this way.  Clearly, something significant had frightened his companion of five years.  He understood that a dog’s acute hearing could detect even minute changes well beyond the human auditory system, and he fought the urge to soar up the stairs after her and join her under the bed.

    "Casey!" he commanded, hoping to entice her back downstairs so that he could pick her up and carry her outside and show her that nothing was wrong.  The only times he’d seen her this frightened was when powerful summer storms shook the house with their crashing thunder.  It was autumn now, the storm season long past.  Occasionally someone would trek through his property, which cut a wide expanse between the woods and the road, or an animal would come sniffing around for food; raccoons mostly, sometimes foxes or coyotes.   It wasn’t an unusual thing around here. His house, what had been a neglected bed and breakfast Victorian affair dating back to the late 1800s, sat by itself on almost ten acres of land, most of it consisting of thick forest and a rambling field, one edge of which terminated at a robust flowing river.

    Ron thought about the most regretful incident that happened a few nights ago—but that was over now.

    He went to move towards the stairs and bedrooms when a crash from the back of the house made him issue a short, high scream.  Casey emitted a low, rumbling snarl that carried all the way downstairs.  He ran into the kitchen and onto the back porch to stare out across a yard that, despite the porch lamps, was swept in shadows.

    Leaves drifted down from the maples and oaks festering in the yard.  A harvest moon illuminated sections of the yard in long, gold slashes.  A gust of wind whistled, picking up the leaves, breathing life into them once more and giving them one last ride before they began their slow decay and return to earth. It was a moist, but cool early November night, as if the season could not decide if Indian summer was over yet.  For a moment he thought he saw a face forming in the swirl of leaves and grass.  He blinked and it was gone.

The eBook, which contains 19 full length ghost stories and can be purchased for $4.99 at the following websites.

Kindle (Amazon)
Nook (Barnes & Noble)