Monday, May 27, 2013

Getting Along With Your Brother

I was raised an only child, so I don't have many of those "stop touching me" or "stop looking at me" stories from the back seat.

And, since Francine and I only have one child, I don't really have many of those "father yelling from the front seat at the children" stories to share.

So I'll do what I do best - I'll use my imagination to create some.

Saturday morning, our bunny Scotty (Mr. Scotty Nibbles III) found a new friend: Herman. (Herman is a stuffed ape that my Dad bought for me for Valentine's Day just a week before he died; so, though Herman is a bit goofy looking and gigantic -- yes, it was my Dad's idea of a joke, because when I was a child I had always wanted a monkey -- he means a lot to me) 

Scotty, who rarely sits for long, sat for half an hour beside Herman. It was so cute that I had to take a picture. Then, he started to get cozy and nest himself between Herman's legs, pulling down the ape's arms to cover himself.  It was quite adorable until Scotty started to chew on Herman's legs and pull the stuffing out of him to further pad his nest.

"Scotty, stop chewing on your brother!" I scolded.  I didn't take a picture of that mess.

Then, later that day, we went as a family to see Iron Man 3.  I moved Barnaby from the front seat to the back so that Francine could ride shotgun. (Yes, Barnaby, my skeleton, rides with me - not so I can get in the HOV lanes, but simply because there's no good place in the house to store him, and, since Barnaby comes with me to book signings, it's easier to have him in the car already.

Besides, it's fun to make the other motorists do a double-take, and it's a great ice-breaker when I'm at the gas station or getting in to my car in a public parking lot.  (And yes, I have a small front cover image of my book Haunted Hamilton within site -- I figure, if people are looking, they might as well see some self-promotional stuff)

Barnaby's head sometimes shifts around when I'm driving (a great side-effect to help further freak out fellow motorists), but Alexander gets angry whenever the skeleton's head shifts over to look at him.

"Dad, tell Barnaby to stop looking at me!" Alexander was yelling from the back seat. When the skeleton didn't comply (how could he, after all?), Alexander started poking him in the head until the head swiveled away from him.

I imagined Barnaby replying, "Dad, tell Alexander to stop poking me!"

"Alright," I yelled. "Knock it off, both of you. Barnaby, stop staring blankly at Alexander, you know he doesn't like that. And wipe that goofy grin off your face. And Alexander, stop punching your brother in the head."

At that point Francine did what she always does:  she shook her head and wondered why she ever married me.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Embrace The Start of Summer With Creepy Campfire Tales

This weekend (which is a long-weekend in the US - Memorial Day weekend), you can get my ebook collection of four campfire tales BUMPS IN THE NIGHT for 30% OFF.

ERRATIC CYCLES involves a man stranded on an abandoned highway in Northern Ontario, forcing him to face his childhood fears of the wilderness after dark.

ALMOST draws upon one of the most beloved classic campfire tale situations with a bizarre new twist.

In THE PIZZA MAN, four students keep getting pizza deliveries that they never ordered. Is it a strange prank, or is there something more to the mysterious man who keeps showing up at their door?

THE SHADOW MEN was specifically crafted to be read around a campfire. Pay no attention to those strange noises and bumps in the night taking place while this story unfolds. It's likely only the Shadow Men.

Use coupon code:  SPRINGSAVE

The coupon is only good until May 27th and only available in Canada and the United States.

Purchasing this eBook from Kobo gets you a non-DRM ePub file which you can read on any Kobo reader, any of the free Kobo applications available for virtually any smartphone/tablet device using iOS or Android, or on any other reader that supports ePub files (such as Nook, Sony, etc)

You can also get the book via Kindle, Nook and iBooks - or on Smashwords.

And if you want to support your local indie bookstore in the U.S. while buying this eBook, check the list of participating Kobo eBook indies, find your closest local one, and buy it there (you can still use the coupon and save and feel good about buying an eBook AND supporting a local bookshop)

Master IndieBound list of participating bookstores in the Kobo eBook program:

Example of Bumps in the Night searched on Tattered Cover (Denver, CO) website:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Amazing Things Do Happen

An amazing thing happened several months ago.

C.C. Chapman visited Kobo's head office and his good friend Mitch Joel interviewed him for a Kobo in Conversation video.

It was one of those serendipitous moments that couldn't be planned, and yet it was likely based on an ongoing stream of constant and consistent community building.

Authors regularly ask me questions about marketing and how to get the word out about their book.

Photo courtesy of C.C. Chapman

What nobody who asks that question ever really wants to hear is that it's hard, there are millions of other books and authors out there and the thing that works best isn't a single gimmick or a quick one shot bullet.  What works best is building and engaging in a community -- in particular a community that can benefit from the type of thing that you are writing.

Working on that, focusing on how you can add value to the community, add value to those who are potentially within your target audience demographic, is the main thing to focus on.  And I'll use C.C. Chapman as an example - particularly since his he seems to exude the principle of giving.

C.C. has been blogging and podcasting and sharing his enthusiasm for life in an open and up front way for many years. He has consistently been giving to the community, and, he hasn't been broadcasting using social media - he has been engaging with them.  He hasn't been using the community, he has become a relevant and desired part of it. He has offered, and given, and shared and connected.

And he has done it in such a generous and honest way that, as James A. Owen said so beautifully in the Drawing out the Dragons talk he gave at Superstars Writing Seminars last week, people can hear it in his voice, see it in his face, and seem to automatically want to help him.

It might have been a single innocent tweet that C.C. sent out which led to Kobo inviting him to come to our office, to bring in his good friend Mitch Joel to interview him, and to make a special day out of it -- culminating in this video -- but that single tweet stemmed from years of engagement by C.C.

Sure, I saw the tweet in which he was asking for some simple advice about Toronto, responded to C.C. and began a conversation with him.  But that conversation never would have happened without C.C.'s initial investment in the digital community he harvested and stays engaged with. 

C.C. might thank others for something like this, but he is really the spark that made it all happen.

But, despite the fun had that day of finally getting to meet him in person, the best part is that I found a great new book (Amazing Things Will Happen) that I can recommend and purchase - one that, along with the Dr. Seuss book "Oh The Places You'll Go" make an excellent gift for any graduate.

Check out CC Chapman's books at Kobo.

Check out Mitch Joel's books at Kobo.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Top 10 Takeaway Quotes From Superstars Writing Seminars 2013

Last week I had the great fortune of attending the 2013 Superstars Writing Seminars in Colorado Springs as a guest speaker.

With a core faculty of bestselling authors such as Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Eric Flint, David Farland and Brandon Sanderson, the annual seminar series also brings in guest instructors such as Tracy Hickman, Joan Johnston, James A. Owen and Jim Minz.  The three days of sessions are meant to be a one-stop shop for creating a successful business plan in the commercial fiction industry and the ideal place to hone your existing knowledge base, or begin a brand new trajectory in your writing career.

Closing Q&A Panel Session: Mark Leslie, Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, James A. Owen, Eric Flint, Tracy Hickman

I was there to share a bit of insight with the writers about Kobo, Kobo Writing Life, eBooks, DIY, digital and self-publishing. So in a sense, I was there to teach. But the huge benefit, besides meeting so many wonderful and talented writers, was that I was able to absorb some great information from some of the world's best writers in science-fiction, fantasy, horror, thrillers and romance.

Thus, I present, from the notes I jotted during sessions I watched as well as ones I participated in, my top ten takeaways from Superstars Writing Seminars. Rather than dig into the details of each of the quotes below, I'll do my best to leave my own interpretation and how these apply to me as a writer out of it (since I'm sure everyone will get something personal out of each - ie, interpret each into something useful for their own unique purposes)

Mark Leslie Lefebvre (hey, that's ME), talking about eBooks, Indy Publishing & Kobo Writing Life

1) "Every book cover is a small billboard." Jim Minz (Senior Editor at Baen Books) channeling Tom Doherty with respect to an author's branding presence.

2) "The integrity of the story comes first. Egos come second." Tracy Hickman in reference to the process of editing and re-writing when collaborating with another writer.

3) "Sure, I can do that." Kevin J. Anderson's answer to accepting the right opportunities that led to his diverse and wide experience in writing that went behind his universes that he had created (such as his X-Files, Star Wars, Dune, and Rush tie-in novels)

4) "It's about collaboration, not competition." Rebecca Moesta, talking about the importance of communities of writers supporting each other as allies, not in competition with one another.

5) "Never sacrifice the thing you want most for the thing you want most right now." James A. Owen discussing the importance of keeping your long term goals in mind and doing things deliberately.

6) "Writing is a creative performance where the experience takes place completely outside the creator." Tracy Hickman quoting his wife, author Laura Hickman.

7) "You need to view yourself as a professional, and act like one." Rebecca Moesta, referencing the importance of professional behavior in all of one's activities, whether it is in submitting your material to publishers or appearing at bookstores, conventions and conferences.

8) "As a rule, a new author's first novel will lose money for a publisher." Eric Flint outlining the business side of publishing and the split between how publishers divide their operating costs into three main buckets of writers:  Lead writers, mid-list writers and new writers.

9)  "The written word does not live unless it is read." Tracy Hickman, who, with James A. Owen, referenced Samuel Johnson's quote that a writer only begins a book; a reader finishes it.

10) "Use every minute." Kevin J. Anderson explaining that while writers might prefer large blocks of uninterrupted time for writing, that isn't always possible and a luxury that most people don't have. Thus, the discipline of taking advantage of every free moment to make progress, however small, on your in progress book project, is critical -- every sentence you compose is a sentence closer to finishing that writing project.

Moses Siregar III, Evan Braun, Mark Leslie, Jen Greyson, Melissa Douthit, Eric Kent Edstrom

It was tough to cut the things I learned at Superstars Writing Seminars down to 10 points -- because all three days were jam-packed with an incredible amount of valuable information and insightful inspiritation. so it's very likely I'll have to write another post focusing in on one or more additional aspects of the sessions that inspired me as a writer.

NOTE: Revising this post to add links to other great summaries of the Superstars Writing Seminars 2013

Terry Odell - Series of recap posts about SWS

Monday, May 06, 2013

A Tip For Ontario Procrastinators

So last night I was panicking - every year when my birthday rolls around, I always leave getting the new stickers for my license plates renewed.  And, honestly, I tend to forget when my own birthday is coming around.

As a father, I'm WAY more excited about my son's forthcoming birthday than I am about my own -- it was my wife who reminded me about my birthday when she started baking a cake yesterday.

In any case, I was trying to figure out when I was going to get a chance to get my plate stickers renewed (particularly after they remove the kiosk that used to be in Limeridge Mall in Hamilton)

So I decided to open that annual renewal reminder envelope they had mailed me months ago -- you know, the one that sits on the counter for months unopened, and is often opened at the last possible minute in desperation -- to determine if I needed a "Drive Clean" inspection done before my renewal would be accepted.

In the accompanying literature (which most folks normally don't read), I noticed a great option that I hadn't spotted before.

Online plate sticker renewal.

Yes.  Available at

Now how cool is that?

You fill in the information, pay online, print a slip to keep with you while the stickers are mailed to you (to show to police if you  happen to get pulled over) -- and there's no waiting in those long line-ups with all the other folks who waited to the last minute.

(Of course, one perk of waiting in those lines is, if you see them there with the Ontario plate sticker renewal form, you can usually say: "Happy Birthday" to a stranger and be confident that it's either their birthday or pretty close to it.  Seeing a stranger, smiling as if you know then, saying it's good to see them again and wishing them a Happy Birthday, then watching the confused look on their face as they try to figure out who you are is always an amusing way to pass that time in line)