Thursday, October 10, 2013

50 Shades of Hamilton

An article I wrote for Hamilton Magazine called "50 Shades of Hamilton" was just published in the magazine's fall 2013 issue.

"Hamilton is rich with history and a diverse sense of culture. It is also a city rich with ghosts. Fifty or more of them, in fact."

The article outlines the 5 different types of ghosts that haunt the Hamilton area as covered in my 2012 Dundurn book Haunted Hamilton, by breaking them down into the following categories.

  • Historical Ghosts
  • Truly Eerie & Creepy Ghostly Tales
  • Sad & Forlorn Ghosts
  • Ghosts in Public Places
  • The Practical Joker Ghosts

I originally riffed on the "Fifty Shades" idea of counting the ghosts in Hamilton, on my blog last year. I didn't realize that the editor of Hamilton magazine (Marc Skulnick) was a fan of ghost stories - but when he contacted me to see if I'd put something together for the fall issue, I pitched the concept.

The article opens with the following paragraph....

"Before you think this article has anything to do with an explicit erotic relationship between a recent college graduate and a business magnate, I should remind you that one of the definitions of "shade," according to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary, is simply a ghost."

The magazine spread is filled with beautiful historic pictures of the city as well as a collection of short tidbits from the book regarding haunted places.

No, that's not Patrick Dempsey on the cover - it's Rodrigo Venturelli

It's cool when something like that can eventually be converted into another piece of published writing.  And the extra exposure reminding people of my book doesn't hurt either.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The Day I Outsold Stephen King

Last Saturday was the official book launch weekend for Spooky Sudbury. I drove up north late on Thursday evening and spent most of the day on Friday doing a few different media appointments.

Jim, my publicist at Dundurn, had scheduled in studio appearances with Gary, Rich & Hilary In The Morning (Sudbury’s KiSS 105.3 FM) and Markus Schwabe of  CBC’s The Morning North as well as recording some videos at the haunted Bell Mansion for Eastlink News.

Jenny arrived on Saturday to join me for a launch that started at Chapters at 11 AM until 1 PM, and then at the Coles from 2 PM until 5 PM.  Jenny had to head back down south that night. On Sunday Sept 29th I did one final signing at the Sudbury Costco before heading back home to Hamilton.

Barnaby and Mark

Mark and Jenny, signing the last copy left at Chapters

We sold out at the Chapters in a little over a half hour. But we stuck around until our scheduled end time there. Chapters had copies of Haunted Hamilton (as well as copies of Campus Chills and One Hand Screaming), and the adjacent Costco had plenty of stock, so some people ran next door to grab a copy from there to get signed.

Barnaby hangs out on a bench outside the Coles New Sudbury while Jenny signs at the front of the store
Jenny's boyfriend Bruno hangin' with Barnaby
Mark, Barnaby and Lynn Murray (one of Mark's teachers from Levack Public School)
Then we moved on to the Coles, where there was enough stock to last almost two hours before selling out Barnaby sat on a bench outside the store and attracted a huge number of people. At least a dozen different groups stopped to each take their picture with Barnaby, many of whom were likely tweeting and posting them to Facebook.  I thought that was a pretty cool promotional opportunity, particularly since Barnaby was wearing a SPOOKY SUDBURY t-shirt.

On the Sunday, the signing at Costco happened.

Costco entrance sign announcing book signing

And that took me by complete surprise.

I'm a bookstore guy, so, while I had been pleased with the fact Costco was interested in having me in for a signing, I wasn't sure how successful it would be. Sure, there was lots of stock. But would the customers there be interested in an author?

The answer to that question is a resounding: YES!

First, the staff greeted me so warmly, and had everything laid out perfectly, including a sign at the front and a decorated table across from the skid of books. One of the managers said that I was only the second author ever to sign at that Costco. Canadian music icon, Anne Murray, was the only other author who has signed there. And hockey legend Bobby Orr was the only other author who was scheduled to be there later in the fall.  That was some pretty fine company for me to be in.

Author table at Costco Sudbury. (Barnaby was happy to meet up with his old Costco friends)

I was tickled when I saw that Spooky Sudbury was sitting on a skid near Stephen King's hot new book Doctor Sleep. So, I, of course, had to take a picture of it. I mean, how often would I ever be merchandised so close to a writer I have admired for decades? So close to a book that was hitting the charts at #1 in markets around the world?

I had to snap a picture of that, of course.

The signing at Costco was amazing. People continued to line up to chat with me and get a signed copy. Folks were buying multiple copies, for birthday gifts, Christmas, and other occasions. I ended up staying most of the rest of the day, and realized, towards the end, that we had pretty much decimated the pile of books.

BEFORE: A skid of hundreds of copies of Spooky Sudbury. (Doctor Sleep by Stephen King is on the left)

AFTER: The Spooky Sudbury pile cut down by half, "lapping" sales of Doctor Sleep
When I looked over at the pile of Doctor Sleep, I was surprised and quite pleased to see that Spooky Sudbury had outsold it. And, as a bookseller friend later pointed out, given that King's book is 3X the size of mine, the sheer number of unit sales to deplete the skid so far down was truly amazing. He said I didn't just outsell King, but I lapped him. (thanks for the ego-boost, Nathan!)  :)

Yes, I know, it was only in a single store in a single city in a single afternoon. But at least I can say that I outsold Stephen King.

One must, after all, look for ways to define oneself as a "big fish in a small pool" - thus, even though it was in a very limited fashion, I can boast about having two bookstores sell out of one of my books and outselling the King of horror.

Not bad, if I do say so myself. And I figure, I better say it. I just have to be careful not to break my arm while trying to pat myself on the back.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Finalist for 20th Annual Hamilton Literary Awards

I was quite pleased to learn that my book Haunted Hamilton: The Ghosts of Dundurn Castle & Other Steeltown Shivers is a finalist for the 20th Annual Hamilton Literary Awards in the category of non-fiction.

I was also quite happy to see a new award being announced that celebrates Hamilton author Kerry Schooley. Kerry was a friend, a writer, a poet, and a central figure in the Hamilton literary community, someone who welcomed me to the local scene with open arms and always had time to assist and prop up other writers. Kerry taught and mentored many writers, wrote under the pen names John Swan (mystery) and Slim Volumes (poetry) and supported the local arts scene incredibly. Hamilton lost this literary treasure in 2010. He is, of course, still quite missed. Thus, the Kerry Schooley Award is a delightful and wonderful addition to make the 20th annual awards that much finer.

The incredibly entertaining Kerry Schooley doing a poetry reading as Slim Volumes

Also nominated in the category of Non-Fiction are Hamilton Illustrated by David Collier (Wolsak and Wynn) and Empty Cradle by Diana Walsh (Dundurn)

The winners will be announced on November 12, 2013 in the Norman and Louise Haac Studio Theatre at Theatre Aquarius (190 King William St, Hamilton, ON)

Here is the press release for the awards . . .

The awards are, as one must suspect based on the name. put on by the Hamilton Arts Council.  Here's a bit more information about them.

Connecting Artists, Creating Opportunity, Inspiring Change

Mission Statement: To communicate, advocate and mediate for the arts and the role of the arts in the community of Hamilton.

Vision Statement: The Hamilton Arts Council exists to strengthen the role of the arts and culture in the City of Hamilton by making the arts accessible and relevant to the entire community.


1. We value all members of Hamilton’s diverse creative communities.
2. We believe that the arts in Hamilton are made stronger through collaboration.
3. We hold that our Artists provide a critical creative dialogue essential to the ongoing social and economic
health of the community.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Northern Life Article On Spooky Sudbury

This past Saturday, Jenny and I did our book launch for Spooky Sudbury at Chapters, and a reporter from Northern Life (Ryen Veldhuis) interviewed us and took a few snaps.

Ryen's article and one of the pictures (a fun one where Jenny, Barnaby and I are all looking a little spooked while reading from the book -- okay, Jenny and I look spooked. Barnaby, as always, just looks a little happy) appear in an article in today's Northern Life.

Mark Leslie, Barnaby Bones & Jenny Jelen - Picture by Ryen Veldhuis, Northern Life
I love the fact that the article points out we had sold out within the first hour. At the time it was a bit frustrating, because there were more customers wanting the book than there were books available, particularly since I'm sure Chapters could have easily sold another 20 copies, and this is a local interest title that will likely continue to ramp up in sales as Halloween approaches.  But in retrospect doesn't the fact that the book sold out sound really exciting?  The manager at Chapters assured me he would be re-stocking the book, they also had copies of Haunted Hamilton in stock (which I signed), and he said he'd be ordering in a few copies of my previous books Campus Chills and One Hand Screaming.

We ended up selling out at Coles (they had brought in 55 copies) later that afternoon, and the following day I sold over 200 copies at the Sudbury Costco -- but of course, when a store has a skid, it's really hard to sell out . . . even though sales that day took a nice chunk off the gigantic pile -- and I can proudly boast that, for a few hours in a single store in a single city, I outsold Stephen King's Doctor Sleep.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Spooky Morning North

Last Friday I was in studio with Markus Schwabe of CBC Morning North to chat about the new book Spooky Sudbury: True Tales of the Eerie & Unexplained.

Markus was a great host and we had a fun time, particularly when we set Barnaby up with a pair of headphones and took a few pictures.

It looked like Barnaby was really into it. But he did let Markus and I do all the talking.

Our conversation can be listened to as an audio clip here.