Monday, November 27, 2023

Anatomy of an Author Photo: Die Hard Trivia Book

I do try to put careful consideration into which author photo goes on which book.

My author photo for The Canadian Mounted: A Trivia Guide to Planes, Trains and Automobiles for example, was relatively easy. All I had to do was take a shot of me reading the book with a backdrop from the scene at LGA where Del Griffith (John Candy) and Neal Page (Steve Martin) first meet (at least officially).

So when I was creating my author photo for Yippee Ki-Yay Motherfucker: A Trivia Guide to Die Hard I wanted to come up with something that would "speak" to the look and feel of the original Die Hard film, if not the franchise in general.

 Here's what I did for that shot.

1) I used fake blood/paint and splotches of grime onto an undershirt

2) I purchased a Baretta brand BB gun so that I could take the same stance that John McClane (Bruce Willis) takes on several of the more popular versions of the movie poster.

3) I splashed some water onto my face to denote sweat (and even added a few post-photo beads of sweat onto my face)

4) I purchased a Toronto city-scape piece of stock art as well as stock art of explosions and had explosions at the top of the CN Tower. (I figured why not make it a more local/Canadian backdrop since the author is Canadian). I also went with an orange colorized sky like in several of the movie posters. My attempts at creating a multi-colored sky ended up distracting too much from the buildings in the background, so I opted for a single shade of orange.

5) John McClane's skull in a top-hat tattoo isn't visible in the movie posters, and is only seen in fleeting glimpses throughout the movie. But it does appear in a few of the Die Hard 2 promo images. So I added that in.

6) John McClane isn't bald until the later films in the franchise, and he never had facial hair. But I wasn't about to shave or grow back my receding hairline for the photo. And besides, I'm a huge fan of Weird Al, and he's done plenty of parodies over the years without losing that trademark Weird Al mustache.

7) I thought the photo should be framed by something and so went with bits of broken glass, to call out that "Welcome to the Party, Pal!" scene from the film.

8) And though I didn't end up in the same pose as John McClane for the more popular movie posters, I felt that this shot of me (from the out-takes seen below) at least had enough of the trepidation in my eyes to convey something similar to the look Bruce Willis was conveying.

Here are a few of the out-takes from the photo shoot I did in my home office. (I used an Android S21 propped up on my standing desk with a 5 second time delay for the shots, and a small USB ring-light and of course, a green screen tacked in to the ceiling in front of my book cases). I took perhaps a dozen shots.

Putting together an author photo for a specific book can be a lot of fun.

Are you interested in venturing any guesses as to what I'll be doing for the author photo for my 2024 release of Merry Christmas! Shitter was Full! A Trivia Guide to National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation?

Friday, June 02, 2023

The 12 Hour Walk


"I've been looking at The 12 Hour Walk," Liz said at the end of dinner one night. This was about a month or so ago.

She had that look in her eyes that I know so well.

I suppose I would describe it as a medley of intrigue, inquisitiveness, and wonder sprinkled with a layer of playfulness and an underlying sense of adventure.

It's one of the things I love the most about Liz. Her sense of adventure. Her openness to new experiences. The joy she takes in going with the flow and relishing in the tangential paths that can enlighten a journey.

Since we first met, I could always count on those fantastic, often unexpected moments. Those opportunities to, as the Roman poet Horace put it, allowed us to carpe diem - "pluck the day" or, as it has been translated to "seize the day."

This was one such moment.

Liz went on to describe The 12 Hour Walk. And my initial instinct was: Sounds intriguing. But why can't I just do it while listening to an audio book, or a podcast?

She explained that it was about disconnecting from the digital world. Being alone with your thoughts. Attending to the world around you. Attending to your body and what it's telling you.

"But," I insisted. "That's 12 hours that could be put to good use while I'm out exercising and getting fresh air. I could listen to an entire audio book in that time. Or perhaps two different shorter books. Get caught up on multiple podcasts I'm behind in listening to."

She slowly shook her head. I didn't get it. But she knew I would eventually come around.

I can be that way sometimes. Initially resistant to a new idea. But once I allow it to sink in, it slowly starts to dawn on me, to mix metaphors.


Graffiti from the Overview Bridge :  "Life isn't a race. Don't grow up too fast."

The idea of doing a long walk was something I loved doing. In fact, last summer I participated in something like that of my own doing. I had an unscheduled weekend afternoon on a beautiful day, where I set off from my house in mid morning, with a loose plan of just exploring some of the nature trails and walking paths in the Waterloo and Kitchener area.

On this solo journey, I was listening to an audiobook - it might have been The Nature Principle by Richard Louv, as well as a few podcasts. My walk took me Northwest through our neighborhood and along the Forwell Trail system that follows the Forwell creek and goes through a beautifully densely wooded area that, despite the sounds of traffic from the nearby parkway and other streets, might lead you to believe you were walking through a forest, then further south along the Laurel Trail, that brought me, through mostly tree-lined, natural areas, to uptown Waterloo. I then spent some time browsing and purchasing a few books at Words Worth Books, a long-time indie bookstore. Then working my way further south, along the Iron Horse Trail to Arabella Beer Park in Kitchener where I sat at the bar for about an hour, had a burger, a couple of beers, and read through one of the books I'd bought at Words Worth about a local haunted location for a book I've been researching.

Then I got back on the Iron Horse Trail and followed it further south until I took a branch of it off to Victoria Park, where there was a cultural festival going on, which I enjoyed exploring.

From there, I went into downtown Kitchener, stopped in at KW Bookstore, where I purchased a magazine and a few old Spider-Man comics.

I then made my way down Victoria Street where I walked by a pizza place (Papa Joe's) that Alexander and I had ordered pizza from a few years back, and felt hungry again. As I considered getting myself a pizza, I noticed a large homeless encampment across the street in an abandoned lot that had been in the news a lot lately.

I thought about my friend Peter who'd been living homeless in the UK on and off for years, trapped in a system that never gave him a break. So I went into Papa Joe's and ordered four different styles of large pizzas to bring over to the people there.

As I waited for the pizzas I watched from across the street as the folks living there went about their business not all that different than neighbors in any community who were socializing. I knew that bringing a little bit of food wasn't going to solve anything for them. But I felt that, at the very least, showing them a little bit of thoughtfulness was at least a step in the right direction. There's so much more for us to do. But victory is won in small steps. And one small step is showing compassion for our fellow humans.     

I then moved along Victoria to Descendants Brewery, where I had a bit of a snack and a couple more beers. Then I turned left on Lancaster and headed back in the direction of home, which was about another 30 to 40 minute walk.

This day last summer was perhaps less than six hours in total, but it was one of the most fulfilling and enlightening solo days that has continued to stick with me.

Imagining how much more powerful extending that time, and not having any auditory/digital distractions - spending the entire time in my head, appealed to me more and more the further I thought about it.

Like I said, I don't always come around to a new idea, but this one appealed to me and grew on me. Liz read the book and talked about it, and we planned on trying to make it happen sooner rather than later.

Ideally, given it was 12 hours, we wanted to do it when the sun was out so we didn't have to deal with lighting/darkness issues, and we figured doing this before the days got too hot would work well.

So, we ended up planning it for Sunday May 28th.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Yes, Virginia, THE CANADIAN MOUNTED Was A Real Book

One of the most common questions I see asked, whenever someone notices/attends to the book Del Griffith (John Candy) is reading when he and Neal Page (Steve Martin) officially meet for the first time at LGA in Planes, Trains and Automobiles is whether it's a real book.

It is a real book.

It was originally published in the 80s by a publisher called BEELINE. They produced hundreds of pornographic novels over the years.

 The "final shooting script" from John Hughes called for Del to be reading a "pornographic novel." Also in the script is a bit of dialogue from Del that takes place when they are on the plane that didn't make its way into the final cut where Del explains why he was reading the book. 

“I’m just happy to have someone to talk to. I finished my book about an hour ago. Filthy goddarn thing. When you travel as much as I do, you run out of reading material. If it’s been published, I’ve read it. Fiction, non-fiction, the classics—Robbins, Krantz, Iacocca. You name it, I’ve read it. I got so hard-up last week on a layover in Atlanta, I read a biography of Prince. That’s not his real name, by the way, It’s Rogers Nelson.”

It's believed that either Candy, or the prop team, or maybe both, decided it would be funny to use that particular book as a cheeky nod to the actor's Canadian heritage.

Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds, who has shared he is a huge fan of John Candy, had a prop version of that book made for Deadpool. Wade Wilson is reading it or carrying it in some scenes, and it's his nod to an icon he adores.

Seeing the book appear as a prop in the Deadpool movies is what made me want to do more research into the book. Which eventually led to learning that it was a real book.

And so, in time for the 35th anniversary of the release of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, I released my own version of the book. My version, instead, was meant for fans, like me, who adore the film and would like to relish in further details about it.

I created the book to be the exact same page count as the original and subtly changed the text on the cover to be in line with what my book was, instead of what the original was.

The BEELINE logo was modified to a Stark Publishing logo modified into the same shape as the "bee."

I altered the text on the back of the book from:

                                                   NORTHERN NYMPH

Ann-Mare is sexually very free. Throughout the land of Canada, many men have had her—some are famous, some are shady, but they all admit, she’s one very horny lady!

to this:

                                                  NORTHERN TRIBUTE

In the movie, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, John Candy is seen holding a paperback that, in the original script written by John Hughes, reads that Del Griffith is reading a pornographic novel at the airport. That's what inspired this book

My book also has a bar code on it. The original book did not have one, as it was published in a time when that was not a book industry standard practice.

So, ultimately, the answer is: YES, the book was real. And also, it's "back" in a form meant for fans of the movie.

If you are a fan, and end up picking it's the link....

....let me know what you think.

And, if you're tempted, perhaps you can bring it with you on your next flight, and take a fun selfie of yourself reading it while waiting to get on a plane. You might get some funny looks from fellow passengers. But you might also catch the eye of a fellow observant fan of the 1987 classic Thanksgiving film.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Five Fascinating F*ck-Related Facts from the Film Planes Trains, and Automobiles

One of most memorable and quoted moments in PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES is when Neal Page, played by Steve Martin, returns to the Marathon car rental counter at the St. Louis airport and has his fuck-filled tired that ends with "I want a f*cking car, right f*cking now!" and, of course, the classic come-back of the rental agent.

Here are five fascinating f*ck-related facts from the film:

1) The scene is exactly one minute long from the time Neal starts his tirade to the clerk’s final retort. In those sixty seconds, the "F" word is used nineteen times (eighteen by Page).

2) If it weren’t for this single scene, the film would've easily been rated PG or PG-13 by the MPAA.

3) Steve Martin was convinced to join the production after favoring two scenes he had read from the script: the seat adjustment-scene in the rental car, and the F-word tirade at the rental counter desk.

4) John Hughes regularly re-filmed scenes and got actors to ad lib in character differently for each take. Edie McClurg, who played the rental counter clerk, improvised the phone discussion with a family member about Thanksgiving plans.


5) McClurg claims that to this day random people who recognize her approach her and ask her to tell them they're fucked. 




These trivia bits and more are available in the 2022 book The Canadian Mounted: A Trivia Guide to Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Monday, May 23, 2022

Lover's Moon: The Podcast

On May 24, 2022, the latest novel in my Canadian Werewolf series launches.

LOVER'S MOON was co-authored with my friend Julie Strauss and is the first full length romance novel I have written. (Well, to be honest, I could NOT have written it without Julie's help. I did try, for the longest time, to write it. But I wasn't able to get that done without Julie's help in both the conception of the story itself, as well as her handling of Gail's perspective)

This book, which can be read as a stand-alone, tells the back-story of how Michael and Gail first met and fell in love back in 2011.

Because we enjoyed the collaboration so much, Julie and I decided to create a podcast version of the novel, with us reading alternating perspectives. (Yes, there will be a professionally narrated audiobook produced - it's in the works right now. But we thought a serialized weekly version would be an interesting way to celebrate the book's launch).

Here's the first episode. A trailer, or teaser, if you will.


He’s an alpha wolf and a beta boyfriend.

She’s dated every monster in New York City.

It’s time for their Meat-Cute.

Michael Andrews, a Canadian living in New York, is learning to live with the side effects of lycanthropy. Other than waking up naked and bloody in Central Park once a month, he’s managing just fine. If only he could finish the book he’s supposed to be writing. If only he could find someone he trusted enough to tell the truth to.

Gail Sommers may not have her love life in order, but at least she’s smart about things that really matter. She runs the coolest occult shop in the city, and is a pre-eminent scholar of the occult. She’s made a vow of celibacy so that she can spend this year focusing on her work and her self-care. She’s even been hired to help out a very famous and very sexy horror author.

As a new era in the Canadian Werewolf saga begins, Lover’s Moon flashes back to the romantic and comedic story of how Michael and Gail met and fell in love back in the summer of 2011. Told through both Michael and Gail's unique perspectives, it also explores Gail's past, introduces new characters, and reveals some of the deeper secrets of both of their lives.

A special Canadian Werewolf tale co-authored by Mark Leslie and Julie Strauss.


Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Meet the Cambridge Authors Event

On December 10, 2021 from 2:00 to 4:00 PM and 6:30 to 8:30 PM, I'll be appearing, along with more than a dozen other local authors, at the MEET THE CAMBRIDGE AUTHORS DAY event at Cambridge Centre for the Arts (60 Dickson Street, Cambridge, ON)


We will be selling and signing copies of our books. And there are so many different genres and subjects from the books that'll be there that you're sure to find either something you'll love or perhaps the perfect gift for that special reader in your life.

Confirmed Authors Who Will Be There

Daryl J Ball - Fantasy
Carrie Ann Barnes - Young Adult/Fiction
A.S. Compton - Fiction
Kit Daven -Sci-fantasy
Scott Fields - Fiction/Travel
WD Janaway -  Contemporary Fiction
Tony Kitchen - Experiential non fiction
Paul Langan - Local history
Peter Lawryniuk  - Non-Fiction
Mark Leslie Lefebvre - Thrillers/Urban Fantasy/Horror, Non-Fiction - Paranormal, Writing & Publishing
Paulus Ling - Classic gothic suspense graphic novel
Tara Mondou - Creative Non-Fiction
Lindsey-Anne Pontes - Fiction/ Young Adult/ Romance
Richard H. Stephens - Fantasy
Ruth Thompson - Health and Wellness
Pam Urie - Business non-fiction

Proof of vaccination needed to enter. Masks must be worn

For more information contact Tara Schippling Mondou at 519 277 5859 or through the website.

Cambridge Authors

Sunday, November 28, 2021

The Canadian Mounted

If, like me, you pay attention to when books appear in movies, you might be familiar with the mass market paperback that John Candy (Del Griffith) is reading in PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES.


Ryan Reynolds (Wade Wilson) holds the same (or at least a strikingly similar) paperback in DEADPOOL 2. It seems to be a cheeky nod to Candy's character in that classic film. Reynolds has publicly acknowledged being a fan of John Candy and his work.

After being fascinated for years about that hilarious paperback I've decided the world actually needs this book.

So in Oct 2022, 35 years after the original release of the John Hughes classic where the book first appeared as a prop, it'll be coming out.

My version of THE CANADIAN MOUNTED is a combo trivia book and appreciation of PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES as well as John Candy and John Hughes.

The eBook is up for pre-order already. The paperback version will be loaded soon.

And I've been having a blast researching this book.

The Prop Book That Keeps on Popping Up!

Yes, the cover of this book looks a lot like the one Del Griffith (John Candy) is reading at the New York airport in the 1987 movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles. That same book also appears in 2018's Deadpool 2. But prior to now, it was only a fictional prop book. This actual incarnation of The Canadian Mounted explores the use of this prop book and many other intriguing, insightful and entertaining behind-the-scenes details as they relate to the classic 1987 John Hughes film.

Created for fans of the movie and of John Hughes, this book explores and shares stories related to the writing and making of the film, curious tales and collected trivia associated with it, including:
  • The incident that inspired Hughes to write the original script
  • Del-isms
  • The film's eclectic sound-track
  • Missing Oxford commas
  • Deleted scenes
  • Ryan Reynolds' adoration of fellow Canadian John Candy
  • General trivia
  • And more...
If you love and regularly re-watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles, then this is a book you must read.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

2021 WMG Publishing Halloween Spectacular

If you like the Halloween season the way I do, you're already anticipating a bit of a let down come November, when it's over for another year.

But what if I told you that you could continue to enjoy the thrill and fun of the Halloween and Harvest season with a handy little


Get a daily dose of spooky fun delivered straight to your inbox. 

Or. give the literary equivalent of trick-or-treating to yourself or a loved one. A magical virtual harvest hayride of reading pleasures and treats.

For only $15 USD.

Every day, starting on October 25, 2021, and running through November 2, 2021, you will get an original short story sent to you (or the recipient of your choice) via email.

Each seasonally themed tale is accompanied by an introduction by me, the editor of this selection of delightful tales and publishing by WMG Publishing.

You will get each story in ebook format (epub and mobi), so you can read them daily on your own device, anywhere, anytime you choose. Or you can store them up and binge on a weekend.

As an added bonus, all subscribers will receive the Halloween Harvest anthology (cover below), which includes all nine stories, plus two bonus stories! Halloween Harvest will be released just two days after the calendar ends, on November 4.



Sunday, October 17, 2021

Uncanny Tales: Storytime for Adults

I was honored that Chris Humphreys recently read some of my short fiction as part of the Vancouver Public Library's "Uncanny Tales: Storytime for Adults" series.

In a delightful dark and black and white setting, Chris reads my short stories "That Old Silk Hat They Found" and "Browsers."

"That Old Silk Hat They Found" is a tale that appears in my mini short story collection Snowman Shivers: Dark Humor Snowman Tales and is about my perception of what might really happen should a snowman come to life.

"Browsers" is the tale of a bookshop that feeds, like a Venus flytrap for book nerds, and appears in my mini-story collection Active Reader: And Other Cautionary Tales from the Book World.



You can see the video here.

Chris has, so far, narrated a few of my horror story collections.

Bumps in the Night: Creepy Campfire Tales


Night Cries (Nocturnal Screams Volume 1)


 Ode to Classics (Nocturnal Screams Volume 2)


Thursday, August 19, 2021

Meet The Author: Burlington Public Library

On Aug 31, 2021 Burlington Public Library is hosting an event with me.


During the event I'll be sharing my journey through writing and publishing, the inspiration and origin of my "Canadian Werewolf" series, and an excerpt from my most recent novel in that series: Fear and Longing in Los Angeles.

The event is free, but you'll have to register online in order to attend.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Video Review of Canadian Werewolf Books

 I was beyond thrilled to see how much Nichi, the host of Dark Between the Pages, enjoyed my Canadian Werewolf books.

In this video review, part of her Recent Reads video, she shares her thoughts on my character Michael Andrews and the situations he ends up finding himself in in A Canadian Werewolf in New York, Stowe Away, and Fear and Longing in Los Angeles.

The part where she talks about my books starts at about 6:30.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Best Book Ever Podcast: Neil Peart's Traveling Music

I was a guest on a recent episode, Episode 58 of the Best Book Ever Podcast.

Book worm host Julie Strauss and I talked about Neil Peart's memoir Traveling Music: The Soundtrack of my Life and Times.

 This was my second appearance as a guest on the show, and I was honored to learn that I was the first repeat guest that Julie'd had. (I chatted about George R. Stewart's Earth Abides on my previous appearance, which was in Episode 9).

I am, admittedly, a lifelong fan of Neil Peart, and of the rock band Rush. I fell in love with the band first for their meaningful and brilliantly crafted lyrics, which Peart writes. So when he started to write books, I was obviously along for the amazing ride.

It was intriguing to talk to Julie about this book because I loved it, and she had a few issues with it. But when you can have a meaningful and respectful conversation about something you don't agree about, that's when interesting growth and introspection can happen.

And it's always been about growth and introspection when I read Peart's lyrics or his prose.


Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Dark Between Pages Live Chat

I had the opportunity to chat with Nichi of Dark Between Pages the other day during an hour long live chat. Okay, we went one hour and eighteen minutes. But that's because the chat was so fun, and the folks watching and commenting during that chat were so lively and entertaining.

We spent quite a bit of time talking about my Canadian Werewolf series . . .

Canadian Werewolf Series

Though we talked about all kinds of other writing things too, including my background helping authors steer clear of the predators and thieves trying to trick authors out of their money using a combination of "smoke and mirrors," false promises, and highly exaggerated "results" from their useless marketing packages.

It was a load of fun. It's always a grand time talking to someone who adores books.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

I Never Thought I Would (Present Margaret Atwood with a Lifetime Achievement Award)

I had a great chat with Jennifer Lieberman on your YouTube show I Never Thought I Would and got to share the great honor of presenting Margaret Atwood with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Booksellers Association. 

This was for Episode 41.

Here's one of the pictures from the night in question. Still one of my greatest honors.

Thursday, June 24, 2021


“Fantasy—and all fiction is fantasy of one kind or another—is a mirror. A distorting mirror, to be sure, and a concealing mirror, set at forty-five degrees to reality, but it’s a mirror nonetheless, which we can use to tell ourselves things we might not otherwise see." - Neil Gaiman

The same holds true for Science Fiction, which, like all fiction, is fantasy, but fantasy rooted within scientific principles and rules.
I was reading Scott Overton's amazing novel Naïda this morning and had to quote something from it.

 This excerpt is from a scene shortly after the main character, Michael Hart, and the alien symbiote, Naïda, connect. It's from the alien's perspective.
"The symbiote struggles to understand. She has not bonded before....
"She now has senses far different from those she has ever known. Distinct, individual senses. Instead of a pervasive awareness of surroundings and accumulating various data about them, she can now choose to collect information through analysis of the wavelengths and other properties of light. Or by vibrations through a medium of gas or liquid that generate interesting resonances and harmonics. Tactile data is not all-encompassing but seems particularly focused into especially sensitive areas of the biped's body, providing a definition that is intriguing. Another sense is designed exclusively for detection of trace molecules in the surrounding air, but is seemingly linked to stored memories rather than being used for strict chemical analysis. And yet another sense is entirely related to the ingestion of solids and liquids used by the biped for fuel. The Controller has defined these senses for her, but comprehending the reality they present is very difficult since the symbiote's own sensory input is much more homogeneous, and measures an almost completely different range of properties.
"Most strange of all is that Human responds to collected data from its senses in ways that appear to bypass rational analysis completely and instead trigger autonomic functions with unknown purpose, such as suddenly increased circulatory rate or an equally rapid relaxation of muscles and nerve activity."

I love what this mirror held up to reality says, in a subtle way about the individual way we all process sensory input.
It's interesting to consider eating (linked in countless societies to strict cultural conventions, and a major commercial enterprise in western society) as the ingestion of solids and liquids for fuel.
Even more interesting to note that humans respond to data collected from our senses in ways that bypass rational analysis.
A little confirmation bias thrown into the mix? A combination of new inputs being affected by stored memories? I'm intrigued by the subtle things a passage like this says.
Which, I suppose, is why I love how science fiction, fantasy, and fiction in general, can provide plenty of great nuggets of thought to chew on.
Links of Interest (YouTube Videos)