Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Death Is Over

I posted the final entry on my serialized blog-form story "I, Death" this morning. It was fun to take an old story I'd written 20 years ago and update it into this format -- got some good feedback on it and it was fun.

I imagine I might try that again in the future -- not immediately, though. Too many other writing projects on the go.

My werewolf novel is slowly putting along - I had some time last week and again this morning to write and re-write a few thousand words. I finally stumbled upon what will be a good subplot for the novel -- gotta love how things just unfold as you watch the characters interact with one another. I received some great encouragement on the project from my buddy Sean Costello, who is also hard at work on a new supernatural thriller (which, like his previous novels, is awesome, nail-biting and brilliantly written)

Cdn Werewolf in NY
19544 / 70000 (27.92%)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Festival Of Sour Grapes

This past weekend, the Festival of Fear was taking place in downtown Toronto, yes, just a few blocks away from the buildings that I haunt during the work-week and merely an hour's drive from my home. You'd think that, I -- describing myself as a horror writer -- would have been one of the first people in line and wouldn't have crawled out from the event until the wee hours of Sunday morning.

But no. I ended up spending the weekend with my family at the Winona Peach Festival.

Rue Morge, a very successful horror magazine out of Toronto, has been putting on the Festival of Fear for several years now - and it appears to be a great success. I'd been planning on going to it as a way to soak in the atmosphere, perhaps rub elbows with other horror writers, and maybe even get a chance to do a little self-promotion and get myself "back into" the whole convention circuit (which I've been out of for several years now)

But instead, I chose to spend the time with Francine and Alexander, the two most important people in my life and with whom I get to spend very little time. It was actually an easy decision, but being human, I often have to pad my decisions with emotional ballast.

So, in the tradition of Aesop's "The Fox and the Grapes" as I walked home Friday evening, past the throngs of people lining up to get into the event, I started asking myself why I wanted so much to go to an event where, just for a chance to look at Clive Barker from a hundred feet away, you need to knock over Charlie and steal the coveted gold ticket from his Willie Wonka chocolate bar. And, it was at the Peach Festival a couple of years ago that I found a wonderful ceramic skull (Alas, poor Yorrick, he is named) who accompanies me on my book signings -- so that was a horror-related find at a non-horror event, and would make the Peach Festival a neatoman kind of horror thing. Pretty cool.

But no sooner than Fran and Alexander and I had parked our car and were walking past the midway and towards the arts and crafts booths, that the whole Festival of Fear slid out of my mind. I was with the people most important to me, sharing time and building family memories. Sure, I didn't have a photo of me horsing around and approaching Linda Blair with a cross and holy water, but I do have this wonderful 5 X 7 of my son enjoying his first pony ride.

So no, I don't even need these sour grapes to feel good about my decision. Yeah, okay, I missed the chance to have some laughs with people who share the same tastes in literature as myself -- and maybe even a chance or two to do some self-promotion. But I have something even better -- wonderful memories of the laughs and good times that Fran and Alex and I had.

And, of course, the knowledge, that I truly spent my time doing what was important to me.

Friday, August 26, 2005

My First Time

Several weeks back, some writer friends of mine started this go-round of talking about their first time. No, not sexual intercourse, but their first fiction sale. It made me think of my own first time, but I put it off in the interest of writing about bums, bidets and buddies.

But something else has recently happened that I started me thinking about the first story that I sold, so I thought I’d just get on with telling my own “first time” tale. (And at a later date, explain the thing that has happened that has prompted this post, which I might tell once the actual story finishes)

The first story that I sold wasn’t a horror or science fiction story at all. It was a young adult humour story. It was called “The Progressive Sidetrack” -- it tells the tale of a young student council president who spends an entire day trying to ask out this pretty girl, but this series of events prevents him from achieving his goal. I’d written it when I was taking a Grade 13 writing course (which I had to do by correspondence via a teacher in Toronto since our small Northern Ontario high school didn’t offer it) and the teacher who’d read it said that although she’d never seen the movie, my story reminded her of what she’d understood “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was like.

The story got me a good mark - but I kept re-writing it, and submitted it a few years later to a digest sized magazine in Ohio called CHAPTER ONE that specialized in stories from beginning writers. It was my first submission of that story and the magazine bought it. Payment was to be $5.00 and a contributor copy. It came out in September 1992. I received my contributor copy, delighted about it, running around, dancing, giving myself high fives (not noticing the fact that I never did get the $5.00 cheque - but really, who cares, my fiction was in print). After a few hours of self-congratulation and dancing to the staticky sound of my eight track of Kool & The Gang’sCelebration” I stopped and looked around.

I was by myself. Alone. Excited about something that I realized that few people I spent “in person” time with could appreciate. This was several years before the internet, the world wide web, even a few years before the Government of Canada was talking about this “information super highway”, so being a writer was certainly a more solitary pursuit. (Sure, I could have used my 200 baud Vic-modem and logged onto a Sudbury area bulletin board and tried to find a kindred spirit. But it tied up the phone lines and so I often only dailed in on once everyone else in the house was asleep)

One of the most asked questions I’d had when I told people about selling a story (besides “How much money did you make?”) was “Where can I find it?” And then, when I wanted to keep talking about it, tell them about the story, about the comments the editor (and my creative writing teacher) had made about them, the conversation shifted. My half of a second in the spotlight had faded.

You sometimes hear people talk about their first time as disappointing. It wasn’t disappointing to me -- it was exhilarating. I'd been writing for many years and had started submitting stories I think in 1988 -- and this was my first actual sale. After endeavouring on creating fictitious characters and moving through the course of a tale, an editor out there bought it. Thanks Belinda J. Puchajda, wherever you are. I'll never forget that moment!

But it was also eye opening. It made me realize that I would mostly be just as alone in the excitement of being published as I was when I was crafting the story. (Later, that became a bit of an exception as I have since befriended many other writers who understand this curse, and Francine, of course, understands my affliction as well)

But that first sale began a career in which I would sell stories to magazines (mostly in the U.S.) that had small circulations, couldn’t be found on magazine racks anywhere near where I lived, and would not be available after a month, maybe 6 months to a year at the most. (That, more than anything, is what prompted me to bring back my previously published short stories and poems into the collection One Hand Screaming)

Which leads to “my first time” in having a book out.

Last October I released One Hand Screaming, and the fanfare was much different. Sure, I was dancing around the room, holding the pre-publication “proof” copy in my hand, giving myself high-fives, well after giving up on looking for my eight track of Kool & The Gang, and instead singing the song “Celebration” slightly off key. But this time, other people actually noticed.

(And no, not merely because I spent much of my time thrusting the book in the face of anyone who came within ten feet of me or doing everything I could do to inject my book into ANY conversation. --> “Hey, Mark, too bad about the NHL strike, isn’t it?” - “Sure is. But it’s a good thing my book is easily available to buy online to give people something to do.” OR “Mark, do you think you could get me that report by Friday?” - “No problem. Speaking of deadlines reminds me of the frustrated author in my story "Distractions" which appears in my book. You should read it.”)

I guess there’s something about it actually being a product that, while not on many store shelves, is available quite easily online at many different online retailers. Unlike the specialty magazines many of my stories had appeared in, this was a bit more visible, and people seemed to look at it a bit differently. I mean, the entire thing was my stuff, not just a single story.

I have to admit, though, that while having a book out is exciting, (every once in a while, when I think that nobody is looking, I do my little happy dance) I don’t think it will be half exciting as seeing my first novel published. That’ll be better, right? I mean, should I go out and look for Kool & The Gang on CD in anticipation for that?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Dangerous Pedestrian

One of the things you can be assured of when I strap myself behind the wheel of an automobile, is that my mindset adjusts to that of "teacher" -- yes, I need to teach other people driving lessons that are usually along the lines of "C'mon buddy, slow down, why don't you? Don't you realize that this is a residential street, not the Audobahn?" I derive a sick pleasure from being able to see evidence of the elevated blood pressure on the guy behind me who wants to drive 60 down my neighbourhood street, but is stuck behind me (teaching him a "slow down buddy" lesson) as I creep along in front of him at a safe and residentially friendly speed, and then, carefully, oh so slowly navigate the turn into my driveway.

But one of the things that drives me nuts are the dangerous drivers who weave in and out of traffic, changing lanes like an insane high-speed game of "hot potato", cutting people off, swerving in and out of traffic, looking for a hole, any hole, to squeeze through and get ahead of the other drivers. It just irks me to no end that someone would drive so recklessly, endangering the lives of others, out of a selfish "me first" need to get where they're going.

I had to visit the Lost & Found at Union Station this morning (more on that epic adventure later), and, on my way to work this morning, ended up walking through the throngs of pedestrian traffic rather than my normal "far-West" stairway exit from the GO train, which avoids the majority of the crowd.

As struggled my way through Union Station, fighting against the cross-current of Bay Street bound pedestrian traffic, then scrambled up into the daylight, crossed Front Street and headed up University Avenue, I came to the startling realization that I was displaying all the symptoms of the "selfish" driver in my walking patterns.

When I'm walking in a crowd I have as much patience for slow walkers as a flea has body mass. I was weaving in an out of people, looking for any gap I could find, cutting people off, zipping left, right, ducking under people's legs, doing leapfrogs over the heads of the shorter slow walkers in front of me, heedless of the damage I might have been causing. And I'm not one of those tiny sleek sporty models with racing stripes and leather interior. No, I'm more like a Hummer charging through the thick of things, oblivious to the destruction in my path.

I realized, shockingly, that I was a dangerous pedestrian.

My, how one's perspective changes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Dogs Christ Loves To Eat

For the past few months I've noticed something a little peculiar in a mural that's on the side of the building for CHAMPS FOOD SUPPLY. This is a wholesaler/retailer on Widmer Street (near King) who specializes in supplying hot dogs and sausages, etc to street vendors.

On the side of the building facing King Street (and the parking lot I cut across on my walk in to work on the morning) is this giant mural of people standing in line to buy a hot dog from a street vendor, the glorious SkyDome in the background (the mural was painted before the SkyDome name was changed to Rogers Centre)

The third guy standing in line, with a delighted smile on his face, looks, to me, like Jesus from the drawings I used to see all the time in religion class. Okay sure, he's wearing modern clothing and his hair has been cut back to mullet length, but the smile on his face, the beard and just the style of the artwork for the mural are the picture-perfect image of our saviour. And he's standing in line to buy a Champs hot dog.

I'm wondering if they did it on purpose -- you know, subliminal advertising suggesting that their hot dogs are so good that even Jesus eats them (despite the fact that he likely didn't consume any pork by-products). Is this evidence of smart subliminal sacrilegious advertising? Or just evidence that I'm now finding miraculous images in a bagel, pretzel or hot dog bun?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Speaking of Bathroom Humour

Sometimes to keep Alexander "occupied" while I'm changing his diaper, I'll sing some fun songs to him. One of his favourites is from my own childhood and a song that I learned at camp (Camp Wilabosca) called "Sam The Lavatory Man"

Sam, Sam, the lavatory man
The chief inspector of the outhouse can
Toilet paper, tissue paper, paper towels
Listen to the rhythm of the human bowels
Deep, down, under the ground
See the little turdies just a floatin' around
Sam, Sam, the lavatory man
Scooping up the poop in an old tin can

(of course, when I sing this to Alexander, I always end with a flourish)

Just scooping up the poop with an old tin can
Just scooping up the poop
In an oooooooold tiiiiiiiiiiin caaaaaaaaaan

Over the years I'd rearranged some of the lyrics in my head, replaced some words with others, and ultimately have a song that appears to be a little different than the original (which you can also listen to if you following that link). But I still rather like my version, and my memories of fun camp songs, much better.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Drip Dry Bums

A couple of weeks ago, our Mortgage Broker Lissette (she’s Fran’s cousin, and one damn fine broker -- I couldn’t begin to count the thousands upon thousands of dollars she’s saved us over the years. If you’re in the Hamilton-Burlington area and looking for a better deal on your mortgage, by all means call Lissette now) was telling us about the new home that she bought.

She described all the rooms to us, most of which, I must admit, bounced right off of my forehead without penetrating. But when she described the master bathroom, she’d said there was a bidet.

That stuck.

In fact, I haven’t been able to think about much since. You see, I’ve never used a bidet, but I’ve always wondered the etiquette surrounding one. Okay, sure, you sit on it, or crouch over it, or hobble overtop of it - whatever - you push a lever and this flow of water shoots up and cleans your bottom for you. I imagine it’s not cold water, but somehow warmed -- no? If it’s cold water then man that’s gotta be a shock first thing in the morning. Okay, so the reverse Niagara Falls flow cleans up the mess. But then what? Do you still need toilet paper to dry off? Do you just sit there and drip dry? Is there a special bidet towel (or series of towels - I mean you don’t want to use a towel someone else has already used, do you?) Or are there fancy bidet’s out there with a warm air blower that dries your bum for you?

Sometimes I wish I could stop my mind from doing all that useless wondering about minor trivial matters. But I'm hoping I can have it all figured out before our first visit to Lissette's. I can see it now, Mark disappears into the washroom and is gone for an hour -- insert Peter Sellers/Mr. Bean type antics here.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A Nice Rejection

I received a nice rejection for my story "Taste of Darkness" on Friday from an anthology I'd submitted a story to several months ago. It'd been a while that the story was sitting in their hands, which can sometimes be a good thing. I know when I'm reading submissions, the story either jumps out as an instant "Gotta buy this one", an instant "No, sorry, not my type" or a "Hmm, this was good -- gotta read it again. Let me put this aside to read again later." Based on the editor's comments, I think my story sat in that final category.

Getting writing rejections reminds me of what my dating life had been before I finally tricked Francine into marrying me in the late 90's. For years I'd amassed all of these wonderful nice date rejections. You know, the standard "You're a nice guy. Let's be friends" -- that was always preferable to a "Get out of my face you slob - I hate you!" It's the same things with story rejections. I always prefer a rejection in which the editor comments what it was about the story that didn't work for them or they didn't like -- it's much better than a form letter. That's on par with a girl not returning your phone call, I guess.

It's funny, when all you get is rejections, you start compiling them into categories where you see some of them as "nice" rejections. Pretty pathetic, perhaps, and maybe only a fellow writer can understand that, but at least there is a such thing as a nice rejection.

I never let rejections get me down (okay, so maybe once in a while I let them get me down). But I do try my best to dust myself off and send my story to another editor for consideration. I'll be doing that with "Taste of Darkness" -- I'm sure one day I'll find it a good home, a Francine to love it.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Attack Of The Clones

I've been killing myself laughing over the past few months every time my buddy Peter Mitchell shares one of his "adventures with birds" stories. And he's shared quite a few of them. In fact, it even inspired another old friend we hadn't seen in years (Kimberly) to tell her own scary-funny bird story.

But something I don't think I've told my old pal yet is this interesting coincidence.

My Baba recently got a bird - a budgie. (No, that's not the funny part -- wait for it). She hasn't had one for at least 25 years (no, still not the funny part). When I was a child, she always had a bird, a budgie, and there were at least half a dozen of them or more, in succession when I was a child. At one point, when I was about 3 or 4 years old, one of the birds she had used to sit on top of my head as I walked around (without once pooping on me, I might add). It would jump down onto the table and turn over the jugsaw puzzle pieces when I was working on them, it loved taking "showers" in the kitchen sink. (Yes, still not funny - to some, it might be a cute childhood snapshot image)

The interesting thing about the succession of birds that were in my life, thanks to my Baba, is that she wasn't all that concerned about giving each one a new name. No, instead, she decided to give them all the same name -- and it's the name she's using for her new bird, now too.


No, I know, the punch-line isn't all that funny to the average reader. But I can envision my buddy Peter is sitting there, having just read this, and is staring at his computer and shaking so much that his tea is spilling all over the keyboard . . . because he's wondering at the strange motive of mine to have invited him to head up north and visit my Mom and Baba (and as a result come face to face with his feathered-friend namesake). I guess this is a bad time to also tell him that I come from a family of nudists.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Pity The Fool

The other day I was walking between our Peter Street and King Street offices (I'm doing a lot of that lately, which is good exercise I guess) when I saw something that made me sad.

It was a guy with a Mohawk haircut. You know, the kind that Mr. T had.

I was sad because I realized that I'd never be able to get one. With the bald spot on the top of the back of my head slowly expanding (but mostly when nobody is looking, like one of those mysterious crop circles) and the front of my hair receeding back to meet it, I wouldn't be able to have a Mohawk. Not that I've ever wanted one, but it's tough to come to that realization none-the-less.

Although, with the small bit of hair I have on that part of my head, I might be able to pull off just a "MO" or maybe even a "HAW"

Monday, August 15, 2005

LiT'll old me - Live

I received a reminder in the mail from the good folks at Kairos Literary Society (actually, I'm one of those good folks, since I became a member this year). It's a reminder that I'll be one of the authors doing readings at LiT LiVe in October.

LiT LiVe is a series of readings that occur the first Sunday of every month at the Junction Cafe in Hamilton. I'll be reading a selection from my short story collection One Hand Screaming on Sunday October 2nd starting at 7:30 PM.

I'm looking forward to doing this event, having drinks with other writers, etc. But right now I have to write a 200 word bio for the promo materials they're putting together. As much as I love talking about myself, as much as I try to be a self-promo maniac, I'm not all that fond of writing biographical stuff about myself . . .

Ice, Ice, Baby

A recent news report (and email forwarded from a good friend), talks about the resurgence of a great idea that was spun out of the recent terrorist attacks in London. It's saving an In Case of Emergency number under ICE in your cell phone. In the case where you might have more than one emergency contact person, you can use ICE1, ICE2, ICE3, etc.

Excellent idea. If you're caught in an accident and unable to speak for yourself, let a common method of sharing emergency contact info speak for you.

If, while reading this, you think it's a good idea, just email this to yourself or to a friend by clicking on the "Email Post" graphic at the bottom of this post. No, I'm not trying to generate yet another one of those annoying "email this to everyone in your contact list" junk emails, just trying to do my civic duty and help spread the word about a good idea.

This public service message brought to you by Mark Leslie and the fine folks at www.blogger.com.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Writing Stuff

I've made a bit of progress on various writing projects lately, starting to get caught up with correspondence with contributors for North of Infinity III: Parnauss Unbound (still behind, but starting to get caught up), as well as the Werewolf novel and a revisited short story project. (The original short story was 2500 words, but I know that to build in the proper character development I'm looking for, the re-write will end up at about 3500 or 4000 words)

Cdn Werewolf in NY
16986/ 70000 (22.01%)

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep
884 / 4000 (22.01%)

And Now . . . A "Drew" Moment

Last night on the GO train, Christina was telling us about some of the many adventures that her husband Drew has during the course of his day. Now, I can't remember specifically what Drew does for a living, but I think he works on a some sort of commission based on how many nude women he spots during the day.

Christina relayed the fact that in their family, having a "Drew" moment is spotting naked people. (This is different than having a "Peter Mitchell" moment, in which the naked people tend to be really out of shape, not all that attractive, and usually wearing at least 5 or 6 decades)

It reminded me of one of my own "Drew" moments. A whole series of them actually. I was eighteen, in my first year at Carleton University and living in a house in Ottawa that I shared with two girls and my cousin Rodney. Rodney worked as a bouncer at a bar on Elgin street, and so his room was often vacant (except for the two ferrets - Lucifer and Feebee). I'd happened to be in Rodney's room with the lights off, likely yelling something through the window to my buddy Taki, who was dating one of my house mates, when, across the street I spotted a naked woman walk past an open upstairs window. A minute later, she walked back, hair brush in hand, standing almost directly in front of the window, and slowly brushed her long flowing hair.

I was eighteen. What else could you expect but that I didn't leave the window until Rodney came home from work and threw me out on my ass. And of course I planted myself there every single free moment of my remaining time in that house on Elm Street, often with a freshly popped bowl of popcorn or a bag of chips and a beer. Free entertainment! I was considering canceling cable. Fortunately for me, this middle aged attractive blonde lady often strolled around in the nude, enjoying brushing her hair naked, occasionally fondling herself -- and a couple of times I witnessed her entertaining a gentleman caller.

Ah, sweet memories. Of course, none of my memories are like the proverbial Penthouse Letter "Dear Penthouse, I never thought this would happen to me." Actually, no, they're all like that; they just end with: "and it never did. But I got to watch it across the street."

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Five Days In May

The other morning on the ride in to work, Blue Rodeo’s “Five Days In May” was playing. In that special off-key sort of way that I have, I couldn’t help but sing along to it.

It’s a pertinent song for me because it was always on the radio in Ottawa at about the time that Francine and I first started dating. We’d been friends for about a year or so after meeting as teachers at an academic summer camp at Carleton University, but had always each been dating other people, until that fateful spring when both of us were single at the same time and things just fell into place. Like the song says . . .

To find the face you’ve seen a thousand times
A few years ago, for our anniversary, Fran had a friend at work, Donna, help her put together a CD of our songs, complete with a beautifully designed cover. It included this Blue Rodeo song which, although we hadn’t spoken about it for years, we’d both always felt a tie to this song. (Like one of Elaine’s nutty boyfriends on that classic Seinfeld episode, it was our own personal song, our “Desperato”) The CD also included the song we used for our “first dance” as a married couple. Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” (It's funny, when I was young I’d always thought that I’d want my wife and I to dance to Rush’s “In The End”) as well as some other songs that had special meaning to us.

Fran does these kinds of cool things all of the time. And she does a million little things every day that make me just feel good. Like when she smiles at me. She's thoughtful and kind and has a wonderful sense of humour (and oh yes, a cute bum). And on top of the fun we always have together, she humours all of the silly and crazy things that flow out of me constantly. It can’t be easy for her putting up with my childish jokes, the way I regularly take funny things one step too far in terms of good taste, my pack-rat tendencies, never mind my bizarre desire to squirrel myself away in the basement den for hours at a time and pound out nasty little horror stories.

Man, I’m one lucky son of a gun to have Fran in my life. Not sure what it is that I did right, but someone up there must like me.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Goodnight Slizz, Wherever You Are

Last night while rocking Alexander to sleep, I started wondering where my old pal Slizz was now. (I think I’m going to really miss the moments in watching my son slowly fall asleep in my arms -- it’s not only a calm and relaxing “father and son” time, but once he’s actually drifted off, I usually sit quietly, watching him sleep, and let my mind just wander along)

Slizz was the nickname given to a guy named Kevin McAuley. I met him in Grade 7. In the town of Onaping Falls, each of the remote townships had its own schools for Kindergarten to Grade 6. I was at Levack Public School, there was another group of kids at the French Immersion school in Onaping, and yet another group of kids at the school in Dowling. Levack Public School was the only school in the area offering Grades 7 and 8, so we all merged together for those two years.

And very fun years they were. The friends I’d spent most of my time with at school included Slizz, Steve Lutha and John Ellis. Slizz was an interesting chap. Most people recognized him for his distinctive walk. He was a tall guy, like me, and he walked without a lot of arm motion, his entire tall frame moving in a slightly exaggerated vertical movement, almost as if he had springs built into the soles of his feet.

To me, Slizz was this creative genius. He was the first guy I knew well who did cool things like write computers programs and take electronic things apart to make modifications (back then the computers we mostly knew were Vic-20, Commodore 64 and Commodore Pet computers) Slizz had this fancy wristwatch/calculator that played this simple game, which we’d sometimes pass around class and play. But one of the coolest things I’ll always remember about Slizz was his passion for drawing cartoons.

He’d started drawing these cartoon strips, using a style slightly borrowed from the Mad Magazine artist Don Martin. In a tribute to the show Bizarre (and the “Super Dave” spots about this daredevil guy who was a cross between Evil Kneivel and Inspector Clouseau -- we got to see him tortured in unique, funny and interesting ways each week), he started off drawing “Super Steve” cartoons, poking fun at the antics of pal Steve Lutha. I copied his style and drew my own “Super Slizz” cartoons, and then moved on to write an ongoing series of cartoons about Steve, Slizz, John and myself, and included many of the other students and teachers at our school, borrowing heavily from the Archie universe.

I still have piles and piles of those cartoons in a box somewhere. Most of the humour was inside jokes about the people we knew, but some of them were actually a little funny. They didn’t come close, however, to the genius humour that inspired them, all from Kevin McAuley’s pen.

At the end of Grade 8, one of the first of the major crossroads in my young life, students either went to Levack District High School or to Chelmsford. Slizz and Steve Lutha went to Chelmsford (or Chemmy as we called it). Chelmsford had a much more rich auto shop and trades-oriented atmosphere and basic level courses (in addition to intermediate and advanced). We knew that Slizz, who was interested in working with machinery, would be in the advanced courses and that good old Steve “fifty’s a pass in high school” Lutha would likely be in the basic level classes.

They both went on to become “Chemmy Rogues” as students at Levack referred to them, and while John Ellis and I remained friends throughout high school and to this day, I slowly fell out of touch with Slizz and Steve. (Although Steve’s younger brother Jason did attend LDHS and was one hilarious, cool dude)

I haven’t thought about Slizz in a long time. Given his inclination for technology, I would imagine that he’s working somewhere as an engineer or in IT somewhere. I wonder if he struck it rich during the dot.com bonanza or is working for someone like Bill Gates right now.

In any case, goodnight Slizz, wherever you are.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I, Writer

Last night on the GO-Train I got some advance writing done for my experimental "I,Death" online blog-story. I recently entered the August 9th entry, continuing the disturbing tale of Peter O'Mallick, a teenager who is attempting to come to grips with some sort of death-curse that surrounds him. It's a story filled with sex, profanity, violence and death -- it's sort of like the evening news broadcast but without the politics.

I'm rather enjoying taking that story and reworking it -- I'll likely also start re-writing the sequel to it that, IMHO, is a far better piece of fiction to begin with than "I, Death" ever was.

I'd originally written "I, Death" back when I was a young teen. I was fascinated with "Twilight Zone" type stories (still am, of course) and also fascinated with Death personified. I'd enjoyed Piers Anthony's On A Pale Horse -- my Godmother had even sewn up a wonderful "Death" costume for me to wear on Halloween -- even though I hadn't been going out for Halloween, I still liked to dress up to scare the kids. My buddy Greg Roberts sat at the top of our front step handing out treats. I'd hide around the corner, the kids would walk up the stairs, I would quietly step out from hiding. When they turned there I was in my costume with it's dark hood, the skull mask on, a scythe in my hand -- priceless looks on their faces . . .

It feels like my writing is all over the place . . . and I guess that it is. I'm currently scrambling to get through reading submissions and get back to contributors for North of Infinity III: Parnassus Unbound, finalize the layout for Stephen Graham King's Just Breathe (a brilliantly written biography that I'll talk more about soon), continue working on my werewolf novel, maintain the ongoing online story of "I, Death" as well as work at re-writing my "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep" tale.

No rest for the wicked, I guess.

Monday, August 08, 2005

If I Should Die Before I Wake

Alexander has, so far, two stuffed animals (a lamb and a bunny), that, when you squeeze their tummies,, utter a "bedtime prayer" -- it's an updated version of one that I was taught when I was young. Let's go back to that one, shall we.

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the lord my soul to keep

(okay, that part's kind of nice, soothing, relaxing, a good preparation for bedtime and it rhymes, which is always good for children's verse. But it goes on from there)

If I should die before I wake
I pray the lord my soul to take

You see, that's where it got scary for me. C'mon, what kid is going to readily close their eyes and go to sleep with that kind of threat hanging over their head? Yeah, okay, Mommy, I'm ready to go to sleep now. By the way, if I happen to kick the bucket in the middle of the night -- you know, if the bogeyman doesn't keep his post in the closet or under my bed, but instead decides that tonight is the night that he's going to get me -- let's ensure my soul goes to heaven. All right, I'm ready to close my eyes now.

Geez, no wonder I write horror stories.

The sanitized version that Alexander's stuffed animals say end the four line verse thusly:

The angels watch me through the night
Until I wake in morning light

Ah, a relaxing ending that's properly fitting to the beginning. At first, the idea of this bugged me the same way I still feel my blood pressure soaring when I see a sanitized version of those Looney Tunes cartoons where the violent bits are taken out. I mean, you see Elmer Fudd with a rifle, you see Daffy Duck with a normal face. Then there's a giant cut, something happens, and Daffy's beak is swirling around his head. Hmm, wonder what happened. It's an insult to children's intelligence that they're not going to put two and two together. Same with Wile E. Coyote's constant falls -- they're a wonderful running joke throughout the entire cartoon universe. Shame on the censors. Shame.

But with this children's verse, I'm now okay with it now. I guess it was efforts from thousands of sleep deprived children who grew up to be sleep deprived adults finally lobbied to get this verse changed. Therapists everywhere are shaking their heads at the sudden decline in clients.

We have a beautiful blanket hanging on the wall behind Alexander's crib that has the first line of this verse on it. For the past couple of months every time I put him down I see that line and repeat both the old and new versions of the bedtime prayer in my head. Then I go to thinking I should really take this old story I'd written about the horrors that man discovers are going on in his room while he's sleeping that I'd originally titled "Deadly Perceptions" and modify the story title to "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep"

I've been wanting to rewrite this story for years now, recognizing that the reason it kept getting rejected wasn't because the idea wasn't interesting, but because the characters fell flat. This story deserves to be re-tackled with fully fleshed out characters. Maybe then the reader will be just as scared as I at the premise that there's something barely visible watching them when they're at their most vulnerable.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Clicks Ands & Butts

I was relieved to see my bum yesterday (no, not my bum, I’m not an owl -- although Fran tells me that my bum is not an unpleasant thing to look at, and I’ve yet to try to crack walnuts with it as she has often suggested), but the bum whose whereabouts I’d been concerned about. He and his dog greeted me yesterday on my way to Union Station. I was relieved to see him. If I’d had any spare change or even a cereal bar to offer, I would have. But I didn’t. So now I just feel guilty.

Shup thinks that my last entry was just about seeing how many times I could use the word bum and that I have a bum fetish. (Here’s something fun and bum related, and put here especially for Taras. Since the NHL is back, the next time you hear the theme to Hockey Night in Canada, try singing along to it by repeating the word bum to the tune. It’s quite fun, actually) Shup, my friend, I should admit that I'm actually more of a breast connoisseur, but bums aren’t without their merit. Legs are kinda nice, too. But this isn’t a porn blog or one of GO-train Christina’s “guess the body part” jokes, so I’ll stop with the anatomical references.

In other fun news:

Fran has recently posted a cute Mommy/Mummy story on her blog. As a proud parent, I can't get enough of fun "Alexander" stories.

Another work-pal, Gwen Resmer, has started up her blog with one of the most hilarious, yet fitting domain names: plaguedbydumbasses.com. I’m sure it’s going to be a riot, because Gwen likes to pretend that she doesn't like people. But, much like Fran's recent post, her August 4th entry is a nice reminder for us to stop and enjoy the little things in life.

Speaking of riots, my buddy Peter Mitchell has some great funny stories on his blog, but my favourites would have to be the following: (my titles, not Pete’s, BTW)

Close Encounters of the Naked Kind
Consider The Birds
Have The Birds Got Jobs?
Life Is A Highway

I think I'm going to stop referring to Pete as a writer and start calling him a humorist. His writing slays me. When I read most of his posts I have to hang on to my butt to keep it from falling off while laughing . . .

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Everybody's Lovin' Your Bum

I was hoping I’d see a bum yesterday. But I didn’t. And it’s not that I didn’t look hard.

Okay, so I see all kinds of great bums each and every day without ever having to really work at it. Walking to work, there they are -- all kinds of wonderful bums bouncing, jostling, bopping back and forth in front of me, to an unheard yet hypnotic rhythm. It’s funny how a little bit of well-placed cellulite can offer to the world such a spectacular thing to look at. My wife has a really great bum. I love Francine's bum. She loves it when I sing the song from the Humble & Fred morning program on Mix 99.9 that goes:

Everybody’s lovin’ your bum
Everybody’s lovin’ the good fun
That comes from lovin’ your bum

I can't be 100% sure, but most of Humble & Fred's funny songs come from Pete Cugno, so that's likely where the "bum song" comes from too.

But I digress. What I mean by bum is homeless person, hobo, vagrant (I’m not sure what the politically correct term is that I’m supposed to use, so I’ll just stick with bum). You see, commuting in to work from Hamilton to Toronto each day, I see a lot of the same faces. But it’s not just the Joe Business Suits and the Sally Go-Train Seats -- each day in my ritual walk between Union Station and work, I often see the same homeless people taking their usual morning or afternoon stations.

There’s this one guy in particular who has stuck out these past few years. I usually see him in the late afternoon/early evening when I’m on my way back to Union Station after work. He’s a short fellow with dark hair and a few missing teeth in front. But the true distinguishing features about him, in my mind, are that he has his dog with him and instead of the standard “change mister?” line, he often utters phrases like: “Have a good evening” or “Have a good weekend” or something along those lines. It’s less like he’s hitting you up for change and more like he’s the WalMart greeter. I often give him my spare change or a cereal bar or apple to if I have it on me when I see him. Actually, some evenings, I see commuters often stop to chat with him while offering treats that they brought in especially for his dog.

For the past year or so, he’s been as much a part of my daily ritual as that woman with the annoying voice who sits on the far side of the train from me in the morning, but whose voice punches through the subdued murmur of the morning commuters and always reminds me of the droning voice of that teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (“Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?"), or the “happy boys” -- two young guys who get off the train at Appleby and have these huge shit-eating grins on their face as they walk by our train car, which drives my morning commuting buddy Norm just nuts (Norm likes to pretend that he’s grumpy like the two old guys in the balcony seats on the Muppet Show, but I know it’s just an act)

It’s been two weeks now since I’ve last seen the “Union Greeter” bum, which brings mixed feelings. I mean, the initial thought, in not seeing him, is that something bad has possibly happened to him, and that’s upsetting. But, of course, there’s always the chance that he’s been able to pull things together, move off the streets, and re-build his life. It can happen. So that means that not seeing him is a good thing. And in that case I'm glad to not ever see him again.

So I’m a little torn as to whether or not I should feel relieved if I see that bum again.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Caught Between The Moon & New York City

I got up at 4:30 AM this morning, in an attempt to get back on track with my werewolf novel. For the past week or so I hadn' t been able to get much done in the mornings, despite abandoning the subscription to the Hamilton Spectator.

But this morning, I got past that last "stopping point" and the words were flowing. So much so that while the extra hour in the morning prior to getting ready for work flowed nicely into another hour of GO train time. As I sometimes do, I was able to use physical descriptions of strangers sitting near me to people a scene in a coffee shop I was writing.

Cdn Werewolf in NY
15409 / 70000 (22.01%)

I'd also been playing around a bit with the title of the book, thinking that maybe I could use "A Canadian Werewolf in New York" for the title. Why not, it would be a fun play on words with the film "An American Werewolf in London" - I was thinking about James Alan Gardner's occasional habit of giving his short stories fun and intriguing long names (as seen and talked about in his recent short story collection Gravity Wells), although Gardner never did use long silly titles for his novels - just the short fiction.

In any case, I'm fooling around with titles like "A Canadian Werewolf in New York" and "Caught Between The Moon & New York City" -- which I know, if the novel ever gets picked up, would likely be shot down by the publisher to a maximum of four words.