Thursday, September 29, 2005

Glowing Review

My buddy Sean Costello offered the following blurb for my short story collection, which has me tickled pink. I'm going to be using it in an ad that's running in The Sudbury Star next week to announce my signing at Chapters in Sudbury on October 8th at 2:30 PM

"In this unique collection of dark tales, Mark Leslie brings an energy and freshness to the challenging realm of short story telling which lovers of the form will savor forever. Bravo, Mark."
- Sean Costello, author of the forthcoming Here After

Sean has let me have a few sneak peaks at the first draft of his latest novel Here After (a chilling supernatural thriller) and, like his previous novels, it's incredible. Without giving anything away, I think I can safely say that it starts with a parent's worse nightmare, and then just gets more frightening as the story rolls forward. Of course, I haven't yet seen the final thrilling 50 pages or so, so I'm quite anxious to find out how it all ends. I'll be among the first in line to buy it when it's released.

Chicks, Railcars and The New Xerox Machine

No, the title of this post isn't as sexy as Colin James' "Chicks, Cars & The Third World War" but what can you do?

I was originally going to try to beat my buddy Gwen to the punch and write about our adventures with the mailroom copy machine yesterday afternoon -- the two of us, trained I.T. professionals, met at the fancy new printer/photocopy machine and bumbled through trying to figure out why our documents were being "held" behind our C.T.O.'s annual budget reports and where, if anywhere, the supposed paper jam was actually occuring.

But then I thought better of it -- after all, I'd hate for us both to look like the dumb asses that Gwen's website is dedicated to in name. Maybe I'll just leave it the thought that neither of us is impressed with the fancy new printer/photocopier. But man, does it ever have a plethora of "doors, drawers and panels"

Then I thought I'd write about the GO train adventures that Christina and I found ourselves on last night. Both of us having worked long days and meeting on the same later train, but still excited to get home -- then, discovering that there was a mechanical malfunction and we'd have to get off and wait for another train to pick us up. (One of the things that I liked about this story was that our C.F.O. was also on that train - I spotted him through the dense crowd, trying to wait patiently for the next train - so it was almost like I was still bumbling through the rest of my day with Gwen, whose role in I.T. is to serve the Finance team. You see, it's important for me to find some sort of continuity in my day) - but I think I've already written several times about the silly antics that can happen to daily commuters. So I'll drop that story too.

My wandering mind has finally settled on what happened afterwards, because the fun and frustrating antics of the afternoon and evening were all pushed aside when I came into the house and discovered that Alexander had learned to put his newly learned word "Bye" with the action of waving. Sure, I was coming in, not leaving, but it was exciting, very exciting to see him make the connection between the two actions. Just as exciting as it was the other night when he started to yell "Daaaaaaad Daaaaaaad Daaaaaaa Daaaaaaad!" repeatedly when I was on the phone and not paying attention to him because he wanted me to see the new trick he had learned that day -- holding a plastic cup over his mouth and yelling loudly, making a fun echo noise.

You see, it's often just those silly little things that can make a day really special.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

My Glass of Quik

I was at The Word on the Street (WOTS) in Toronto on Sunday, a guest of the Sudbury Writer’s Guild / Your Scrivener Press booth in the Writer’s Block.

When I woke up Sunday morning to a steady rain, I wondered if it was going to be a bad day for the event. And a couple of hours later when I was driving in to Toronto, the rain still a steady drizzle, I thought for sure that the day might be a wash.

But at least I had this great book on tape that a consultant the data team is working with loaned me last week. It’s The Breathing Method, which was a novella from Stephen King’s Different Seasons. This was the first book that I’d ever read of King’s and in many ways his finest work. It was the movie Stand By Me that was my motivation for picking up this book to read the novella it was based on “The Body” (thanks, Rob Reiner) and I became hooked on King’s writing from that point forward. Listening to this story, narrated so eloquently by Frank Muller, is a wonderful experience (I still have the second side on the last tape to finish - guess I don’t spend enough time driving - shame on me for taking public transit). I’m particularly impressed with the descriptions of the “storytellers” club the main character hangs out in and the slogan on the fireplace mantel which reads:

It is the tale, not he who tells it.

A thing of beauty. I’m there in the room listening to the stories along with the main character. So, thanks, Leslie, you’re right, even though I already read the story, I’m really enjoying this. And it makes me want to go out and buy more books on tape.

So, the ride in, listening to this book on tape, was a nice departure from standard radio listening, and quite fitting with my voyage to a book festival.

When I arrived, one of the first people I bumped into was the Gentleman Bookseller himself, Eric Jensen. We spent a few minutes sharing baby stories (he’s a new father of a 3 month old boy named Christian) -- like myself, Eric is overwhelmed with joy at being a father and I couldn’t have said it any better than he when he said that the expression bundle of joy is a good one, but doesn’t even come close.

I found my way, relatively easily to my booth, officially became a member of the Sudbury Writer’s Guild (which is exciting - I’ve always been overwhelmed at the sense of community and friendliness of the people of Sudbury. Sure, it’s my old stomping grounds, so I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for it, but the people from Sudbury are just amazing people. The folks I shared the booth with (although Lauren Carter, like myself, no longer lives in the Sudbury area) are no exceptions, and it was a very pleasant day spent with them chatting about books. It was great also, to meet Laurence Steven, the publisher of Your Scrivener Press, and his wife, in person. Good people.

By the end of the day, a day which was filled with wonderful conversation about books, the opportunity to watch people discover Clay Campbell’s box of free “bookcrossing” books which he placed strategically under a tree near our booth, and almost knocking over NDP leader Jack Layton on my quest to find a washroom (he was there, browsing with his wife and looking to be having a marvelous time -- nice to see a political leader out among the people, not handing out flyers, just enjoying a book-lover’s event) -- a last minute dodge prevented me from slamming into him as I deked my way through the crowd. (I did find the restroom station, by the way, in case anyone is worried about me - and no, it wasn’t at all like my buddy Pete’s restroom misadventures in Absurdington)

By the time I got home, I'd started to sum up the day, and, with the joyous details of fine conversation with very interesting people settling into the back of my mind, I focused on two summary details:

1) In six hours I'd only sold 2 copies of my book

2) When I bumped into the editor who'd been seriously considering my novel for these past several months for a Toronto publisher (and from whom the only correspondence I'd so far received was a "love the first 3 chapters, please send full ms"), he told me that while it was really close, they wouldn't be publishing my novel after all.

I thought about how I'd intended to invest the day pursuing self-promotion activities and away from Francine and Alexander. I'd been hoping that time time away from my loved ones would have provided more yield for the sacrifice. Perhaps I'd set my hopes too high.

As often happens, I let these two things haunt my mind, rather than focus on the good things about the day, the new friends made, the colleagues I hadn't chatted with in a while (Rob Sawyer, Nancy Kilpatrick, Edo van Belkom, Douglas Smith), and even the wonderfully constructive comments and feedback the editor had provided on my novel which did include the fact that he found the writing and storyline excellent - there were just some parts here and there that troubled him enough to pass on publishing it.

Thus, by the time I got home, I was ready to have someone mix up a nice glass of Nestle Quik for me. Quick explaination of that thought: There's this old television commercial with a young boy, still in his hockey equipment sitting at a kitchen table with his mom and talking about the game. "We lost again," he says, summing up the event for his mother. She puts her arm on his shoulder, sits near him, ever the faithful listener, and slides over a glass of Nestle Quik (now known as Nesquik, I guess). By the end of the commercial, he has a small smile as the world seems to get better and it ends up an upnote. "I really like hockey" he says.

But, as always, Francine was my "glass of Quik" - offering her shoulder, kind words of support and, as always, her understanding and ability to get to the heart of the matter. At one point, she turned to me and said: "For you, writing is the easiest part in all this." And she was right. Self-promotion was the hard-part, particularly for a writer, who is used to doing all his best stuff in complete solitude. Taking a knife, slicing yourself open and bleeding onto a page (that's what writing sometimes is like), is actually the easy part. But, getting words onto the page, nomatter how frustrating and challenging that can sometimes be, is a walk in the park compared to the act of submitting your work and, once it's published, actually trying to get people to pay attention to it.

As is typical, my conversation with Francine gave me more hope and reminded me that this new round of self-promo activites that I'm engaging in these next few weeks aren't going to be easy, but they are necessary.

And, of course, if things don't go the way I hoped, I have Francine, my own personal glass of Quik, to make things better. God, I love that woman. And "I really like writing."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Cheese Stands Alone

Yesterday at work I got pulled into an ad hoc meeting that had started to take shape in an odd way. Minerva pulled in Bruce, who pulled in Howard, who pulled in Tri, who pulled in me, who pulled in Zebing. It was like an urban office version of “The Farmer in the Dell” -- but without the singing.

Well, I did try to sing, but they all stopped me rather quickly.

I started thinking about “The Farmer in the Dell” and realize that I hadn’t played it since my early grade school years. I always remember that when the “farmer picks a wife” you could tell who the guy playing the farmer had a crush on. Of course, they’d often just pick the prettiest girl in the class.

Thinking about the prettiest girl in our class, I remembered this cute blonde girl that most of the boys in my class had a crush on: Samantha May. Her entire family moved from the little town of Levack in Northern Ontario down to California when we were in grade 4 or 5. It kind of made sense that the family moved there - both Samantha and her older sister Amanda were the exact stunning blonde beauties that you’d expect to see in California. I haven’t thought about her in years (after all, by the time she left the school yard after telling us she was moving, I’d already turned my crush on one Pamela Robinson -- a crush that lasted at least three years, which to my young mind, was a lifetime. I found myself wondering what Samantha has been up to since those early, early years. (I do know that Pamela, who I did know throughout public school as well as high school, is living happily ever after with her husband and two children in Southern Ontario -- because her mom, the first woman whom I’d looked at as a possible future mother in law, was at our place about a month ago) -- I mean, after all, my buddy Pete did find a chum from Britain and an old university friend quite by accident via posts on his blog. So it is worth a mention.

That, of course, got me to thinking about my best friend during those same years when most boys had a crush on Samantha. Morgan Stewart. My best friend, my best buddy. A very cool dude who lived on the next block from me (so, by the time I was allowed to cross the street on my own, I could go play in his yard). Morgan and I were actually blood brothers -- yes, I know, my wife is cringing at the thought of two kids with a knife cutting their hands and then mixing their blood, but we saw it on a TV show, likely Grizzly Adams or something, so we thought it would be cool. Morgan’s family moved to British Columbia about the same time that Samantha’s family moved.

Morgan returned for a week’s visit when we were about 12 or 13. It had been good to see my old buddy again, but it was also strange, because, as happens in childhood, a few years can see a world of difference and a lot of change. He’d become this worldy street-smart city kid, and I was still this small town country bumpkin (actually despire living in Hamilton and working in Toronto, I still see myself as this geeky country bumpkin). Basically, it felt like he’d learned so much, done so much and experienced so much -- while I had been doing the same old same old in his old home town. That’s how it felt anyway. I’d always looked up to Morgan, always learned lots of cool things from him -- but it had felt like he’d suddenly grown in leaps and bounds while I remained mostly the same. Certainly an interesting experience for my young mind to digest.

Morgan and I continued to be pen pals for a few years (yes, remember a time when, to contact a friend, you had to break out a pen or pencil and a sheet of paper, and stuff it in an envelope and mail it? Actually, it wasn’t all that long ago when you think about it), but as our teenage years advanced, the letters slowly tapered off.

I’ve thought about Morgan from time to time over the years, but, even with the growth of the internet, etc, I haven’t tried searching for him. But I thought it would be neat to talk about him here, put out the feelers, so to say, and wonder if this “message in a bottle” on the internet ever finds it way to him.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

. . . And The Wisdom To Know The Difference

Along the lines of what my buddy Peter calls my GO train commando journalism from a previous post, I’m sitting typing this while our train is stuck at about 6:49 PM on Monday evening on the Lakeshore West line about 20 metres from Burlington station. Yes, you could throw a timbit and hit the Burlington GO platform from where we are right now. But this isn’t a game of horseshoes or hand-grenades; it’s the game of commuter transit.

Apparently, the CN signals across Ontario are down.

We’ve been sitting here for a good forty-five minutes now. If I actually had a timbit, I wouldn’t throw it, I would be savouring it.

And, while I would much rather be home, spending time with Francine and Alexander, I know that there’s nothing I can do about this situation. (Legally, that is, because I’m sure that I could kick out a window and start walking, but I doubt I’d get to see my loved ones any faster that way)

So while I sit here, working on functional spec’s for work as well as personal writing stuff, I’m at least slightly amused by some of the antics of GO passengers sitting in the aisle across from me. Maybe it’s a case of claustrophobia, maybe they’re new to the whole GO train experience (I consider myself a bit of a veteran with 6 years of GO commuting behind me now), but no matter how excited you get or how many times you ask the GO staff for more info, or if they’ll open the doors to let you walk along the tracks, it will get you exactly where you already are. It’ll just be much ado about nothing. Sure, I understand that we have agendas to adhere to, places we need to be, commitments to keep, loved ones to see, but there's not much we can do, perhaps it's best to try to keep the blood pressure down.

So while I sit here, typing away, I watch them squirm in their seats, let out huge exasperated sighs and get all frustrated and frantic and excited. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pleased (for example, in the past half an hour, I’ve tried about a dozen times to call Francine and warm her that I’m going to be later than originally expected -- with nothing to greet me but a busy signal) but at least I’m relatively calm about the whole thing. And, of course, thank God I have a much better battery on this laptop now (I can go for another 6 hours or so if I have to). On another positive note, at least that sleeping farting guy from this morning who was licking his fingers as often as if he was eating a bucket of KFC isn’t sitting beside me. Actually the guy beside me is quite calm (reading a book actually) and hasn’t even farted once. But the night, of course, is still young.

If I really wanted to start trouble perhaps I would suddenly blurt out the old chestnut that sometimes gets people through trying times:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The strength to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference

Much like my work buddy Gwen, though, I guess I’m surrounded by a bunch of dumb assess. Or if not that, at least people not wise enough to know the difference.

Reporting from car 2275 on the GO Lakeshore line, I’m Mark Leslie Lefebvre. Good night.

Monday, September 19, 2005

If Only My Royalties Were Like His

My buddy Pete Mitchell has a link to a fun online test that tells you what famous leader you're most like. Here are my results, based on the 18 question version of the test:

Yeah, I guess I can see that, especially since I'm a self-promotion slut and don't at all mind being in the spotlight. Although, when I took the 27 question test (and they were different questions, which I thought was a little bit strange), I got this result:

I've going to stop with this positive result, because I'd hate to be Genghis Khan or Hitler.
I have to admit, it feels warmer being Mother Teresa rather than being Bill Clinton, but man would I ever love to get the royalties that Clinton got on his biography. Mother's Teresa's books also sold well, but I'm sure she donated all her royalties to a good cause, where Bill likely spent all his on porn.

Two Posts For One

Fran and I sat down last night to watch about 20 minutes of television -- because we'd missed the beginning of Bowling for Columbine, the only thing seemingly worthwhile to watch was the Emmys.

So we watched while “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers” won award after award in several categories, then William Shatner and Frederica von Stade perform the theme to Star Trek (with a strange memory in my head where I seem to remember someone telling me that the original theme song actually had real lyrics, not just Shatner’s little intro and the “ah ah ah’s”) -- and then they did a nice tribute to three news anchors: Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings.

It was a touching pause to acknowledge three men whose faces have represented integrity and straightforward honest television journalism for as long as I can remember. Fran and I chatted about memories of the last name and face that used to represent that and the sadness when he stepped down: Walter Cronkite. But this was bigger, this was a year in which three very powerful icons all stepped down or passed away. I tried to think about what news icons existed now (in US journalism, because Canada still has it’s Peter Mansbridge and Lloyd Robertson and, of course, Alexander’s favourite meteorologist, Global’s Anwar Knight) but the only ones that came to me were Rick Mercer, Bill Maher and Jon Stewart.

That thought was brought home properly when Dan and Tom finished their poignant speeches and the camera cut to audience members applauding. Just as we turned the television off, there was a glimpse of Donald Trump clapping, with that patented grimace on his face.

I finally realized what it was about his grimace that I found peculiar. The scowl or twisted frown, or whatever people call it that he wears almost all the time makes him look like he’s trying to figure out who it was that dared to fart in his presence.

I’ll have to keep that in mind as I watch this season’s The Apprentice, especially if the boardroom scenes ever get boring and I need a new way to amuse myself.

Things I Haven’t Done

I've never done two single posts in a single entry space before, but I'm going to now - I have no choice - the guy beside me on the GO train is begging for it.

Here’s another thing that I’ve never done: I’ve never licked my finger in order to turn a page.

It comes to mind because as I sit on the GO train typing this, the gentleman beside me keeps doing it. Let’s see, he got on in either Apply or Burlington, and right now, we’re speedling along between Oakville and Union Station, and he must have licked his finger at least 6 or 7 times in order to turn the pages of the Metro newspaper that he’s reading. Ah, he's done it again. Bleck.

I’ve never done that. I’m a paper-licking virgin.

Oh sure, I’ve eaten paper, I’ve even eaten glue (two cute girls in my grade 4 class were doing it, so I joined them, instead of just stirring the cup of white glue with the flat little stick, I followed their lead and ate it -- yeah, it was just the beginning of a lifetime of doing stupid thing to try to impress girls), but I’ve yet to lick my fingers to turn a page, yes, even when I thought it might make me look studious and impressive.

I understand the physics behind licking one's fingers to turn a page, but the act bothers me. Okay, hygienically (because Francine has helped me think of hygiene more and more often), do you really want to be licking your fingers after touching the newspaper, nevermind the box it came out of, a multitude of doors, and perhaps even touching the seat that God knows who did what on earlier? Nevermind the hygene. What about the taste? Yuck. While I remember eating paper when I was young, I don’t think I dared ever try a newspaper. Look at what the newsprint does to your hands -- you want that in your mouth?

Oh, he’s looking around now -- I wonder if he’ll pause to look down, read what I’m typing on my laptop. I have my fingers ready to quickly hint ALT-TAB to change the document I’m working on in case I need to cover my little episode of extreme journalism. Gee, I’ve never done this before, write about the person sitting immediately beside me -- I've written about people on the train, even used folks sitting on the train when I needed to come up with a physical description for a minor character in a story -- but I've never written about someone sitting directly beside me -- it’s kind of fun, and sort of naughty. It reminds me of something my buddy Peter Mitchell might do. (See, Pete, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery)

Oh, okay, he’s stopped reading the paper and is now sitting there, hands crossed in his lap, head down -- he's going to have a little cat nap, I think.

It reminds me of another thing I’ve never done -- I’ve never slept on the GO train. I’ve always been afraid of two things that I do when I’m sleeping. Drool and fart. I remember back when I was dating when I’d wait for a long time to ensure that the girl beside me fell asleep before I did, because I was afraid if I fell asleep first, that I’d let one rip (especially after desperately holding it in for the entire duration of the evening). Sure, I wouldn’t be able to control these bodily functions once I drifted off, but at least there was a chance she’d think it was just part of a dream she was having. Lord knows, when she woke up and saw me beside her, she'd wish that too was a nightmare she was having and not the sad reality that it was for her.

Oh man, speaking of fart, I think the sleeping guy beside me just let one go. Isn't that nice? He's all dressed up in this business suit, looking impressive and gentleman-like. Then he starts liking his fingers as if to state he's a busy man and doesn't have the patience to carefully turn the pages of the newspaper, but it just makes me disgusted and then he falls asleep and lets a silent one go. My impression of him continually goes downhill this whole trip.

No, maybe I was just imaging that he farted in his sleep. I pause, take a fresh bresh. Oh yeah, that putrid smell is there. And, for confirmation, I just looked up and the guy across the aisle has that Donald Trump “who just dared fart” look on his face. So it can't be my imagination.

Ahh, the train is slowing down as it rolls into Union Station. There’ll be fresh air soon (at least as fresh as the air gets in downtown Toronto)

Friday, September 16, 2005

I Knew Him, Horatio

It being the fall and with Halloween slowly approaching, Yorick and I are going on a tiny little tour once again.
I was recently sent the photo below from an old friend of mine who goes back to the days when I lived in Ottawa and was teaching drama to 9 to 15 year olds at a summer camp at Carleton University. Arianne was one of the more brilliant students in my class who from day one showed a strong interest in drama. She and I have maintained a "pen-pal" relationship since those early days, and I've been delighted to watch her many successes over the years, becoming an accomplished writer and playright and even founding a theatre company in Ottawa. I was also happy to learn that her career has recently brought her to Toronto which means that Fran and I can see her more often.
Chapters Festival Hall Feb 25th 2005 - Photo by Arianne Matte

Don't get me wrong, I love my current job, but I often think about the three summers I spent teaching drama as the best job I ever had. Not only did I get to work with some wonderfully enthusiastic and talented students like Arianne, but I also established some good friendships with other teachers, some of which I've maintained contact with over the years -- And it was, of course, at that job that I first met Francine. So how could I not think back to those days with a very soft spot in my heart?

But back to the Mark & Yorick Tour. I thought I'd try to summarize some of my upcoming appearances/writing related activities below:

  • Sept 17th - Hamilton - Seraphin Editions Open House & Group Photo - (1:30 PM to 4:00PM) A publisher recently re-located to Hamilton has arranged a gathering of local writers, editors, etc and a group photo will be taken to make posters commemorating the current status of Hamilton's growing and exciting literary scene.
  • Sept 25th - Toronto - Word on The Street Toronto - Your Scrivener Press / SWG - I'll be appearing at the "Your Scrivener Press / Sudbury Writer's Guild" booth (11 Am to 6 PM) talking about the upcoming anthologies from YSP such as the forthcoming Bluffs, which I'm in and will be coming out in the spring; as well as signing copies of my short story collection.
  • Oct 2nd - Hamilton - LitLive - Junction Cafe - (7:30 PM) - An evening of drinks and literary readings. I'll be doing a reading along with the following writers: Cornelia Hoogland (Marrying the Animals), Eva Tihanyi (Wresting the Grace of the World), Harry Thurston (A Ship Portrait), John Calabro (Bellecoeur), Kim Barry Brunhuber (Kameleon Man)
  • Oct 8th - Sudbury - Chapters Sudbury - (2:30 - 4:30 PM) - I'll be doing a short reading, a signing of One Hand Screaming and also meeting and greeting writers interested in learning more about the anthology North of Infinity III: Parnassus Unbound which I'm editing. I'll also be giving folks a fun sneak peak at a an upcoming writing project of mine.
  • Oct 21st - Toronto - Chapters Festival Hall - 7:30 PM - Signing One Hand Screaming, meet and greet writers interested in NOI 3.

So, if anyone is around and wants to see whether I'll be wearing my white shirt with my skull tie or my black shirt with my skull tie (yes, an exciting thing to see indeed), there's the most recent list of the "Mark & Yorick" forthcoming appearances.

Coles Limeridge Oct 2004

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Domesticated Animal

As I was in the grocery store tonight (stocking up on the $2.00 boxes of Quaker Corn Bran cereal that come with a coupon for a FREE, yes a FREE box of Quaker Oatmeal To Go), I made sure I picked up a copy of the Halloween issue of Good Housekeeping , excited about the clutter free article and home decorating ideas for the fall.

Then I had this sudden flashback to about 10 years ago when a friend of mine brought his wife over for an evening at the bachelor apartment that my buddy Steve and I shared in Ottawa and he gave her the advice "void youself" before they left for our place -- a direct reference to the relative cleanliness of our home and washroom area and that she wouldn't want to be caught dead using our facilities.

And then I thought to myself -- "you've come a long way, baby" -- and, of course, must credit it all to how nicely Francine has house-broken me.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Guilty Pleasures

I have to confess to a guilty secret pleasure. Two, in fact. It came about this past weekend, when Fran, Alex and I visited my Mom in Levack.

Confession number one: I’m a bathroom reader. I have been all of my life -- well, at least for as long as I could use a toilet and perhaps could read. There’s even a picture of me as a young boy, red of face (and likely with a red ring in a spot not visible in the picture from sitting there for half an hour), my pajama bottoms down around my ankles, a comic book splayed out in front of me. I’ve often wondered why my parents found it necessary to open the bathroom door and take a picture of me in that embarrassing setting -- but I wonder if it was to document a big part of my life -- after all, going to the bathroom wasn’t just about the natural bodily function for me. It was a big event, a time to read, a good chunk out of my day.

I blame my parents for this, naturally. When I was potty training, they often sat me down in the potty in front of Mr. Dressup. So from my very first post-diaper pooping experience, I was already hard-wired to equating the toilet with creative expression. As I grew older and could use a real toilet, given the fact that there wasn’t a television in the bathroom (something I’m surprised hasn’t been done yet, at least in any bathrooms I’ve visited), I started reading in there.

It reminds me of a scene from Frasier actually, where Frasier is bemoaning the loss of his study, the room where he does his reading, his most profound thinking, and his father Martin responds: “Oh, why can’t you just use the can like everybody else?”

Over the years I’ve done all kinds of reading in my favourite room -- I even tried writing in there a couple of times when I was struck with inspiration and a bowel movement at the same time. But the few bits of writing I’d done in that room were, fittingly, pieces of crap that I tossed (or flushed to follow the pun) a long time ago.

It’s this lifelong obsession with reading in the bathroom that leads to this second, more recent confession.

Confession number two: I enjoy reading Good Housekeeping. In my parent’s home there was always a couple of reading options in the washroom. (I think I failed to mention that my father was also a washroom reader -- so rather than my elaborate explanation above, I could more easily say that I inherited this habit from him) When I was young we’d often kept The Star and The National Enquirer in the upstairs bathroom in our home.

Even in the years after I’d left home, whenever I returned to visit, I got caught up on all kinds of Hollywood gossip and happenings with a simple trip to the restroom. Even for a few years after my father died, my mother kept buying these weekly tabloids to keep in the washroom. It was only recently that she discontinued the habit.

So on my most recent visit, I had two other choices: some monthly Hollywood-gossip type slick magazine and Good Housekeeping. From the moment I first cracked open the cover and skipped past the full-page colour ads that were obviously geared to the female gender, I was hooked. It's a fascinating magazine with all kinds of great housekeeping tips and articles. It's awesome. So why is it geared towards women? I mean, c'mon -- this isn't 1950, with the men sitting in the library wearing smoking jackets and having sipping Sherry while the women sit in the kitchen and exchange recipies. Why can't they include men in their marketing and advertising? And, oh, I haven't yet seen this month's issue, but it's likely going to contain all kinds of find Halloween decorating ideas. Man, but I love those. (Fran usually buys the Martha Stewart Living Halloween issue every year and I find myself enjoying that one as well)

So, in the way I used to sneak under cover of night into a corner store when I was a teenager and buy a copy of Playboy, I find myself now struggling with the urge to do the same with Good Housekeeping -- yes, despite the fact that I can easily claim I'm buying the copy for my wife.

Maybe I'll not bother with the hassle and just get a subscription. In Francine's name, of course.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Relief

Jon Hodges, the one-man operation who runs the wonderful "Project Pulp" service which allows readers the ability to order single copies of magazines and special edition books from multiple sources in a single convenient online purchase, is once again using his online store to raise funds for the Red Cross, this time for Hurricane Katrina Relief efforts.

I've asked Jon to include my book One Hand Screaming in the list of charitable books, with my profit from each sale going towards the fund raising effort being coordinated by Project Pulp. Jon, being the generous soul that he is, and always thinking of others first, has increased the donation on Project Pulp's side, raising it to a donation of $5.00 US.

There's a great list of wonderful limited edition books by some fantastic genre authors (a whole lot more talented than myself) available that each include similar donations to the relief efforts. What a great opportunity to read the writings of talented authors and also be able to make a small contribution to a timely and worthwhile effort. We can do more than shake our heads at the horrible tragedy. This is but one way.

Check out the great promotional titles Project Pulp is offering for this charitable cause by clicking here.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Mister Bunny & Mr. Man

Yesterday afternoon Francine called me at work with a slight note of panic in her voice. Apparently, Mister Bunny had gone AWOL (before I go on, I have to ponder - is the term actually AWOL, standing for Absent With Out Leave or AWAL, standing for Absent Without A Leave? I've never bothered to look it up, but it's an unanswered question to this day in my mind)

These past few months, Mister Bunny has taken to spending several hours in the back yard, either hanging out on the deck, or sitting beside the pool or under the air conditioner or in the flowers or vegetable garden. He’d been doing that yesterday afternoon, and when Francine went out to check on him, she couldn’t find him in any of his usual hiding places.

She was worried that he’d dug himself under the deck, or, worse, squeezed himself under the fence and into one of the two neighbouring yards that both have dogs.

We’ve had Mister Bunny for over ten years now. I bought him for Francine as a birthday gift back when we were living it Ottawa. I was working at Prospero The Book Company (basically a Coles with a "better than thou" snooty attitude) at Carlingwood Mall and Fran had been admiring this cute little bunny in the window at a neighbouring store called Little Critters. He was a black Netherlands dwarf rabbit with one floppy ear and another that stood up, and part of a fresh litter of dwarf bunnies. He did another odd thing -- while the other bunnies slept in groups and often inside a hollow-out log, this little character enjoyed sleeping on top of the log. (Much later we found out that it was because he could barely tolerate the wood shavings - before he was litter trained and he stayed in his house a lot, he'd often push all the shavings into a corner so he could lie on the clean floor)

Over the weeks, Fran stopped by to visit with him, as, one by one, his brothers and sisters were sold. He was the last one left. He eventually ended up with the guinea pigs, when a new litter of rabbits arrived -- the staff said he didn’t get along with the new rabbits (yes, he was an obstinate little fellow over the years)

One lunch break when I went to look at the little fellow, he was missing from the window. I panicked. And when I asked the staff about that cute little bunny who’d been with the guinea pigs, they said the other critters had licked and groomed his fur so much that he had several bare patches and some customers thought he was diseased. So they were planning on “returning” him. (We all know what that means)

So I bought him on the spot and asked them if they could keep him for a couple of weeks (I’d wanted to buy him for Fran’s birthday) Fran was sad to find the little bunny missing from the shop window, but later delighted that the bunny was hers.

He eventually grew his hair back by the time he came to live with us, and the name Francine had used for him while he was in the shop window, Mister Bunny, stuck. We simply couldn’t come up with a proper first name for him, so we left it at that.

Dwarf Rabbits tend not to live very long lives - their average life-span is often within about 6 years. We litter trained Mister Bunny and gave him full run of the house (or at least a room or two within the house) -- our belief is that his constant proper diet (with the exception of the occasional Tortilla Chip or Blueberry) and regular exercise and freedom, he’s maintained his health longer than normal. So, at ten years old, we know that he’s lived a good, long life. Even up until a few weeks ago, he would tear around the living room (doing his version of what Francine calls “The Camptown Races”), much the way he did when he was a very young bunny.

There was a point in my young son’s life, I think, when he first became aware that Mister Bunny was another person living in our home. He must have been maybe four months old when he was sitting in the living room with Fran and Mister Bunny walked into the room. Alexander let out a startled yell of excitement that, to us, sounded like: “Hey, who’s this guy?” or “Where did he come from?”

Alexander has since gone on to be very concerned with the whereabouts of his little bunny, letting out a pleased scream when he sees him, often following him around the kitchen, or standing in front of him, crouching down, and laughing and often having to pause during a feeding just to see where Mister Bunny is at. (I notice he recently starting calling cats “buh dee” whenever he sees one)

In a completely unrelated vein, I was doing something with Alexander, perhaps struggling/wrestling with him (otherwise known as trying to dress him or change his diaper), when I called him Mr. Man.

Fran liked that. Within another month or so, it suddenly replaced “sweet pea” as his regularly used nickname, (whew - close escape there - that's worse than me when I was trying to escape "Marky"), and has been in regular play ever since.

I’m just glad I came up with that name long after his first name had been established. I’d hate to see the poor little guy go through life having to explain that, like some celebrity child, his wacko parents didn’t give him a proper first name, but instead, named him Mr. Man.

In any case, while Francine and I never expected Mister Bunny to live so long, we’ve certainly been glad that Mister Bunny and Mr. Man had a chance to become pals.

Oh, and the good news end to this little post?

Fran found Mister Bunny, several hours later, in a brand new hiding spot, nestled within the raspberry bushes. So Mister Bunny and Mr. Man still have some good times ahead of them yet.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Nervous Twitching

A reprint of my story "Nervous Twitching" appears in the #11 issue (Sept 2005) of Digital Pulp, a web site designed to give writers a place to share their stories and offer critiques of each other's work. The ability to easily read the stories online using their story reader makes for a pleasant experience, and I've so far enjoyed a couple of the online pieces there.

So, if you want to read a fun and very short little horror vignette that I wrote, or even check out some other interesting reading finds, click here and check it out.