Saturday, April 29, 2006

Beautiful Canals

So on Friday I had a root canal. My second one in four months. I'm quite the little dental chair trooper lately.

I know that the word dentist instills fear in the hearts of so many people. But I'm here to tell you that despite having visited with my dentist so often these past few months, I've actually found it an enjoyable experience. For one, Doctor Ivankovic is a phenomenal doctor, Debbie is a wonderful dental hygienist, and the entire staff are wonderful people, always a pleasure to interact with. What more can one ask for (besides no cavities)?

My visits to Dr. Ivankovic are usually filled with mirth and laughter (perhaps it's me overcompensating for my fear) -- but this last visit was pretty interesting because she commented several times on how I had beautiful canals.

I knew I was meant to be something one day. I just never thought I'd be the poster child for perfect tooth canals. Too bad I screwed so many of them up having had to have the root canal treatment in the first place.

Dr Ivankovic emailed me the "before" during and "after" pictures of my tooth. Basically a root canal is this: Drill a hole in the tooth, remove the decayed or dying pulp from within the roots. Disinfect, replace the pulp with an artificial filling, seal off the tooth, and you're done. I've posted the "after" picture from the procedure. As you can see, the tooth second from the right has had the natural pulp (sounds like a Tarrantino movie doesn't it?) removed and replaced with "filling" -- pretty educational, isn't it?

But the BEST thing about my root canal, the absolute BEST thing was that I think I enjoyed it more than half of the painful and tedious meetings I've had to attend at work this past week. And it was a lot less painful than what I'm working on right now for work (yes, at 3:17 AM - I'm just taking a little breather - mostly for my sanity)

Friday, April 28, 2006

Name Mangling 101

I received a comment several weeks ago from someone who wanted to know about Fran’s recipe for roast beast. It made me think of all the fun ways we’ve mangled what we call things, both borrowed from sources like Dr. Seuss (as in the case of roast beast), as well as other things we’ve either invented ourselves or picked up from others through the years.

See if you can guess these stores/restaurants: (keeping in mind of course, that some of these places are among our favourite places to shop/eat -- the play on words we use isn’t a reflection on how we feel about most of the places, just an opportunity to twist the language a bit for fun)

Some of these “brands” might not be known all that well outside of Canada, or, even in some cases, outside of Ontario. But I present to you, the list of favourite mangled places that Francine and I use.

1) Booger King
2) C*ckbuster
3) Crappy Tire
4) Elsie’s B.O.
5) Future Shock
6) Homo Depot
7) Horny Tim’s
8) Kentucky Fried Pigeon
9) Losers
10) Pizza Slut
11) Radio Crap
12) Scary Queen
13) Scrawny Ronnie’s
14) Swiss Duck
15) Taco Smell
16) The Crap
17) The Prick

Here’s an oldie, but a goodie, a term my father and uncle used to use for one of their favourite beverage retailer that used to be known, in Ontario, as The Brewer's Retail:

18) The “In” and “Out” Store

Here’s one for those folks who like to shop in downtown Ottawa:

19) The Weirdo Centre

And along those same lines, one of our favourite shopping centres in Hamilton

20) Slimeridge Mall

Think you could get all twenty of them? Have any of your own you wish to share?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

HNT - Mark's Last Stand

Continued From HNT - Darth's Revenge Part II

Just as Mark thought he was going to reach the forks and be able to use them against his army of enemies, one of the dozens of Darth clones attacking him stepped in and kicked them away. Mark was left with nothing other than his bare hands to fight the swarming taters.

But, without the forks he was unable to stop the deadly attack. Although he tried desperately to get out of the situation, it was just too much. In a very anticlimactic and disappointing plot turn, Mark was killed.

Darth and his army of clones were victorious. Darth himself stood at the head of the dead body of his enemy and told his clones to stand aside. "We must honour our enemy," Darth said. "And treat his downfall with the respect that he truly deserves."

When the clones all stepped away, Darth stood silently, regarding his fallen enemy. Then he took off his mask, took a deep breath and said . . .

"Nah, Nah. In your face, Mark. In your face! Nah, Nah! I'm better than yoooou." Then he did a little happy dance and started to bop around singing "Nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah. Heeeeeey, Goooooodbye."

But in the middle of his dance and celebration, a voice could be heard. "My Daddy! What have you done to my Daddy?" It was Mark's son, Alexander. And boy did he look pissed.

To be continued in HNT - Alex Attacks

Want to know what Half-Nekkid Thursday is all about?
Go visit the Daddy of HNT, Osbasso.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Negative Feedback Is A Good Thing Too

I had a great email conversation yesterday with a talented writer and good friend of mine about a recent direction I took on my serial thriller I, Death. You see, I'm on the verge of doing something that I think is pretty freaky and startling (yeah okay, lots of people in the story have already died nasty deaths, been in accidents, been beaten and raped - but within that realm, something pretty nasty is coming).

I'm equating where I am right now in the tale with standing on the highest diving platform in the pool and looking down, knowing I'm going to jump, but also that, once I do there's no going back (I'm afraid of heights, so to me that's a pretty big deal) -- but rather than move on to that next little roller coaster of plot twists, I've been enjoying building a relationship between two characters and actually getting all hung up on a character that I've really been enjoying writing about -- (Peter's supply teacher, Mr. Robinson, whom Peter has started affectionately calling Robbie and whom I've modelled on several different favourite teachers I've had as well as the character John Keating that Robin Williams played in Dead Poets Society)

Anyways, my friend put in very nice terms the fact that she found some recents posts in the story a bit slow and more of an "advertisement" for a few Canadian authors rather than plot-advancing posts. They were right. I was using the teacher character to share some pretty amazing authors within scenes that were originally meant to advance the plot by illustrating how Robbie helps Peter deal with his grief and stress through books. But I potentially went too far, dwelled there too long (likely because it was so much fun for me as the author).

I was delighted that she shared this info with me -- I wanted to hug her for helping me out like that.

This all leads to a very important -- no, dare I say critical -- thing for writers that I've heard passed around and I want to share here. Negative feedback is important. Particularly in a case like this, where the story isn't set in stone and being rolled out in real time.

It's the old adage: If you like my writing, tell a friend who you think would enjoy it or go online and post a reader review (places like or -- share the joy. If you don't like my writing, please tell me what it was you didn't like. An email, annoymous comment, whatever.

I can't speak for all writers, but I benefit tremendously from constructive comments and criticism -- particularly when there's something I can do to fix it, like in the case of the story in progress, I, Death. So, if you've been reading it, and I've done some thing that tick you off, let me have it. I can take it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Drawn Like Moths We Drift Into The Blogosphere

Yesterday I was musing about my struggle to find a write/blog balance. In other words, trying to establish a proper mix of writing for my blog and writing for my writing. Although I talked about how blogging has helped my own writing, I think I failed to recognize an important thing, and perhaps it’s one of the reasons why blogging has become such a phenomenon.

You see, perhaps bloggers have discovered the wonderfully therapeutic joy of writing. Perhaps THAT is what makes blogging so addictive (more addictive than crack, my bloggy buddy Lime says)

Lately, I’ve seen many bloggy buddies either retire from blogging or scale back significantly in order to either achieve a blog/life balance, or perhaps to cut out that addictive behaviour entirely. Robin (creator of the MeMe Monday meme) recently rediscovered the joy and wonder of her family life and has significantly scaled back her blogging. She’s delighted and happy. Lance gave up blogging for lent -- and has reconnected with the non-virtual world in great new ways. His writing has returned to a more personal nature, with less thought of the “audience.” And the talented graphic artist known online as Bsoholic, the one who participated in my Darth Tater Spud Wars HNT series, responsible for cloning the little spud, recently retired from blogging altogether.

I’m sure that other bloggers feel that same struggle, unable to resist the pull. “Drawn like moths we drift into the blogosphere” (anyone recognize the reference to a Rush song in there?)

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve met plenty of great friends through blogging, reconnected with old friends and stayed in touch with people who live really close but whom I rarely get to hang out with. My participation in Half-Nekkid Thursday (HNT) has helped expand the giant network of friends around the world -- what a fun and wonderful group of people.

But I still struggle with it all. I’ve added links to the blogs that I like to visit regularly, but I’m finding it more and more difficult to visit them all on a regular basis. And for example, every Thursday I feel compelled not just to post an HNT photo, but to make the rounds and visit a group of HNTers, usually the same cast of characters whose blogs I enjoy. When I first started I tried to visit every single person on the HNT list but realized it was an almost impossible task (particularly if I wanted to do anything else that day, like, I don't know, work, or sleep or talk to people). I mean, was I merely visiting everyone and commenting on their site just so they’d visit me? Or was I visiting them because I enjoyed what they were up to on their blogs? Sure, I’m missing lots of fun by not visiting more people each Thursday, but I certainly enjoy re-visiting the regular crowd and doing a little catch-up to see what they’ve been up to. And that’s okay.

I’ve tried to curb my old comment-whore ways and become what some bloggers seem to dislike -- a lurker. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. I still check out lots of fun blogs online, still enjoy reading them, I just don’t comment on every single visit. Except perhaps on Thursdays, where I think it’s just good manners to wish other HNTers a Happy Half-Nekkid Thursday when I visit them, I try to limit my comments to when I actually feel like I have something worthwhile to add, and not just comment for the sake of commenting. Yes, I know, having lots of comments is nice, and I love getting lots of comments; but isn’t it nicer when the comments are actually thoughtful and intelligent and not just the equivalent of manually entered spam?

So now here I sit on the GO train, typing up my blog and trying to wrap up these thoughts so I can get on to that other writing I do. I’ve tried to think of a quick and nice “5 ways to find a blog/life balance” list -- but I can’t. Because I don’t think it’s that easy. And I think it’s a personal decision that each person makes.

For me, the blog/life balance is not all that much different than the writing/life balance I’ve been struggling with for as long as I can remember (sometimes I’m out living life, immersed into it and loving it; other times, I’ve stuffed myself into the corner madly typing and dreaming and working on writing projects) As I said yesterday, for me, the struggle isn’t so much a life/blog balance so much as it’s a write/blog balance.

But, shy of actually offering advice, here’s something to ask yourself: Is blogging taking you away from something or someone that is important to you? That’s all. I’m not going to suggest what you should do or how you should respond. There is no right answer. Besides, who am I to dole out that type of advice? There’s just that question. Ask it. And listen to your answer.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Writing Show

The object of the game is to refer to your 101 Things About Me list, pick one of your "things" and tell the whole sordid tale. I don't yet have a full 101 Thing About Me list, but do plan on growing one. So when I play Me-Me Monday" I'll add to my list.

28. One of my favourite quotes is from Hugh Prather in his book Notes To Myself: "If the desire to write is not accompanied by actual writing, then the desire is not to write."

I used to keep that quote from Hugh Prather in my writing space (it was there along with dozens of other snippets of inspirational quotes that I stuck up all over the place, on the window sill, the back of my door, the bedside table). I'd gone sticky-note crazy after reading an article in Writer's Digest magazine. This was back when I was a bachelor and I could have all kinds of messy notes and other garbage on the walls. Among all the quotes, though, I found the one from Hugh Prather the most motivational. And, in an ode to the messy "sticky notes" from my old bachelor days, I've kept this quote in the footer for this blog. From it, I took the following: I can only call myself a writer if I am actually writing.

I've gone through times when work or either life itself was too busy and hectic to write. Ironically enough, it was those times when I think I would have benefited more from writing than from letting it slip. Because it was often the writing that helped me deal with the stress -- it was the writing that gave me an outlet, a funnel, a channel -- it was the writing that took those little silent screams inside my head and jotted them down on paper.

These past nine months or so, work has been absolutely stupidly crazy. But I have been writing steadily. All thanks to this blog.

I started the blog a little over a year ago partly as a means to ensure that I wrote every day. Then it became addictive, and I was writing, but mostly just on this blog.

Then I was able to define a balance. A write/blog balance. (Yes, just like there's a work/life balance people aspire to, I think many of us bloggers struggle with a blog/life balance, too -- I'll talk more about that on tomorrow's post) But with me, the issue has been trying to establish a write/blog balance.

Blogging can be addictive to a writer. And for good reason. Blogging can give writers something they love: readers. But for me, while I take great satisfaction in writing for my blog, it doesn't seem to sit so well if it's not accompanied by actual writing (I hope no bloggers take offense at the way I termed that phrase -- but for a non-pro blogger like me, actual writing would be writing projects, fiction, etc that are destined to be submitted to a publication market and not just this journal-style writing)

Sure, I credit my blog for returning me to steady and regular writing. But I find that writing posts on this blog are more like just opening a vein and letting whatever's inside out -- it's a great warm-up to get in to more serious writing efforts, which are very much like this at the beginning, except with those, I end up going back and re-editing and re-writing them dozens of times before they get released into the world. Blogging is more raw, and often more exciting, because there's no need for that editorial red pen.

In any case, I've enjoyed blogging, and being a part of the blogosphere. I've met a lot of wonderful people through my blog, and enjoy visiting and reading different blogs. So blogs have helped me connect with wonderful people from all over the world, and they've also helped put me find inspiration and like-minded souls.

For example, there are fun writing-related sites such as Melly's All Kinds of Writing, which is a mixture of writing advice, commentary, market tips and sometimes just plain fun. I've also joined The Writer's Blog Alliance (a brain-child of John Evans & Deborah Woehr) which has not only been inspirational and fun, and kept me in contact with other writers, but has led to me selling a couple of stories to a UK anthology called Naked Tales.

It also led to a recent addiction within the blog/podcast world. And that is: The Writing Show: (Where writing is always the story). Paula Berinstein, the host of the show, not only has the perfect voice for podcasting, on par with the best on air voices that CBC Radio employs, but her interviewing style and technique are superb, and she has gathered some great topics and wonderful guests.

I've only started listening to the show since last Thursday, but I've already consumed 4 podcasts, and have downloaded 3 others that I'm eager to get to. Yes, the podcasts are eating into the commuting time that I'd normally be reading Wil Wheaton's Just A Geek (a book Wil sold thanks to his impeccablee writing skills on his blog) -- but I've found them tremendously inspirational, informative, but best of all, entertaining and enjoyable to listen to. I highlyrecommendd this show to writers. I'm sure you'll find at least one or two or three topics which Paula has covered intriguing and informative.

Hmm, seems like I have another addiction I need to deal with, lest, like so many other things, it takes away from my actual writing time . . . now, what was that quote from Hugh Prather again?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Canada Book Day

Today marks Canada Book Day, which was meant to be a celebration of reading and books. It was derived from from World Book & Copyright Day -- I can't recall anyone actually making much of a big deal about it (except perhaps for CBC's Canada Reads) since the mid 1990's. Same way I guess, that Earth Day (April 22nd) comes and passes each year with most people just ignoring it.

Now to celebrate Earth Day I did pick up some trash in my neighbourhood yesterday, and we installed a storm door this weekend (energy conservation and all that), so I've done a bit of my part for the Earth.

Now, I think I should do my part for the books.

I seem to recall that the original intent of Canada Book Day was to buy a book by a Canadian author. But I doubt I'm going to make it to the bookstore today, so I'll do my part by spreading the word instead. I'm going to put up a review of a Canadian anthology I read earlier this year and really enjoyed: OutCrops. And I think I'll have Mr. Robinson, the teacher that my main character Peter O'Mallick thinks is the bee's-knee's in my serial thriller "I, Death" cover the topic of Canada Book Day in his classroom during tomorrow's lesson. On Thursday and Friday he was raving about Canadian author Robert J. Sawyer. I'll see what other author Mr. Robinson can promote in tomorrow's lession. That ought to be fun.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

HNT - Haunted Pictures

I don't know what to do. I received this chain letter about a guy who had a picture taken, then later when he looked at it he saw this spooky-eyed girl standing behind him in the photo, had a heart attack and died.

The chain email said that if I forwarded it to 13 people, I'd have great luck; but if I didn't, I would have bad luck. I didn't forward the email.

Now, when I look at pictures of myself, I see that freaky spooky-eyed girl showing up in them.

Here she is in a photo of me on the Staten Island Ferry

Here she is lurking behind me in a photo taken at a Pittsburgh book signing

Damn, I should have listened to that damn chain letter email. Dear reader, please don't fall into the same trap I did. Click on the "Email Post" logo and save yourself while you still can!!!

For more info on Haunting Half-Nekkid Thursdays click the link below

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Titanic Two The Surface

So I was cruising along Lecram Sinun's blog the other day and found a link to a trailer for TITANIC 2.

At first I thought it was a joke, using tons of clips and footage from different movies, etc. Then, the trailer got so silly, so stupid that it had to be a real Hollywood movie. And it had so many different clips realistic sounding soundtrack effects, that it had to be real. Then I thought, okay, it really is a joke. And was done quite brilliantly. Right down to the hilarious title for the movie. (But like many horrible movies out there, the trailer was so intriguing that I kind of want to see this movie now) The director for this trailer, Derek Johnson, is a genius.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Daddy's Big Boy

It's been a week now since my son has started to fall asleep on his own in the crib.

Sigh. My little baby is growing up into Daddy's big boy. I'm the one priviledged with giving Alexander his nightly bath, getting him ready for bed, then reading him a few stories and holding him while he falls asleep. I think I take as much comfort in that nightly ritual as Alexander does.

Some nights it would take up to an hour and a half for him to settle into a deep enough sleep that I could put him down in his crib without waking him from his sleep. While those longer times waiting for him to drift off were sometimes frustrating, I remember telling myself not to get frustrated, to simply enjoy holding my little baby -- because before I knew it the day would come when I wouldn't have the luxury of holding him and watching him fall asleep in my arms.

Well, it started last Sunday night. While I was holding him he started fidgeting, squirming around, unable to find the right position to fall asleep in. I asked him if he wanted me to put him in his crib to fall asleep like a big boy, and he grinned, pointing both arms and legs in the direction of his crib. So I gave him a big hug (almost as if he were leaving to head for University already), kissed him (and Winnie, his cuddly sleep buddy, of course), said goodnight and sat in the chair beside his crib while he drifted asleep.

He's been doing the same thing for the past seven nights. Before long, he won't need me to sit in the room with himself to settle down in to sleep. He'll likely insist that I leave. I imagine I might sit on the floor just outside his door, listening to him settle himself down and fall asleep.

I'm very proud, and very excited to see my son growing older, becoming more independent. But also sad to turn this page and leave another chapter behind.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Spooky-Eyed Girl

An old friend of mine from my home town (actually, the youngest sister of the girl who ruled my heart through most of my high school years), forwarded this email to me. I haven't heard from her in years, but get the occasional email. I always remember her at about 9 years old, and like most old people, I struggle to think that she's now a woman with kids of her own. But I can't help thinking about this cute fun kid with a penchant for Strawberry Shortcake whenever I hear from her. In any case, she forwarded this to me, and I had to share it.

I was home alone one evening when I opened her email and saw this. And, Mr. big horror writer that I am, it sent a shiver down my spine. Not the story -- it's pretty standard stuff. But the photo creeped me out. I was afraid to look over my shoulder and see the spooky-eyed girl standing there. (Love that feeling)


The young man in this photo went to a place called Sundarbans with his friends and he asked his friends to take this photo on this spot. While his friend took the photo, he screamed and fainted, 2 days later he died in the hospital. The doctors said he died from a heart attack. When the photos where developed, in the last photo there was a woman standing next to the young man, even though his friends said there was no one with him when the photo was taken. Many people know of this rumour and the photo is the result of the blessings of technology.

But still, the photo is very mysterious and I'm sure that when you see it you will feel the same as me. A Naval Officer sent it to 13 people and he was promoted within 13 days. A businessman was sent this and he erased it and within 13 days he lost everything. A labourer received this and sent it to 13 people and within days he was promoted and all his problems were solved. So send this to 13 people and good things will come your way.

So, I thought, since I never forwarded this on to 13 friends, the least I could do it post it here, see if readers of my blog might want to come up with their own 50-100 word tale (or legend) for this story. (Leave it in my comments or slap it on your own blog and let me know so I can link to it) I've got to ensure at least 13 people have seen this, you know.

That way, I've done my part, at least, and that spooky-eyed girl won't come haunting me.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Thrice Tagged By Tish

I was tagged a couple of weeks ago by Tish -- no, I'm not all that good at playing blog-tag. By the time I do my bit and try to catch anyone, all the other kids have gotten bored and gone home and I'm running around the playground by myself. I kind of liked this particular tag because I haven't played "MeMe Monday" in several weeks, which helps me to grow my "101 Things About Me List" (which also hasn't been built upon for weeks)

3 Names U go By: Mark, Markie Mark, Mad Dog Lefebvre

3 Screen Names U Have Had: Mark Leslie, (the next two go back to the 80’s during my BBS phase on my Commodore-64 using a 200 baud modem) Terminator, Rushian

3 Things U Like about Yourself: Sense of humour, Sense of purpose, The wonderful friends I have

3 Things U Don’t Like about Yourself: Quick temper, Current physical shape, Growing bald spot

3 Parts of Your Heritage: French, Polish, Canadian (just think of all the great jokes)

3 Things that Scare U: The dark, the unknown, the monsters under my bed and in my closet

3 of Your Everyday Essentials: Francine, Alexander, Writing

3 Things U are Wearing Right Now: A smile, black spring jacket, my valentine’s day underwear with hearts (I know it’s April)

3 of Your Favorite Bands or Musical Artists: Rush, Barenaked Ladies, The Who

3 of Your Favorite Songs: In The Air Tonight - Phil Collins, Losing It - Rush, Behind Blue Eyes - The Who

3 Things U Want to Try in the Next 12 Months: Finish my werewolf novel, Leave work at a decent hour or maybe even early, Going on more “dates” with my wife

3 Things You Want in a Relationship: Honesty, Intimacy, Laughter

2 Truths and a Lie: I was almost crushed to death at a Tragically Hip Concert, I snacked on leftovers in Dionne Warwick’s dressing room on New Year’s Eve, I lost my virginity to Sass Jordan

3 Things about the Opposite Sex that Appeal to U: Sense of humor, Intelligence, Eyes

3 Things about the Same Sex that Appeal to U: Sense of humor, Intelligence, Eyes

3 Things U Just Cannot Do: Lick my eyebrows, Chew my armpits, Pass someone a locomotive

3 of Your Favorite Hobbies: Asking people to pass me that locomotive, Strangling chickens, Stealing jokes from George Carlin or Monty Python

3 Things U Want to do Really Bad Right Now:Tell work that I won the lottery and they’ll have to do without me on this project that’s eating my life away, Tell my wife that I love her, Tickle my son

3 Careers U are Considering: Hollywood Actor, Psychologist, Police Officer

3 Places You Want to Go on Vacation:My backyard, New York, Europe

3 Kid’s Names:Dickie, Janie, Spotty

3 Things U Want to Do Before U Die: Get on national television again, Have a novel published, Be the kind of father my son knows he can count on or turn to no matter what

3 Ways U are Stereotypically a Boy: I love beer, I love women, I love toys

3 Ways U are Stereotypically a Chick: I enjoy tear-jerker movies, I think Mel Gibson is hot, I look fat in these pants

3 Celeb Crushes: Natalie Portman, Amy Grant, Julie Aigner-Clark (founder of The Baby Einstein Company)

3 People U Would Like to Complete This Quiz: Franny (because I love seeing her bend the rules), Gwen (because I’ve never seen her have to blog one of these, and I want her to call me a dumbass), You (if you’re reading this and have your own fun answers you want to share)

Friday, April 14, 2006

A Pretty Good Friday So Far

Today is a non-work day (Good Friday) but I'm up bright and early. My intent was to do some good old fashioned writing, but I'm ending up doing more writing market research, submission tracking, follow-up and other more administrative items.

It's not glory work, and not as much fun as just hammering the words out, but someone's got to do it.

In the meantime, Happy Easter (or Happy Long Weekend if you don't either observe a religious holiday or believe in the Easter Bunny)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

HNT - Darth's Revenge Part II

Continued from HNT - Darth's Revenge Part I

The attack of the Darth clones was swift and ruthless, completely catching Mark by surprise. He was able to step on a few of the spuds; able, even, to knock a few out of the air and squeeze a few in his hands.

But the never-ending onslaught of Taters was too much. For every spud he was able to defeat, another two stepped into their place. He was seriously outnumbered.

As blow after blow struck his thick, balding head, Mister Bunny's words of wisdom came to him. "Use the forks, Mark. Use the forks."

The Taters forced him off of his feet, and he fell to the floor not far from the forks he'd been practicing with moments before that fateful knock on the door which led to this attack. He desperately reached out, but was still inches away from reaching his weapon of choice.

Will Mark be able to use the forks to get out of his current predicament?

Will the Darth Tater clones be victorious in their revenge?

Will Mark regret eating Darth Tater's father with a light dusting of salt and dipped in ketchup?

Will this silly Darth Tater series ever come to an end?

To be continued . . .

To find out more about Half-Nekkid Thursday go
see the head spud Osbasso by following the link below.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Expanding Width on Blogger

I love blogger, and I love the wonderfully easy to use templates that they provide. But I was a bit tired of the narrow presentation of the body. When I tried to load images it messed up the layout because of tight space restrictions within the "published" area, but that wasted space on either side also bothered me. (I'm frugal by nature and hate wasting anything)

One of the beautiful things about bloggers and the net that continues to astonish me (and make me believe that despite the ongoing reports of murders and violence in the media we'll actually be okay), is people's willingness to share info and tutorials with others.

I found a wonderfully easy to follow tutorial on this subject on Colin Maykish's blog -- and, following his advice, expand this blog as well as "I, Death". Click at the end of this sentence for his full wonderful tutorial on expanding the width of your blogger template. And if you like that, he's got tons more great tutorial style tips and advice.

Thanks, Colin!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Slayed In The Boardroom

It only came to me after seeing an episode of The Apprentice last night, but what happened to me yesterday morning in a meeting while presenting a data architecture strategy to our VP (we'll call him Donald) was a classic "Boardroom Slaying" -- and every single person who worked with me on the plan left me high and dry at the first signs of resistance. Thanks guys.

Last week, 5 of us put our heads together (me being the least technical person in the room, as usual) to come up with three recommended solutions and strategies. When we started to present them, Donald tore into the strategies, cutting them to pieces. I tried to defend the work, as well as one of the developers whose ideas we used, only too late realizing that every single other person in the room kept their mouths shut. It was like one of those Dilbert type meeting room back stabbings. At the time it felt like I was being true to our previous efforts -- but now I realize that I was just that idiot in the Boardroom who wouldn't shut up and continued to infuriate Donald.

Sure, I got torn a new butt-hole, but at least I didn't get fired and have to take a lonely cab ride home.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Load Of Crap

I spent a good part of the weekend working on our income tax. So after two pots of coffee, nine Extra Strength Tylenol, one broken calculator, two handfuls of pulled out hair, sixteen broken pencils, and three changes of underwear, I've completed our income tax paperwork for 2005.

Just kidding, I've been using QuickTax for about 10 years now, and it's by far the easiest way to get my taxes done with the least amount of headaches. (This blog post sponsored in part by Intuit Canada - offering financial solutions to Mark for a decade)

At the end of the day, Francine is going to get a bit of money back and I have to pay a bit of money (apparently, the $400 I made in book sales royalties last year pushed me over the top - I'd hate to see what Dan Brown pays in income tax).

What I can't understand is: if I owe a crapload of money and Fran is getting approximately the same crapload back as a refund, why doesn't Revenue Canada just allow us to merge our end result, call it even and save everyone a bunch of time, hassle and shuffling of cheques?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Gratuitous Self-Promo & Gratuitous Sex

I just published the 40th post on my online serial thriller, "I, Death" which I started on January 18, 2006. It's been a blast rolling out this story in "real time" from the POV of a fictional blogger named Peter O'Mallick.

And I get to experiment a lot, try new things, make references to cool books I've read, etc. For example, in the recent post, Peter (my main character, a teenager who is trying to get over being dumped by his longtime girlfriend and also trying to deal with feelings of guilt as he believes that he is responsible for the tragic deaths of so many of his friends and family) has befriended his new supply teacher (he also feels responsible for the accident which put his regular English teacher in a coma), and is discovering yet another horror author. In this case it's Richard Laymon. You can read an interview I did with Richard, possibly the last interview he gave before he passed away by clicking here.

Another thing about the 40th post is that within it, Peter has another strangely erotic and horrific dream. So far, response to the previous erotic entries within the story have been positive. But I always wonder if I'm just throwing them in for the shock value or to attract new readers. And at what point does this serial thriller become dubbed an erotic horror thriller? For example I added an "adult content" disclaimer in the header for "I, Death" because while I respect freedom of writers to use naughty words and situations, etc I feel we should also let people know in case they find that content offensive.

Speaking of offensive, based on feedback from a writer friend who has added a link to my serial thriller on his sidebar, I created a slightly better vertical image link, which you can see here. (Thanks, Ian) - if you've read my serial story and would like to link to it, feel free to copy and paste the url below, just replace ( with <> and you're good to go. (And let me know, so I can reciprocate with a link back to your site, blog, book, CD, whatever)

(a href="" target="_blank")(img src=""/)(/a)

And at what point after talking again about this serial thriller do I turn off readers of my blog who say. "Oh boy, there Mark goes again, blah blah blahing about his writing stuff -- just tell me something funny, dammit."?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

HNT - Crazy Cook

Since it takes me a while to "create" the special sequences for the "Darth Tater" series, and since I'm up to my eyeballs in work and writing projects right now, I'm going to skip a week in the wildly popular Spud Wars saga. The story will continue next week, I promise . . .

Instead, I pull an HNT out of the archives. One that was taken when I was about 19 or 20, back in the University days and in the same apartment where "Cereal Killer" was taken.

My roommate Steve and I were about to make supper, so I had some raw hamburger patties on a plate. I thought it would be funny to pop in my buggy eyes, put the toilet seat lid cover on my head (yes, my mom sent me to University with a toilet seat lid cover - I was one of those really cool students don't you know) and strike a pose. Steve, as always, humoured me.

Happy Half-Nekkid Thursday to you! To my HNT chums, I might not be able to make the rounds until well into the weekend, so it's not that I don't love ya, just that I'll be late in visiting.

What's with the half-nekkid stuff?

Click below to go see Osbasso to find out more.

Don't worry, you'd never catch Osbasso with a toilet
seat cover on HIS head.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Mystery Guest at the Mystery Hotel

Blogger Shane Nickerson posted a photo that he'd found years ago at a flea market and was curious about unraveling its secrets. Wil Wheaton suggested that writers post short stort stories (under 300 words) inspired by the curious little photo.

You can read about the background or get a link to the other stories in this Meme by clicking here, but in the meantime, I give you:

Mystery Guest
By Mark Leslie

As I hold the photo between sweaty fingers I think back to the favorite tale that my grandfather used to tell about it.

It was a picture of the hotel on the first day. After years of expenditures, half a lifetime of dreaming, the hotel had been acquired, the renovations completed, and all that remained was the commemorative photo of the new manager of the hotel that was to be the business person’s hotel of choice.

Grandfather, the man standing in front of the desk in the photo, had originally been standing behind the desk. The photographer had suggested that he move, so he’d be more visible in the shot.

And as Grandfather never tired of telling the family, he had been the only person standing in the shot. The mystery person behind the desk wasn’t there when the photograph had been taken. He only appeared later in the developed photograph. He therefore, must have been a ghost.

At least that’s how Grandfather told it.

It was a family legend. Over the years I’d eventually subscribed to the theory that the image of the man behind the desk was the result of some sort of double exposure.

Until today.

The hotel hasn’t been in the family Grandfather sold it during World War II. The hotel is still in operation though. And still popular with business folks.

I put the photograph down on the desk, then again glance at the front page of the newspaper that carries my Grandfather’s obituary. And I wonder how it is possible that the man on the cover of today’s newspaper, the recently murdered manager of Grandfather’s old hotel, is the spitting image of that mystery “guest” in Grandfather’s picture from 1920.

I, of course, fully expect my friend Kimberly, who always blows me away with her wonderful "postcard challenge" fiction stories, is going to take a crack at this. Perhaps Franny is going to make me laugh my ass off with the inventive and farcicle Fable she comes up with. How about you?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bound For Hollywood?

Has anyone else noticed the continually growing “stage” presence of Robin with each passing season of The Apprentice? Robin is the beautiful young receptionist who sits outside the “boardroom” -- In the first season, sitting behind the desk, nothing more than a cute head barely visible behind the montrous reception desk, she’d repeatedly say something along the lines of: “Mr Trump will see you now” -- Not only have her lines increased over the past few seasons to such lengthy statements as: “Okay, you can now go into the boardroom” but last night she even got up from behind the desk not once but twice to open the door for candidates heading into the boardroom. Nice to see her role expanding.

You go, girl.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Not The Clothes Worn By Grizzly Adams

While the “Harry Potter” scar in the middle of my son’s forehead (from the stitches he required from the bunny cage incident on Valentine’s Day) is slowly healing but still plainly visible, he’s also sporting a slash on his nose and above his eyebrow, along with a bruise on his cheekbone.

Never mind running with scissors. Nobody ever warns you about the dangers of running with books. This grouping of slashes and bruises are actually from running around the kitchen with his Baby Galileo "book" -- he has managed to fall perfectly onto the edge of the book not once, not twice, but on at least three different occasions. Yes, books have already made big impressions on my boy in more ways than one.

And because the weather has started to warm up lately, we’ve been taking Alexander over to the park in our neighbourhood on a daily basis. He loves running at top speed up the play structure ramp and also enjoys watching the bigger kids playing there.

But he’s a very creative and inventive little boy. Along with the new landscape to play in, he has also discovered a whole new range of ways to injure himself.

I’m wondering if they make a Grizzly Suit for toddlers. But I’m sure they’re expensive to purchase new. So if anyone out there in blogville might have a used one they’re willing to part with, let me know. He’s big for his age, so I’ll need something in at least a 24 months size.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

I Feel The Powerful Visions

I was able to attend Hamilton's LiT LiVe reading this evening at the Acclamation Bar & Grill. Always a great time. I was there to show my support for Lauren Carter (we share similar old stomping grounds - I know Lauren through Your Scrivener Press - we're both contributors to the forthcoming anthology Bluffs), who is an excellent reader and a gifted poet. She read from her book Lichen Bright which is a delightful and powerful collection of poems, many of which include images and emotions that remind me of where I grew up.

I got a kick out of Bert D'Amico's anecdotes supporting his reading from A Touch of Africa, and rather enjoyed the poetry by Ross Leckie as well who read from his poetry collection Gravity's Plumb Line, and also particularly enjoyed the first story song performed by Ian Ferrier, a Montreal poet/musician, although I failed to note the name of the tale that so moved me. Perhaps it's in the book & CD he was promoting, Exploding Head Man.

As I sat there listening to the different authors read their works, particularly the eloquent way in which they introduced each reading, I was glad to be there listening to their works and hope desperately that one day I can write great poetry with such apparent ease and grace.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

But You Can’t Pick The People You Commute With

What is it with people picking their nose on public transit? When driving alone in your own car, sure, I can understand there’s the perception that you’ve got some semblance of privacy. But out in public like that? On display? There ought to be a law.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against nose pickers. A good many of my friends, I’m sure, are nose pickers. You, dear reader, might even be a nose picker.

Okay, all “holier than thou” pretenses aside, now. Show of hands, please. Let he who has never picked his nose cast the first stone. A-hah. I rest my case. We’ve all done it at least once. We’ve all cleaned the halls with a handy digit.

Okay, I’ll stop picking on you, dear reader, and instead use myself as an example. I have fingers and nostrils, and on occasion I have trouble keeping the two apart. They sometimes meet like star-crossed lovers that secretly rendezvous and enact their passion when they think nobody is watching. I do try to stop them, but sometimes under the light of the moon they connect and become one, create the beast with no fingertip. Like Romeo and Juliet I sometimes can swear I hear these whispered words. “Alas, what finger through yonder nostril breaks? It is the pinkie, and is followed by the thumb. ” But I do manage to maintain control over these desperate lovers when I’m out in public.

So here’s what inspired this little rant. Last night coming home from work I’m sitting on the train trying to read my book when the guy in a seat perpendicular and directly in front of me is also reading a book, his mouth slack and a dumbfounded look on his face. That’s fine, lots of people have that stunned look. I won’t hold it against him. The disturbing thing is that he seems to be absently picking his nose while reading. No, not just picking, and definitely not something that might just be a misunderstood scratch. He’s really hauling away, getting his elbows into it and everything. Ugh. Okay, and now he’s biting his nails. Blech! Can it get any worse?

And what the hell is wrong with me? I can’t stop watching, not that I can help it because he’s directly in front of me. I don’t know, maybe deep down I’m afraid if I don’t keep an eye on him he’ll start wiping it on me or something when I’m not looking. I hope that’s not a library book he’s reading and if so, that he’s not from Hamilton. Whew, he got off in Oakville. Nice relief there.

It reminds me that last week, while I was sitting across from this guy who I sometimes see on the 4:30 train, (can’t recall his name, but sometimes he falls asleep and his snoring sounds like Darth Vader as it echoes through the whole train, completely disrupting the antics, jocularity and team-crossword efforts of my 4:30 train buddies) Anyways, Darth and I are chatting about computer systems and in the middle of our conversation he starts going to town on one nostril, drilling and mining and jamming his finger up to high heaven as if I wasn’t even there. He keeps going on with the conversation as if nothing out of the ordinary is taking place, as if I don’t mind the spectacle.

What the hell is up with that?

And am I the only one who finds public nose-picking offensive?

More reason, I think, NOT to lick one’s fingers when reading a newspaper on the train. Who knows if one of the many nose-pickers that ride these trains was sitting in the seat before you.