Thursday, December 25, 2008

HNT - Three Wishes 2008

Every year at Christmas time, Osbasso suggests a theme of giving for HNT. The "three wishes" theme is one in which you're supposed to pick 3 other HNTers (hopefully people you don't already know well), and endow them with gifts -- these are "fantasy" gifts -- the idea is the thought behind it. Over the years this has been a fun exercise for me, because I've tried to pick new people each time and always look for someone new to learn about.

This year, however, I wanted to focus on three HNTers who, in and of themselves, are gifts to ME -- and because of this, I thought I should at least give them something back -- yes, a little something pretend, but a little something nonetheless. So, yes, I'm violating the terms of the theme, but I think I'm still following it in spirit because I think it's important to pause and pay tribute to three of the many bloggy friends I have made thanks to the HNT movement.

Lime, Bookbinder and Lecram are three bloggy friends I made over the years since participating in the weekly HNT. They have become not just bloggy friends, and though I have yet to have had the pleasure to have met any of them in person, they have made that positive difference in my life that friends can have. Each of these three people are creative, funny, insightful, playful, fascinating, intriguing and just good fun. Reading their blogs and exchanging communications with them over the years has enriched me greatly, so I thought the very least I could do is give a little something back to them.

Lime - Lime's blog posts, stories about her personal adventures and musings about the universe are interesting enough; but it was really cool to learn, through various correspondences with her, just how much the two of us have in common. In some ways she was like a long-lost sister. What I'd like to give Lime (and I'm not even sure this is something she would want, but rather something I'd love to see) is to give her her own annual 1 hour television variety show called Christmas at Lime Mountain. On it she'd include family, friends, share stories, amuse and entertain millions. I think it'd be a hit. Okay, actually, it would be a gift for us, not her. But I think she'd still have fun with it.

Bookbinder - Simply put, this friend (whose blog is locked down due to some personal issues I'm not at liberty to discuss -- those of you who recognize his new handle likely know who I mean and why I'm not revealing his name nor linking to his blog - the blog is now invitation only to protect the innocent) was easy to shop for: A case of beer (a good Canadian beer like Moosehead) and a box of classic Playboy magazines with the tasteful, sexy classic Betty Page-style pictures. Bookbinder is an easy man to please and we share such similar tastes of the finer, yet simpler pleasures of life.

Lecram - I'll never forget the first time I stumbled upon Lecram's noir-style HNT story one Thursday. Utter brilliance and a great merging of the weekly HNT ritual with creative storytelling -- I've used similar techniques borrowed from this master in my own HNT posts. I have continually returned to his blog to read more of his creative fun and have also had the distinct pleasure of reading more of his work (he is a phenomenal playwright) and even seeing recordings of performances of plays he has written. His brilliance needs to be shared with more people, and for that reason, I would endow him with the funds to do a world tour of one or more of his plays, like the wonderful "Tale End."

The gift of friendship that these three friends have given to me has meant way more than any of the imagined gifts I could come up with for them. I'm truly appreciative and consider myself blessed.

Happy HNT - Merry Christmas, or whatever translation of the seasonal greeting that bests suits your own viewpoint of the world.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

HNT - Christmas Tree 2008

For this week's HNT post (which, according to the master of HNT, Osbasso), the theme should be "Christmas Tree" with participants posing in front of their trees.

Here's a couple of shots of Alexander and I posing in front of OUR tree. Yes, in our house, the boys get their own tree downstairs in the family room that has the fun, cartoon ornaments on it. Upstairs, Francine has the beautifully decorated and more presentable-to-the-world tree.

Of course, you realize the reason we're sitting on the floor beside our tree near the fireplace, don't you? We're camped out just waiting for Santa's visit, and neither of us can hardly wait . . .

Happy HNT and happy holidays to you!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Make Me Supper . . . Er, I Mean Super

Besides porn, the internet was really invented so we could do silly things like play with applications like Make Me Super. It's goofy and fun. Do yourself, do your friends and family. It'll provide minutes and minutes of silly fun.

Check out Super Mark -- then go ahead and make your OWN.

I'm just amazed that the big head of hair on the character so wonderfully matches the hair I had back in the 90's . . . ah, those fond memories of what it was like to actually have hair . . .

Okay, time for me to go back and make a Super Fran and Super Alexander video.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Espresso Book Machine on Hamilton at Noon

I've had a lot of requests from folks who want to listen to the 10 minute interview I did with Robyn Foley of Hamilton's Talk820 radio program about the Espresso Book Machine which arrived at Titles Bookstore, McMaster University a few weeks ago.

So, while it's nothing fancy, this YouTube video adds a few background/slideshow pictures to the interview and is now more easy for folks to listen to rather than having me email the mp3 around.

The best thing about chatting with Robyn was that it was obvious to me she is a genuine book lover. Those kinds of discussions are always a real pleasure.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Vacation Remixed Trailer

As one might be able to easily tell, I'm a huge fan of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. It's one of those movies I love to watch every holiday season. (Of course, I also love to watch Die Hard and Die Hard 2 as well as Lethal Weapon -- to me, all four movies are great holiday classics)

Speaking of thriller type movies, while looking for a clip of Clark Griswold attacking Santa and his reindeer from Christmas Vacation, I stumbled upon this hilarious re-mix of a movie trailer for Christmas Vacation.

Only, the creative genius behind this re-mix makes it out to be a thriller rather than a comedy.

Nicely done.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Clark Griswold Style Attack

Okay, it's not a scene that will get me a nomination for father of the year, and I'm not proud of it, but Francine and I couldn't help busting a gut when at dinner time I described how the spiral white light Christmas tree ended up in many broken pieces yesterday afternoon. Last night when watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation for the thousandth time, Francine couldn't help pointing out how similar my reaction to a Christmas display gone bad is to Clark Griswold's.

Alexander and I were working in the front yard, diligently setting up a snowman, Christmas tree and attempting to add the spiral tree to the mix.

But I kept running into issue after issue trying to get the spiral tree set up. It wasn't fitting together properly, wasn't standing the way it should, and for the life of me, I couldn't get the top of the tree and star properly in place.

After about 40 minutes of repeatedly fiddling with it, my frozen, numb fingers ended up pushing too hard trying to get the star lodged into to the top section of the tree and snapped the top section into two pieces.

Completely at the end of my rope, I kicked the remaining part of the tree over then proceeded to repeatedly hammer blows down onto the tree, letting out a barbarian-like battle cry.

After releasing a bit of pent-up frustration, I looked over at my poor dear four year old who was standing in the garage looking at the scene and crying uncontrollably. "My tree!" he sobbed. "My spiral Christmas tree!"

Bad enough that the tree broke -- but poor Alexander had to watch Daddio pitch a Clark Griswold style fit on the broken tree.

Despite my antics, this story DOES have a happy ending.

Alexander's tears were quickly dried, his heart was consoled and the broken pieces of the spiral Christmas tree were laid to rest in the garbage can. Another one of my "not so fine" moments of fatherhood was over.

This morning, I made a quick trip to Canadian Tire where I purchased not one but three miniature spiral Christmas trees for my son. I surprised him by setting them up in the kitchen while he was playing downstairs. He was completely delighted.

I figured it was the least I could do after subjecting him to the horrific scene he had to endure the day before.

Only ten more days until Christmas Eve -- let's see how many more Clark Griswold style goofs I can pull off . . .

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Books Make Great Gifts

Books make great gifts. And I'm not just saying that because I'm an author and a bookseller. It's something I actually believe.

That's why I love this new website and video promoting the idea of giving books as gifts.

Check out the video, then visit to find your closest local bookstore anywhere in Canada -- you only have about a dozen days left to open up a world for someone within the pages of a book.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cool Contest To Win Horror

Cutting Block Press and Dark Recesses Press have recently announced a contest where folks can win some cool prizes just by posting a comment at the following site.

How to Play: All you have to do is post a comment HERE (not Mark Leslie's blog, but the Horror Library Blog-o-rama site) and you'll automatically be entered into the contest.

For an extra entry: Just post a link to this contest on your blog and leave a comment here with the link to your blog. Here's the main contest link:

Yup, it's that easy. But what do you win?

First Prize

One Copy of Horror Library Vol. 3
One Copy of Dark Recesses Press #10
$10 Gift Certificate to the Horror Mall

Second Prize
One Copy of Horror Library Vol. 3
One Copy Dark Recesses Press #10

Third Prize

One Copy of Horror Library Vol. 2

Fourth Prize

One Copy of Horror Library Vol. 1

Deadline for the contest: December 14th at Midnight, Eastern US Time

Winners will be announced the following weekend.

So check out the contest and enter for your chance to win. And while you're at the Horror Library Blog-o-rama page, check out some of the other posts there. Always great reading and content.

HNT - Hot Wing Sweat

You can tell I'm running out of time to pose and snap for the weekly HNT when I go digging back several months. But I did take a series of shots back in the summer that I had planned on using for an HNT post, but never ended up doing so . . .

. . . so thank goodness for such photos that I can dust off and post when time is tight.

To begin this series, there was a time when I was eager to try out the signature wings at 5 Alarm Wings (as evidenced in this post called "No wings for you" from back in July) -- but not too long after that, I brought home a killer order of these wings and have enjoyed not only the killer painful but also the multitude of phenomenal flavours offered by Five Alarm Wings.

After biting into the fourth or fifth wing (extremely painful and fun at that point), I broke into a terrible sweat. That, along with a running nose, watery eyes and hiccups, are often the sign of a good terribly hot and flavourful killer wing.

So I tried to snap a few shots of the sweat running down my face -- not all that successful on my Palm Treo because of the lower resolution image -- but in some of them you can see the trickle of sweat running down the side of my face.

What you can't see in the shots is evidence of the extreme burning pain on my lips and tongue.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Silly Christmas Lyric Meme: Silent Night

A couple of years ago I started a silly Christmas lyric meme where I take a song that we hear countless times during the Christmas season and point out a part of it that makes we wonder, confuses me or is worth exploring if merely for the humour of it . . . (feel free to play along and share your own silly thoughts about Christmas lyrics on your own blog)

The Rules: Pick a Christmas lyric that you've always had a question about and discuss it. Then either tag one or more people or either tag nobody and invite your readers to tag themselves and enjoy discussing the subject on their own.

Feel free to use the "Cousin Eddie" image by copying the following code and replacing the '(' and ')' with '<' and '>' :

(a href="")(img src="" alt="Mark Leslie's Silly Christmas Lyric meme" /)

The Song: Silent Night (originally written in German as Stille Nacht by the Austrian priest Father Josef Mohr and composed by Franz Xaver Gruber. In 1863, John Freeman Young translated it into the English version sung today)

Lyrics In Question: "Holy infant so tender and mild."

The Comment: First of all, I find this song, overall, to be a peaceful song inspiring reflection. The melody is soothing and sometimes when performed it gives me an overall sense of calm and belief that all is right with the world.

And then there's the fact of what this simple line stirs up, thanks to Francine mentioning it the other night. I understand what "tender and mild" is supposed to convey. But it can come across as if one is trying to describe a pot roast.

Q: "How do you find the pot roast?"

A: "It's absolutely delicious. It's so tender."

Q: "You don't find the seasoning too overpowering?"

A: "Not at all. It's quite mild. This roast is so perfectly tender and mild."

Q: "So you find the meal quite satisfying?"

A: "Definitely. After such a fine meal I'm going to sleep in heavenly peace."

Q: "Sleep in heavenly peace?"

A: "Exactly."

I know, I know, I've likely offended a whole group of people, particularly people from my own faith. But ever since Fran mentioned the "tender and mild" thing, I can't help thinking about how while it does describe an infant slumbering so wonderfully, it also stirs up culinary references. And it leads perfectly to a Catholic ritual which kind of ties in and which I have actually used in a horror story I wrote called "From Out of the Night" which was originally published in 1997 then reprinted in my collection One Hand Screaming in 2004.

The Blessed Sacrament (or Holy Communion) commemorates the final meal that Jesus shared with his disciples before being crucified. He gave them bread and wine and said to it was his body and blood and they should eat it in remembrance of him. I understand the sacrament, but, stepping back and looking at it perhaps from an "outsider's" view, it seems an awful lot like a type of cannibalism of our savior. That's the element I refer to in "From Out of the Night" - a horror story in which I have a paranoid protagonist believing that the Catholics next door are cannibals who consume their savior as part of their ritual. I was tempted to title this post: "Cannibalistic Christmas" but might just save that for another dark humour horror story.

If you're curious to read my previous Christmas Lyric memes (likely the less offensive ones because in them I don't toy around with anyone's faith), here are links to the original 2006 (The Christmas Song) and the 2007 (Silver Bells) posts.

And, of course, please feel free to play along yourself and let me know you've done so by leaving a comment here.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Find A Bookstore

I'm not just saying this because I'm on the board of directors of Canadian Booksellers Association, but I really love the new look and feel for CBA's website as well as the functionality.

In time for an ad in the Globe & Mail this weekend, was launched and allows a person to find a CBA member bookstore anywhere they live in Canada as well as identify the type of store that CBA member is (ie, trade, speciality, campus, used and antequarian, chain or other)

What an awesome opportunity for book lovers to find local bookstores easily. For example, you go to the site, type in the city you're in and voila a nice map pops up showing basic location and type of the store as well as a detailed list of address, contact info and website if applicable.

The ad reads:

Visit your local bookseller . . . reconnect with your community and discover this season's many new books. For the price of a movie, a book opens the door to another world of timeless comfort, entertainment and pleasure; for the gift giver, a book holds long-lasting value.

This ad is a wonderful statement which nicely echoes CBA President Nancy Frater's recent comment that clearly, the time to buy books is right now. "In challenging economic times, books are always the best bang for your buck," Nancy said. "For the price of a movie, a book opens the door to another world of timeless comfort, entertainment and pleasure."

Excuse me -- I must now leave this blog post and go slip into the warm, comfortable world of the nearest book . . . or to re-work the words of Jimi Hendrix: "'Scuse me while I kiss the page"

Thursday, December 04, 2008

HNT - Enter Niles Crane

I was staying at a hotel in Toronto for a few days earlier this week at the latest CRAM (Canadian Roundtable on Academic Materials) A couple of days prior to that, I'd been listening to the John Tesh radio program (my wife is a gigantic fan of his "Intelligence for your Life" radio show.

On the show this past weekend, John talked about a study done by researchers from the University of Virginia Health System in hotel rooms related to the rhinovirus (no, this isn't something Spider-Man picks up from one of the evil supervillains he fights -- it's the most common type of virus that causes the common cold) and how easily it can be contracted even 24 hours later simply by touching something touched by a previous occupant.

The four most common objects in a hotel room a person is most likely to get infected from are: the TV remote, the telephone, light switches and the faucet.

Wanting to do everything I can NOT to pick up a common cold this holiday season, I made sure I traveled with disinfecting wipes and one of the first things I did was completely wipe down any of the main surfaces I would regularly be touching in my hotel room. Starting with the door handles on my way in all the way to all the light switches, I did a thorough job of cleaning each surface.

Of course, I felt quite a bit like Niles Crane from the Fraser television program as I rushed about the room wiping down so many different surfaces. But hey, better to be laughed at for those mysophobic tendencies than to pick up another cold during this busy season.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

HNT - Almost A Rerun Post

Lately, I've been busier than a one-legged man in a professional ass-kicking contest. Though in this case, the goal must be trying to kick my own ass, because it feels more like I'm spinning in circles than actually hitting any targets.

For that reason I was going to post a "rerun" HNT that was one of my favourite "Half Nekkid Thursday" posts of all time -- but when I went searching for it, I found some out-take shots from several weeks back and thought it might be more fun to post that.

I also wanted to take a quick moment to wish all my American friends a Happy Thanksgiving. For us Canucks the memories of our own Thanksgiving celebrations are a distant memory -- but I always like the way the U.S. celebration of the same holiday does such a good job of ringing in the holiday season and makes me want to watch Planes, Trains & Automobiles, then Christmas Vacation back to back. (Yes, both John Hughes movies)

Okay, gotta go - got my own ass to kick, after all . . .

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Shelf-Awareness Quotation Of The Day

I thought it was neat that I made the "quotation of the day" in the daily e-mail newsletter from Shelf Awareness on Thursday Nov 13 (Issue 802). As you can tell I'm a little behind in email and RSS reads, since I only noticed it now.

Here is the quote which appears in the Nov 13th issue.

'The Most Exciting Thing in the World . . . Just a Book'

"It is a book, which to me is the most exciting thing in the world. But that's really all it is. It's just a book. It's the way that we got it to you that's a lot more efficient."--Mark Lefebvre, book operations manager at Hamilton University's McMaster's bookstore, Hamilton, Ont., talking about the store's Espresso Book Machine, as quoted by the Hamilton Spectator.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

HNT - Let There Be Books

A good part of my days these past few weeks have been about the Espresso Book Machine and the wonder of being able to produce perfect bound books right on the spot from a couple of pdf files. A seemingly endless stream of people have been coming through Titles Bookstore at McMaster University to check out the wonder of the invention from On Demand Books.

The absolute best part about it is that I have been spending a lot of time showing the machine to people who are EXCITED ABOUT BOOKS. Now that just warms my heart.

Not surprisingly, this week's HNT photo is one of my hand flipping through a book produced on the Espresso Book Machine (or, the EBM at our store which we have dubbed McMaster Innovation Press) . . .

And ODB said "Let there be books
printed right on location
in front of the eyes of book lovers."
And there were books,
And they were good.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How Do I Explain This To A Four Year Old?

Ever since we took down the Halloween decorations, my son has been repeatedly asking me to get out the Christmas decorations. He is so excited and involved in all of the holiday decorating activities. It's a sheer pleasure to be a part of that enthusiasm and excitement.

Though scheduling hasn't allowed for it, this past weekend, I partially obliged his repeated requests -- we went to Canadian Tire and purchased 4 light-up candy canes to add to the 6 we bought last year.

While we haven't yet ventured onto the roof nor gotten out the light-up train, tree, snowman and deer that go in the front yard, at least we put up a nice row of candy-canes that bordered the garden in front of our house. It was a good start.

Alexander was delighted.

But when I woke up this morning and went to the front door to turn off the light (which we now leave on all night in the hopes that it deters the petty vandalism and theft that is occurring more and more frequently in our neighbourhood), I noticed that the candy cane lights were gone.

Stolen. Again. All ten of them as well as the extension cord.

Like so many other things from our front yard.

How do I explain this a four year old who has had to endure more than his fair share of thefts of property and fun decorations from the front of our yard in the past year?

How could I possibly explain it in terms he would understand?

And how can I set a good example for my son by not being utterly outraged and describing these "bad people" in terms that I really want to use but which aren't fit for a four year old's ears or ranting about how I would love to have just two minutes with the shit-heads who did this.

I'm fed up. I'm at the point where I want to install a 10 foot electrified barbed wire fence around my home. I'm sick of this bullshit.

Upstairs my son is still sleeping peacefully. Blissfully unaware that some low-life scum-sucking assholes have stolen something very simple but that gave him endless pleasure.

I'm almost tempted to run to Canadian Tire right now, buy ten lights, another extension cord and set them up before he wakes.

But I'm emotionally drained.

Sorry, my dear son.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

HNT - Speed Reading

We haven't even put it into full operation yet (we're still learning how to use it, testing out different paper stocks and getting comfortable with the operation of the machine), but the word is starting to spread that the Espresso Book Machine has arrived at McMaster.

Yesterday, Wade Hemsworth (McMaster Alumnus) was at our store checking out the newly arrived EBM from On Demand Books of New York (which we have dubbed: "McMaster Innovation Press" and chatting with Donna Shapiro (my boss and store director) and I about it. Donna and I have been working really hard for the past half year at trying to get the EBM at our store and we're quite thrilled now that it has arrived and we'll soon be able to offer Titles on Demand.

Wade's article appears in today's Hamilton Spectator which I have yet to see in print. But there is an article online.

Here's the photo that ran along with the article.

Photo copyright 2008 Hamilton Spectator

Fitting for this week's Half-Nekkid Thursday shot.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lest We Forget - A Pittance Of Time

I blogged about this last year, but some things definitely bear repeating - particularly when they capture your heart and make you pause to remember something so significant.

In 1999 Nova Scotia singer/song-writer Terry Kelly was in a drug store in Dartmouth on November 11th. At 10:55 AM an announcement came over the store's PA asking customers who would still be on the premises at 11:00 AM to give two minutes of silence in respect to the veterans who have sacrificed so much for us.

Terry was impressed with the store’s leadership role in adopting the Legion’s “two minutes of silence” initiative. He felt that the store’s contribution of educating the public to the importance of remembering was commendable.

When eleven o’clock arrived on that day, an announcement was again made asking for the “two minutes of silence” to commence. All customers, with the exception of a man who was accompanied by his young child, showed their respect.

Terry’s anger towards the father for trying to engage the store’s clerk in conversation and for setting a bad example for his child was channeled into a beautiful piece of work called, A Pittance of Time. Terry later recorded “A Pittance of Time and included it on his full-length music CD, “The Power of the Dream”.

The video production “Two Minutes of Silence - A Pittance of Time” combines music and theatre in an emotional production that looks at the folly of war. The inspirational songs and dramatic monologues evoke memories both tinged with sadness and joy that ultimately underscore the need for hope and faith in the goodness of humankind.

I'll certainly be taking two minutes to remember and reflect -- and not just the fallen heroes from WWI and WWII, but all of the fallen soldiers and peacekeepers from all of the wars (many of them still going on right now), who are putting their lives at risk so selflessly for a greater cause.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

HNT - RIP Michael Crichton

Not much to say on this Half-Nekkid Thursday except how sad I am to learn of the passing of the brilliant Michael Crichton earlier this week.

I always enjoyed the very cinematic style of his writing and particularly appreciated the way his science fiction was written in a way that broke through the genre to attract readers of more mainstream fiction. His writing style was of that very unique "un-put-downable" nature.

There are so many things to say about Crichton, particularly given his diverse output and experiences over the decades. But one of the things I find quite intriguing is that in December 1994, he achieved the unique distinction of having the #1 movie (Jurassic Park), the #1 TV show (ER), and the #1 book (Disclosure, atop the paperback list)

Michael Crichton 1942 to 2008

Official Michael Crichton website

Monday, November 03, 2008

First You've Got To Last

You can do a lot in a lifetime
If you don't burn out too fast

You can make the most of the distance

But first you need endurance

First you've got to last

- Rush, "Marathon" - Power Windows, 1985

Yesterday, Francine completed her first half marathon in the annual Road 2 Hope marathon. Last year, she ran 10 K in the same race, but set her mind to it that she would complete the half marathon -- lo and behold, she trained religiously every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday -- and then, one year later, she did it.

As her husband and best friend, I'm proud of her.

And as a writer, I'm impressed and inspired.

I've been a sprinter-writer for a long time. I started writing at least somewhat seriously back in the early 1990's. I'm going on two decades now as a writer. And for the most part, I have a minimally successful history of getting short fiction published (I've had over thirty pieces of short work published); some of those stories and poems were reprinted in a collected back in 2004; a couple of plays that I have written haven't yet been published but have been performed by 3 different elementary schools in the Hamilton and Ottawa area; I edited both a small press magazine and a small press science fiction anthology; I ghost-wrote and edited a non-fiction book of biographical sketches on Canadian Prime Ministers, Fathers of Confederation and Governors General; and I did roll-out a novella length story in "real-time" via a blog back in 2006.

But I have only completed the writing of a single novel (which hasn't yet been published), have two other novels that have been on and off the back-burner for a couple of years now, and haven't yet had a novel published.

I would equate Francine's original success in completely a 5 K run the equivalent of completing and publishing a short work (article, fiction or poetry) Sure, it represents sticking to it and working at it -- but doesn't quite represent the more sophisticated determination required to complete a half marathon.

Interestingly enough, two years ago, I took a 10,000 word short story that I had written and decided to answer a friend's question about "what happens next" and turn that into a novel. Under the project/working title name A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK, I started working on this novel in November 2006 as part of a reality series on The Writing Show podcast called "Getting Published with Mark Leslie" -- two years later, it's November again, and while my original goal had been to complete the first draft in November 2006, I still haven't finished it -- reserving myself to slowly chipping away at it bit by bit.

While the ongoing series of interviews with Writing Show host Paula B and interaction with Writing Show guest host Mick Halpin and regular participant Mark Herbst has been a lot of fun, I've really been neglecting this longer project and failing in my goal to complete the novel.

But Francine has inspired me. She was determined to run a half marathon (21 Kilometers) and set a goal of doing it in under two and a half hours. Her time yesterday was 2 hours, 17 minutes and 24 seconds. She not only met her goal but she did it with plenty of time to spare.

Given all the crazy busy things going on at work that have me doing work-related things at home in the early morning and late evening hours at home, I'm not sure where and how I'm going to be able to focus time and energy on my personal writing projects -- but Francine has proven that if you set your mind to something, it can be done.

I have continued to throw excuses out such as work is getting too busy or I've been focusing on my short fiction (both writing and submitting pieces to market) -- but at the end of the day they are just excuses. Francine not only trained for the half marathon and ran it, but she also completed several shorter 5, 10 and 15 K runs in the same year. Drawing the same parallel there's no reason I can't work on short projects while continuing to plug away at the novel and not use working on one as an excuse that the other isn't getting done. Fran never said: "I'm focusing on the half marathon so I don't want to do this or that 5 K race." Nope - she set her mind to it and ensured she could do both.

So I'm going to follow her lead and try to establish a proper "training" schedule. Block certain times away that will be dedicated just to certain types of writing -- and despite the weather that day or how I feel, I should do my best to follow her lead and just do it, in the same manner I watched her do throughout the year.

At the end of the day (and I know Francine will both roll her eyes and yet completely understand the depth inherent in these words), my wife is more inspiring to me than Rush lyrics. (No insult, intended to Neil Peart -- just a huge kudos to Francine)

It's a test of ultimate will
The heartbreak climb uphill
Got to pick up the pace
If you want to stay in the race
More than blind ambition
More than simple greed
More than a finish line
Must feed this burning need
In the long run...
- Rush, "Marathon" - Power Windows, 1985

Thursday, October 30, 2008

HNT - Mark-O'-Lantern

The other night, Francine, Alexander and I had some fun carving a couple of different pumpkins.

Of course, I'm still not sure at what point in the creation the pumpkin goes from being a pumpkin to a Jack-0'-lantern. Is it the moment you first break the "skin" of the pumpkin? The moment you gut it? The moment you make your first complete "hole" in the face of it?

As we were looking through a bunch of different patterns, Alexander insisted we carve the "grim reaper" onto ours. Aren't four year olds supposed to want things like Winnie The Pooh, Bob The Builder or some other cartoonish-type character? I have nobody to blame but myself, I suppose.

Francine went for a creepy looking more traditional look to hers. It was a fun evening.

I always love how the jack-o-lantern looks before you add a candle and turn out the lights. Ho hum, nothing more than a large vegetable all carved up -- but add the candle and turn out the lights and voila it becomes a masterpiece.

Ah, the magic you can produce with simple lighting effects -- it has me fondly remembering those days back in university when I worked as a theatre lightning technician and did various lighting designs for plays.

Happy HNT and Happy Halloween!!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sweet Deal!

WestJet recently announced that it will offer free flights on Halloween for guests with the last names Candy, Orange, Web or Webb, and Sweet.

Guests with those particular surnames will pay applicable taxes and fees only for flights booked before midnight October 30th, 2008, Mountain Time for travel anywhere in Canada on October 31st, 2008. (Return flights will be regular price)

Cool idea.

I'm just curious how they landed on those particular names. And I'm also curious if people with the last name of Pumpkin, Jack or Treat are really ticked that they weren't included.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Long Live The Short Story

Here's a fun and interesting concept that takes full advantage of POD technology.

Let the reader choose from a list of available stories, build their very own custom anthology, click a few buttons and voila, a collection of great tales custom build by the reader.

I love reading short stories -- unfortunately, it's very rare that a magazine or anthology I pick up contains more than a handful of stories I love. It's more common that in any given collection of a dozen or more stories, there are 4 or 5 stories that really stand out and which I love, and the rest seem to not do much at all for me. It's always been that way.

(Okay, AnthologyBuilder, here's your cue)

Enter: AnthologyBuilder. An online archive of available short stories -- reprints from well established magazines such as Asimov's, Analog, Realms of Fantasy and others. To create your very own custom anthology, all a reader needs to do is

1) choose a custom title and cover design (there are a list of available templates)
2) select between 50 and 350 pages of fiction
3) purchase the final product (a 6X 9 trade paperback) for $14.95 - it will be printed and shipped to you within about 1 to 4 weeks.

Pretty nifty.

Nancy Fulda, creator of AnthologyBuilder, explains on her blog that there's been a lot of talk about the short story dying and that it needs to be saved as a literary form. But rather than debate the idea, she says if it is in danger, she'd rather look at what might be done to save or re-define the way it is accessed or read.

Nancy talks about "unpackaging it" from the original format. IE, you no longer need to get 10 stories you don't like along with the 4 or 5 that you love. Why not select the stories YOU want to read together to get optiumum pleasure based on YOUR reading interests rather than the interests of an editor you likely don't share exact interests with?

I love the idea. It's perfect for the "it's all about me" generation that now exists -- the "I want it now and I want it delivered MY way" attitude that persists in our society.

I have started submitting some of my previously published stories to AnthologyBuilder, and I'm quite satisfied with what it offers readers.

My story "Browsers" which originally appeared in Challenging Destiny #5 back in 1999, was reprinted in my story collection ONE HAND SCREAMING in 2004 and also reprinted in the beautiful deluxe smythe sewn black imitation letter limited edition of BOUND FOR EVIL: CURIOUS TALES OF BOOKS GONE BAD earlier this year.

"Browsers" is now also available at My profile is listed here.

I love giving readers the option to access my fiction in many difference ways.

I'm looking forward to getting more of my reprints onto AnthologyBuilder.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

HNT - The Rise And Fall Of The House Of Zander

The other day, Francine picked up a Halloween gingerbread house that Alexander had been wanting us to buy for several weeks now. And on Monday evening when I got home from work, Alexander had been waiting patiently for us to get started on building it.

So, just before supper, we laid out the "foundation" for the house, putting the walls in place and ensuring the icing/glue was dry before proceeding with the rest of the construction.

And, by the time bath time rolled around, the house was completed.

Not a bad job if I do say so myself.

Unfortunately, the house slowing began to crumble while Alexander was upstairs having his bath. Francine called out to me to come down and try to help her put it back together when the roof pieces started sliding (likely from the weight of the black icing covering the roof) - we managed to get it together twice, but then the pumpkins and other candies on the peak collapsed inside, and the house continued to break down.

It reminded me of The Fall of the House of Usher.

I knew Alexander would be absolutely devastated.

So what I did was mention to Alexander that it's not much fun to just look at such a yummy sounding house -- I asked him if he wanted to try eating it (of course, while building the house, Francine had to work hard to keep both Alexander and I from munching on the candy and gingerbread). He was delighted with the prospect, so when we came downstairs, the house was standing with the roof pieces off, and I invited Alexander to take a huge bite from the gingerbread wall.

We each took our turns taking bites and then the fall of the house of Zander wasn't a tragedy but instead a celebration.

Whew. Crisis averted. :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Best Laid Plans

Yeah, I know, it's an awesome book, but this post isn't about the novel The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis (which, if you haven't read yet, you should go out and do)

This post is, instead, about my own best laid plans for this morning.

I'm at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in the Alberta mountains for a two day business meeting with other retail campus colleagues. Always very productive, inspiring and beneficial meetings.

After a four hour flight then a two and a half hour drive through complete darkness to get here last night, I set my alarm for 5:30 AM so I could get up, deal with some work-related emails and then pop down to the exercise room and work-out.

Of course, when I got to the fitness room (all dressed up nice in the workout clothes I packed and with an mp3 player in hand with a cool audio book from ready to listen to while working out) I discovered it didn't open until 6:30.

I'd planned on working out from 6:00 AM until 6:30 AM -- then heading back to my room, showering and getting dressed for the 7:00 AM breakfast. We roll right from the 7 AM breakfast and into an 8 AM business meeting in a jam-packed day that will end some time after 6 PM this evening.

"No worries," I thought. I had packed winter running clothes figuring I should be able to go run outside if the indoor facilities weren't that good. (And when I say "I packed" what I really mean is that Francine packed -- I'm just an idiot with concepts and ideas -- Francine is the real "doer" in our household; if it weren't for her, I would have arrived here perhaps with the clothes on my back, a laptop and a chocolate bar and maybe a pack of gum. But because of her, I have matching clothes to wear at my meetings -- perfectly labeled so I don't combine the wrong shirt and pants together, along with a set of indoor and outdoor workout clothes -- gotta love her!)

The only problem is that it's still pitch black outside and I have no real idea of the surroundings. Since we got here in the thick dark blackness of night and it's still completely dark out there (my window faces directly onto the mountain and either we had 100 feet of snow while I was sleeping which is now covering my window, or it's still really really dark out there) -- so while there are likely a ton of great jogging and hiking trails here, I'm not quite ready to go get lost in the rocky mountains in the dark with nobody knowing where I farted off to, only to get captured by some forest creature like Bigfoot. (Yes, it's true, I'm not afraid of bears, wolves or other predatory creatures, but rather mythical ones like Bigfoot)

So I came back to my room, figured I'd blog for a few minutes, then shower and get ready for my day.

Perhaps I'll have time to workout this evening after all the work is done.

Of course, I had some writing work I'd been planning on getting to since I'm securely locked in a hotel room with very few distractions . . .

We'll see how that goes. As we all know, my "best laid plans" don't always roll out the way I intend.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Da Count - Freedom To Vote

Voter turnout at this week's recent federal election in Canada was at an all time record-low at 59.1%.

Yes, I know the entire election was unnecessary and a huge waste of taxpayer money, that there were "slim pickins" to choose from and given the fact that the Bloc Quebecois party hogs so many "useless" votes that it's virtually impossible for an actual federal party interested in Canada as a whole (rather than a single province) to obtain a majority government -- but none of that really matters when, at the end of the day, Canadians have a phenomenal freedom in that their vote and their voice matters.

So, rather than ragging on and on about the idiots in our society who likely love to complain yet fail to take even a moment out of their self-important schedules to exercise their demographic right, I want to focus on the positive -- that we live in a free society and have the civic right and privilege to VOTE. Not only that, but we get to choose from 4 different political parties. (Yeah, I know 5 - but as I stated one of them is really only interested in a single province, so many of us across Canada can only choose from 4 major parties, not 5) But still -- we get to choose.

And with counting that privilege, I only hope that my American friends to the south aren't so lethargic as 40% of my fellow Canadians were and get out and vote in the US federal election in November in record numbers.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

HNT - Writer / Bookseller Exposed

On October 15th, Episode 9 of "Getting Published with Mark Leslie" was posted on The Writing Show podcast.

This series of "reality episode" podcasts first started in October of 2006 and was introduced by Writing Show host Paula B with the following words:

Ever wondered what goes on inside the mind of a horror writer? Now's your chance to find out. We'll be following Mark's struggles as he attempts to complete and find an agent for his unpublished novel 'A Canadian Werewolf in New York'.

The work in progress, A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK was originally a 10,000 word short story that my friend Sean Costello convinced me would be worth developing into a novel length work. When I first started on the novel and this series, I'd been planning on spending the month of November 2006 to finish the first draft of the novel.

However, as reality set in and multiple different distractions took me away from being able to focus solely on this novel, this podcast series became as much about the side-trips I've taken as a writer as it has been about finishing ACWWINY.

Episode 9 not only explores the side-activities I have taken as a writer (such as working on other writing projects, both short fiction pieces and non-fiction articles -- both of which I've had some success in finding homes for), but also explores the overwhelming distractions I face from my day job.

In this episode, Paula and I cover the following topics:

  • Revisiting the character Brickie (introduced by Mick Halpin) through a submission about the "Brickie virus" by writer Mark Herbst
  • How I'm still plugging away (very slowly) on ACWWINY
  • A few other short story and non-fiction writing projects I've been working on
  • The unique challenge for a writer of loving your day job so much that it takes more time away from your writing (I'm blessed to have a very satisfying career as a bookseller -- on the flip side, that steals even more time away that could be spent writing)
  • What I believe it takes to be a good bookseller (my completely biased viewpoint) as well as a "Coles Notes" summary of my career in bookselling
  • A detailed discussion about POD (Print on Demand) technology and the Espresso Book Machine from On Demand Books, including how I believe it will change the world of bookselling and what my plans when the Espresso Book Machine arrives in my store at the end of October

This interview is an interesting cross-over between my daytime work as a bookseller as well as my "night time" work as a writer.

Of course, while I try to keep my personal life and my work life somewhat separate, there's no separating the way that passions can collide. But I never expected, when I started in on this series, that I would be talking so much about my work as a bookseller. I find it interesting how this interview segues from writing into bookselling -- but at the end of it all, it's really just a huge "exposure" of two of the largest parts of who I am, and that is why it's the subject of this week's Half Nekkid Thursday post and why I'm posting several of the "episode" pics from this series on The Writing Show this week.

You can download and listen to "Getting Published with Mark Leslie" episode 9 here.

Though that was a wallet in my front pocket I was still quite happy to be at the New York Public Library

Me posing with Yorick (the skull I bring to most of my book signings) at a Chapters in Toronto

I was a teenage chain store zombie.
(No offense to chain store booksellers intended, as I did spend 14
of my 16 years as a bookseller working for Canada's largest chain retailer)

Hamming for the camera with Paul Wilde at the University of Alberta Bookstore
in front of their Espresso Book Machine

Friday, October 10, 2008

Da Count - The Smile On His Face

Last night, Alexander and I went to see Thomas the Tank and Friends Live at Copps Coliseum.

It was a fun show with music, dancing, and of course, Thomas, Percy and Diesel. Two acts, lots of participation required from the kids and, of course, popcorn for Alexander and me.

I must admit that I spent half the show just watching the huge grin on Alexander's face as he watched the action on stage. That was worth ten times the price of admission and the $15 Thomas flash light that they dinged me for at the souvenir table. I'd pay anything to see that beautiful smile.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

HNT - Halloween Is An 11 Month Build-up

Earlier this year (July to try to be exact), we spent a fun afternoon at Science North in Sudbury.

It was a fun day, lots of learning and lots of hands-on activities.

Of course, Alexander and I couldn't resist posing with a skeleton. Sure, we were loving the July weather and having a great summer, but we saw the skeleton as a sign that Halloween was just a few months away.

Francine had to try to talk us out of putting up our Halloween decorations the moment we got home. (Of course, she loves the decorations just as much as us, so it must have been hard for her to play the role of "bad cop" in this particular episode) Societal norms, however, prevailed and we resisted pulling out the decorations for a few months -- but that doesn't mean we aren't still drawn to skeletons and the like . . .

Er, have I mentioned that I'm excited about Halloween coming?

Happy Half-Nekkid Thursday!