Friday, May 30, 2008

Da Count - october road

One of the very few things you can count on is this: if Francine and I really start to enjoy what we feel is a quality television program with excellent writing, great acting and something that really speaks to us, you can pretty much guarantee that it is going to be dropped from the network relatively soon -- most likely in favour of some garbage mass-interest reality based television program that costs pennies to produce and, in my opinion reduces the television more properly to an "idiot box" than any time in the history of broadcasting.

But instead of getting on my soap box about the mass crap being produced, and bemoaning the loss of a show that we'd come to enjoy, I'd like to focus instead on a drama show that captured our attention and our hearts.

October road
. (or, more properly: october road.)

Here's the premise for the show:

Acclaimed novelist Nick Garrett returns to his small New England home town as a "guest" author at the local college. He is reintroduced to the group of friends he both left behind and drew upon for characters in his bestselling novel. Confronted with a serious case of writer's block and trying to pick up the pieces from abandoning and exploiting his family and friends, Nick finds himself at a crossroads between his life in New York and his life among this close circle of friends.

The show was brilliant, powerful and a heck of a lot of fun. I was initially attracted to it because it was about a writer, but I came to love the interaction between the characters, the tension, the stories and the events surrounding this group of small town friends. Some of my favourite scenes are the group of friends playing air band to songs from the eighties -- obviously something they've continued to do in the decade since high school. In many ways a group of oddball nerds that I could easily connect with. And particularly in the initial conflict between Nick and the friends he is catching up with is a very strong sense of friendship and loyalty -- one of the show's strongest elements.

Tom Berenger (The Commander - Nick's father) was perhaps the best known actor on the show, as was Laura Prepon from That 70's Show fame. Them and the rest of the cast (mostly actors I didn't really know) including Bryan Greenberg in the role of Nick, were excellent. The casting was phenomenal and the actors really brought all of the main characters to life.

There was an artistic style to the show that I also liked -- not just in the writing, direction and acting, but in the subtle things like the way that the title script for the show was presented with a period "." at the end at the ending of each episode.

I'll miss this show, particularly the aspect of dropping in on the group of friends in Knights Ridge, Massachusetts. If you never gave it a look you should consider getting your hands on the 1.5 or so seasons available (should they become available on DVD)

This week, I'm counting the fact that we started watching october road from the beginning and that such a show existed. I'd like to offer all the people at ABC behind creating and producing this show huge thank you. Shows like october road prove to me that there's still hope for prime time television.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

HNT - Fran & Mark

I only have time this week for a quick pic from my digital picture archives. This one is a picture I took of Francine and myself using my Palm Treo at our annual Christmas dinner/party last December. It was a great time with fantastic food.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Not THIS Boy's Best Friend

Shreddies cereal recently launched a new campaign in which they released their new "Diamond Shreddies" -- it's a really cute campaign actually, since all they did was turn their classic breakfast cereal on it's side and called it a whole new flavour.

The ads and billboards are fun, too: talking about about their new geometric superiority and that it's no longer hip to be square. Of course, along with the campaign they have a "You could WIN 1 of 10 diamonds" promotion. Simply smart of them.

I wouldn't shut up about how much I enjoyed their campaign, so Francine bought me a box of Shreddies, which I'll admit I haven't eaten for years.

Unfortunately, smart campaign or not, the flavour didn't really do anything for me.

Not even when I tipped my head at a 45 degree angle.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Need You Like I've Never Done Before

For those of you quick on your lyrical feet, you might recognize the title of this post from the Beatles song - Help!

This past weekend, a charity anthology that is carrying one of my reprint stories (Distractions) was released. Help - an anthology of horror, fantasy and SF benefiting Preditors and Editors is available in hardcover, ($35.95) paperback ($28.94) and ebook ($6.25) versions from

I donated Distractions to the anthology, which is attempting to help raise funds to support Preditors and Editors (a fantastic website designed as an information spot for writers that evolved into an authoritative warning spot for writers, helping them avoid pitfalls and publishers/editors that have been known to take advantage of writers).

I thought that Distractions would be a fitting story for the anthology because it's about a writer struggling to produce a sequel to a blockbuster fantasy novel he penned a decade earlier. Frustrated with all the normal life distractions that have gotten in the way of him getting the sequel written, Maxwell Bronte embraces a popular self-help book about eliminating distractions and takes its advice to a darkly disturbing extreme. It's a dark humour tale that I originally wrote for the World Fantasy Con 2001 CD-Rom edited by Nancy Kilpatrick and over the years I've gotten a lot of comments and positive feedback from readers about it.

Of course, you can read an early version of Distractions in its entirety online for free (follow the link for Distractions from my One Hand Screaming site -- yes, it was reprinted in my short story collection in 2004) -- and if you enjoy it, I'd ask that you please consider purchasing one of the 3 versions of this book that is available from and enjoying the other stories in this 629 page anthology featuring work by Gary Braunbeck, Garry Charles, Brian Knight, Stephen Mark Rainey, and many more.

[EDITED UPDATE: It appears as if the information at Predators and Editors is no longer working. So, for those interested in being wary of scams who find this article, you might want to check out Reedsy's up to date article about scams for authors to avoid called Authors Beware: Scams and Publishing Companies to Avoid.]

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Well I Didn't Vote For You!

I didn't make it to the next round on AM900 CHML's Talk Show Idol. I lost in what was very likely a tight race to the lovely Karen Johnson of Hamilton. Karen moves on to the semi-finalist round on Friday June 6th.

I did listen to Karen's segment from last week and have to say that she was a natural -- she was very comfortable behind the mike and engaged her guest in a stimulating conversation about the local Hamilton music scene. I also quite admire her passion for supporting the local arts community -- Hamilton is indeed lucky to have such a dynamic arts, music and culture scene and deserves the chance to be spot-lighted regularly. I know I'll be throwing my own support behind Karen as she continues on in this competition.

I would like to thank everyone for their votes and support. It was a fun thing to try out. The title of this blog post, which I simply couldn't resist is a reference to that classic scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It's the scene where King Arthur encounters the peasants in the mud and filth. After getting infuriated with Arthur, the old lady wonders how he could have become King when she didn't vote for him. Classic.

Of course, I know that a lot of people took the time to register on CHML and vote for me (despite the wonky web glitches pretending people from getting through) -- I also know that a lot of people listened and offered support and encouragement. So I applaud and thank those people who persisted in registering their vote.

I think the effort should be seen as symbolic, since we are fortunate enough to live in a free society, and registering your vote at any level (municipal, provincial, federal), making your voice heard is an important, nah, crucial aspect of our democracy. Voting for important things is relatively easy, and we're privileged to be able to give our opinions voice. (Whoops, okay, I'll get off my soap-box - don't worry, when it's election time again I'll get right back up on it)

My fellow contestants in week 5 of Talk Show Idol were great people and I know we all had a lot of fun. Hey, the very fact that we got out there, stuck our faces in front of live microphones means we gave it a try and though 3 of us didn't make it to the next round we all had a great opportunity, a fantastic experience.

And the folks at CHML were incredible to work with -- having a chance to be in the studio live on air and being trusted to fill 10 minutes of air time; well, it's quite the thrill and reminded me of being on stage. I'm delighted to have had the chance to give it a shot and also eager to support Karen as she advances to the next round.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Da Count - Building Brick

I'm currently at the bi-annual CCRA meeting today and tomorrow. These meetings switch between the "East" and "West" coasts of Canada -- this time, the hosting school is the University of Waterloo (my wife's Alma Mater) and we're in Waterloo, Ontario; not all that far from home.

Last night we had a reception at The Red Baron Lounge of Brick Brewery. Not only was it great to catch up with many of my colleagues from post-secondary institutions across Canada, but it was great to have access to about 8 different Brick beers on tap.

My favourite was Waterloo Dark, one of the wonderful craft brews created by Brick founder Jim Brickman. In a nutshell, Brickman started the brewery and started crafting beers after a world tour speaking with beer drinkers and beer makers around the world (The Red Baron Lounge has hundreds of beer bottles from around the world - a MUST see)

I was delighted to learn that I can purchase 20 litre kegs of Waterloo Dark from the Brick Brewery retail outlet for my home bar tap -- a great price, a great beer and I get to support a local brewery!

So this week I'm counting the adventurous founder of Brick Breweries.

THANKS, Jim Brickman! You make good beer! Cheers!


Thursday, May 22, 2008

HNT - Audible To The Naked Ear

I was quite pleased to receive my subscription copy of Canadian Bookseller magazine today, particularly since this issue (Volume 2 - 2008) contains my article on podiobooks and what it might mean to traditional publishing and bookselling.

The article, which is just one column shy of being a two page spread is entitled Do You Hear What I Hear? and is summed up with the following description: Podiobooks have given voice to aspiring authors and garnered them a great audience for their work. Are traditional publishers and booksellers listening?

Within the article I examine the pioneers of the podcasted novel, including Tee Morris and Scott Sigler and the successes they've each seen by podcasting their fiction as well as the creation of such websites as where people can find and download a great selection of free audio books via weekly RSS feeds.

And I also explore in depth the roller coaster path that Canadian author Terry Fallis took from not being able to find a publisher or agent for his novel The Best Laid Plans, how he gave the novel away for free as a podcast, then self-published it and watched it go on to be nominated for The Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour and landing an agent. (Of course, just days after my article went to press, Terry won the award, and also landed a publishing deal for his novel. It'll be coming out this fall from Douglas Gibson Books.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How Stella Got Her Growl Back

Yesterday, Francine and I took Alexander to see a live stage show featuring Diego from the popular Go, Diego, Go cartoon.

Diego Marquez is the eight year old cousin of Dora the Explorer the adventurous little girl who wanders around with her best friend, the monkey Boots. Diego is an animal rescuer and the show is modeled off of Dora's show -- likely as a ploy to reel in male children who can perhaps more easily associate with a little boy than a little girl (not that there seems to be that issue about Dora, because she's pretty widely loved by bother boys and girls). Hmm, come to think of it, they probably created Diego so that there could be a whole new line of tie-in products to sell to kids and their parents.

I have to admit, I do like Rescue Pack and his theme song much better than Dora's Map and his theme song. Sure, map is cool and helps you find things, but what kid (or 39 year old child like me) wouldn't want a cool dude rescue pack that can turn into almost anything you need?

And besides, how could you not like a song that goes "I'm rescue pack, I've got your back!" (Such a cool phrase and play on words)

Alexander was pretty excited to go see the show -- and, although he enjoys watching Dora and Diego, among other cartoons, on Treehouse, he's not one for sitting long; so we were a little bit concerned about confining him in a dark theatre for over an hour. The only time he sits still for long periods of time are when he's strapped into the car seat and we're taking that six hour drive up past Sudbury to visit my Mom. Most of the time he's bouncing around the room off the furniture while he's "watching" a show.

That's what makes shows like Dora the Explorer and Go, Diego, Go fun -- they encourage kids to participate, yell things out, jump up, clap and other actions that help them in their adventures.

And the stage show was a wonderful translation of the cartoon, incorporating lots of music and singing and dancing and fun lighting and stage effects to bring the cartoon characters to life. The coolest part was when Diego first came onstage to the "Go, Diego, Go" theme song, swinging in from stage left on a giant vine. I also loved it when Dora swung onto the stage in the second act to her own theme song. The kids (and I'll admit, Fran and I too) went nuts when Dora first took to the stage.

Alexander was pretty quiet during the show, a bit overwhelmed at the whole experience, but he did get into the groove of things, managed to sit for the hour and a half long show, and yelled out the Baby Jaguar growl, clawed in the air, jumped, danced around and yelled out answers to various questions when prompted by the characters on stage. He also took the time during intermission to check out the Strand lights mounted on a lighting rack above our heads (can you tell he's the son of an ex-lighting designer? That's my boy!)

Around bedtime when he was settling down, he explained that his favourite part was when Baby Jaguar got his growl back (that was the point of the whole adventure) -- my favourite part was whenever Diego, Dora or the Bobo Brothers were swinging onto the stage on giant vines; Francine's favourite part was on the river ride when Dora and Diego encountered the silly animals making atypical animal sounds.

But the cutest part was, just before he drifted off to sleep, Alexander said with a huge grin on his face: "I can't believe they're real!" He then went on to ask if Max and Ruby were real too and started to speculate about how cool their big house would look on the stage.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

That Wasn't Really Ten Minutes Just Then

On Friday May 16th I was in the AM900 CHML studio for my ten minutes on air as part of the CHML Talk Show Idol contest. I brought with me Dr. Nick Bontis and the title for my topic's discussion was: PLUGGED IN & TUNED OUT.

I began the top of the 10 minutes with an editorial in which I drew upon Henry David Thoreau's 1862 essay "Walking" in which he argues for the simple pleasure of connecting with nature by talking long, adventurous walks.

I contrasted that with the way in which we walk today, wearing ipods and carrying blackberries and cell phones -- in essence, ALWAYS plugged in and connected with technology rather than with nature.

I then moved on to a discussion with Dr. Bontis, who is the world's leading expert on intellectual capital and knowledge management. He shared speculation on what's next for technology and discussed strategies for how we can deal with the often overwhelming influx of stimulus like emails, text messages and demands for our attention -- in effect, how we should USE the technology to work smarter, not harder.

Being in the studio was an absolute blast.

Nick and I were sharing the studio with host Scott Thompson and judges Bill Kelly, Lea Carter and Jeff Storey. I loved the fact that for the contest they gave me a few paragraphs outlining what was expected; but other than that, the entire ten minutes was up to me -- and other than a brief explanation of how to take calls, there was no help -- I was on my own.

I loved the experience, but did find it tricky trying to maintain eye contact with Nick, keep an eye on my "script" of questions and discussion points, as well as on Scott Thompson, who was letting me know through hand signals if a) there was a caller on the line (indeed we did get one really great caller) and b) how much time we had left.

I was shocked when Scott signaled that there were only 2 minutes left and glanced down at the 2 page list of discussion points and questions I'd noted -- Nick and I had barely touched upon 2 or 3 of the points. I almost piped up with a stolen quote from the Monty Python "Argument" sketch to say: "That wasn't really five minutes just then!" The ten minutes had passed so quickly.

But instead, I scrambled to try to wrap up our discussion, and at the end of the 10 minutes breathed a sad sigh of relief. The 10 minute segment was over. Now it's up to the online voting results to see if I make it to the next round.

Below is a video clip featuring selected audio from the interview and runs about 1 and a half minutes. Unfortunately it only features a small selection of the wonderful Nick Bontis, but is still fun nonetheless . . .

Voting continues this week -- you can listen to audio clips online at


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Another Brick In The Wall

It's like a Bart Simpson dream come true -- a giant steel claw smashing down the walls of the local public school. But I wasn't laughing when I saw the pictures and video that my buddy Pete took of the old Levack Public School building being demolished.

Photo by Pete Mihajic

Interestingly enough, I found out about the plans for the school to be demolished through Facebook -- and using that same social media, I was able to get in contact with at least a dozen people I haven't seen since roaming the halls of Levack Public School (or LPS as we also knew it) And so, though we're connected, the building that originally connected us is no more.

I attended kindergarten through Grade 8 in this building -- my father also worked part of his days and had an office at Levack Public School. So there are many fine memories attached to it: Fighting for the "hills" on the giant snow piles made from plows clearing the parking lot and playground area of the school yard; sneaking onto the roof to climb around and pretend to be Spider-Man in the evening (and getting caught almost every single time I did so); getting beat up by school-yard bullies; getting and giving the "bumps" on various birthdays; playing basketball and "around the key" as well as baseball on the school grounds after school and in the summer when the school was closed; regularly visiting the Levack Public Library which was housed in the LPS building (which signaled the early beginnings of my book-nerd tendencies).

Photo by Pete Mihajic

So many memories -- so many ghosts that will continue to haunt those grounds long after the building has come down.

Friday, May 16, 2008

CHML Talk Show Idol - Today at 2:00 PM

Today is the day in this first round of AM 900 CHML's Talk Show Idol where I get to be in the studio and required to fill 10 minutes of airtime.

I'm very excited to be bringing in with me a special guest. Dr. Nick Bontis, the world's leading expert on intellectual capital and knowledge management. My topic this afternoon will be called: PLUGGED IN & TUNED OUT and we'll be discussing strategies for coping with the often overwhelming influx of stimuli that surrounds us in today's society.

If you are local to the Hamilton/GTA region, you can listen at 900 on your AM dial. Online you can listen at The whole show with all four guests starts at 1 PM.

You can also listen to my Current Events Quiz, 60 Second Editorial/Rant and 60 Seconds of Straight Talk With Scott Thompson at:

I'm up this week with a talented group of dynamic individuals. Adam Scott, Dawn Dillane and Karen Johnson have done very fine jobs in their own segments and I'm looking forward to seeing them again in person and sharing air time between 1 and 3 PM today as part of the contest.

(The video below contains my "editorial rant" from Wednesday on Handwashing - I did it in video format so you could look at goofy pictures of me while listening)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

HNT - Third Anniversary

This week Osbasso, creator of HNT (Half-Nekkid Thursday) celebrates 3 years of leading bloggers around the world in getting nekkid every week. I joined a few months after it all began, offering up my first post in October 2007.

I called it "Naked Eyes" and thought it would be fun to show off my cool dude Halloween spooky eyes boxer shorts -- you can see that post here.

I've made many friends through HNT over the years, and have watched old friends "retire" from HNT and seen new friends join. It's been a fun haul, and at this anniversary date I wonder at how long I'm going to keep up posting half nekkid pictures every single Thursday.

Part of me, of course, enjoys the creativity of having to come up with something along the half-nekkid theme each week (check out the collage of HNT shots from within the first year, for example) . . .

. . . but another part of me, the part that is struggling to find time to work on my writing, and having less and less of that time to spare, wonders if it's time to retire myself from HNT.

There's an addiction element to it, of course, not to mention the fact that forcing myself to post something new and hopefully interesting each week has spawned some fun "storylines" like the death match between myself and Darth Tater that I called Spud Wars.

The first story was a fun adventure that I took 6 months to spin out. The sequel "Terror in Toyland" is one that got a bit out of hand and included my bloggy friend Susie who came out to help me against the toy threat -- as a matter of fact, things have been so busy crazy with my real writing lately that the second Darth Tater HNT storyline hasn't moved on much in a while . . . got to get back to that and find out what happened to poor Susie, after that great train accident . . .

In following Osbasso's theme of THREE for this week's post, I thought it might be nice to offer a retrospective of some multi-shot collages that have been put together over the past 3 years. You've already seen two of them above -- a nice summary of some of the fun stuff I've been up to each Thursday for almost 3 years.

Of course my favourite HNT "story" was one that my dear friend Steve Gaydos created after a visit last summer. He took a whack of pictures and then threw together a cartoon-style story called "Yes, My Dad Can Fly!" that was just too cute.

To make it easier for folks to find my HNT shots, I started creating a single page archive with links to them all. Of course, in that manner of "got busy doing other things" I haven't updated in a long long time - but so far, it's a fun look at the first 50 HNT posts I created. Some day, I'll have to complete it -- but that means adding an additional 100 or so links . . . sigh . . . who has time?

In any case, Happy Third Anniversary Osbasso and all my HNT bloggy friends!

CHML Talk Show Idol - Quiz & Rant

Okay, so on this morning's quiz with Bob and Shiona (yes, a silent "i" like the silent "b" and "v" and "r" in Lefebvre), I proved that I should NEVER host a show about sports. And I'd like to send out my apologies to Sydney Crosby fans everywhere . . .

(You can listen to a recording of the quiz here)

I'm hoping that the 60 second rant I just recorded which is going to be aired a little after the noon news broadcast (you can listen locally at 900 on your AM dial or online at helps redeem me so I don't like a total idiot.

I mean, I'm okay with looking like a bit of an idiot and completely okay with being seen as a giant nerd -- but gee, I'd hate to go down in local radio history as a complete and total idiot . . .

Monday, May 12, 2008

Talk Show Idol

One of the reasons I started experimenting with podcasting a few years ago was because of a desire I'd had to host a radio program in which I could interview authors, talk about books, music and pop culture and engage guests in lively discussion and debate.

Of course, given that I never acquired the proper equipment to do interviews properly in the podcast world, I ended up doing some podcasts where I've read samples of my own writing followed up with talking about the act of writing, the creative process and the behind the scenes of putting fiction together. (That "behind the scenes" look at my writing is something I still get great feedback from even today, some 4 years after I released ONE HAND SCREAMING, a collection of my previously published fiction and poetry complete with the "behind the screams notes on the stories)

But when I saw the call for contestants for AM900 CHML's Talk Show Idol come out, my first thought was: A real studio, real equipment, real professionals, a cool demographic -- the perfect opportunity for me to give it the old "college try."

And I'm proud to announce that I made it past that first "board room" interview cut and am a contestant with 3 other aspiring and quite talented hopefuls on Week 5 of CHML's Talk Show Idol.

On Wednesday May 14th, I'll be on three spots.

7:50am Bob & Shiona will ask me a series of current events questions over 2 minutes. This will judge how up on the news I am.

12:05pm: I will RANT for 60 seconds on a topic of my choice. (So very hard for me to narrow this down to just 1 rant and to a mere 60 seconds)

4:50pm: Scott Thompson will host ’60 Seconds of Straight Talk’. Scott will give me a random word and I'll have to speak for 60 seconds on that topic without pauses, etc.

And then on Friday May 16th between 2:00 and 2:30 PM, I'll be in the studio with Scott Thompson and a panel of 3 judges who will critique my performance filling 10 minutes of air time with whatever I choose. (I'm thinking I might trying juggling - that makes for great radio, doesn't it?)

Whether you're in Hamilton or not (ie, within broadcast range), you can still listen live to the program (click the LISTEN LIVE button in the top right corner of the CHML website or go to the Idol pages and listen to a recording of the segments.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Da Count - The Box It Came In

Last weekend, Francine and I bought Alexander a ride-on excavator, complete with a controllable scoop shovel on the front end. He's into "diggers" big-time and was absolutely delighted when the two of us started putting it together so he could take it for a spin.

Of course, we had a grand time playing with it. I booked Monday and Tuesday off work to spend as "family days" -- Tuesday was my birthday and it was thus important to me that I spend it playing with the two most important people in my life.

Tuesday morning, we not only had a good time taking the excavator out for a spin, we also had almost as much fun playing with the box it came in. We used Alexander's markers to convert the box into a time machine. Alexander's "Way Back" Time Machine to be precise.

And we had all kinds of great adventures in that time machine, visiting Dinosaurs, Pirates and futuristic alien robots.

This week, I'm counting those simple things that we tend to take for granted, like the endless hours of fun you can have playing with the box that a new toy came in.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

In Search Of The Alpha-Getti Gobbler!

For years I've been using a phrase borrowed from a commercial from two decades ago -- one in which three kids are sitting around a table eating Alpha-Getti (alphabet shaped pasta and sauce) and this silly looking monster with spaghetti-like arms comes into the room and warns them that they should be on the lookout for the Alpha-Getti Gobbler, who loves stealing Alpha-Getti (or is it alphagetti?) from them.

The commercial ends with this kid finally putting all the pieces together (well, he actually sees the monster take his bowl of Alpha-Getti, so he's not all that bright until after the fact) and blurts out: "You're the Alpha-Getti gobbler!!!"

The little kid saying: "You're the Alpha-Getti Gobbler!"

I so loved this phrase that I regularly use it when accusing people of something. Of course, I get nothing but strange looks from folks when I do -- mostly people who either don't remember or have never seen the commercial. Oh well, I get enough strange looks each day.

I'd posted about it in April 2007. And blogger Toronto Mike blogged about it, too. I even created a Facebook group about it called "I Remember the AlphaGetti Gobbler." Apart from desperately searching the internet and trying to find a picture or ANYTHING to prove that the Alpha-Getti Gobbler existed, Mike and I also joked about trying to beat each other in Google search results on the Alpha-Getti gobbler. I remember the day when he pushed me aside in the google rankings and I graciously took a back seat to his efforts.

Ryan Barnett, 8 years old, in the Alpha-Getti commercial

Interestingly enough, on my 39th birthday, Ryan Barnett, who was eight years old when he played one of the kids in that commercial, stumbled upon my Facebook group. He also contacted Mike Boon, who never gave up on his tireless search to track down the infamous creature, and sent a video of the commercial we all loved so much which Mike posted to YouTube. See Mike's announcement blog post about it here.

I was able to capture some nice pictures from the video, which I've posted here, and I'm delighted to help share this joyous discovery with the world.

Thanks, Mike. Thanks, Ryan. May your bowls ALWAYS be filled with Alpha-Getti no matter where you roam. And do watch your back guys, you never know when this creature might sneak up and steal it from you.

HNT - Birthday Suit

This week was my birthday.

In honour of that, I thought it would be appropriate for Half-Nekkid Thursday to post a picture of me . . .

. . . in my birthday suit:

Cute, huh?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Alexander's "Way Back" Time Machine

I booked a couple of days off for my birthday, making an extra long weekend for myself. Alexander always loves having an extra "family day" or two when all three of us can do fun things together.

I spent most of my birthday doing two of my favourite things:

1) Working on writing stuff (in this case, I spent most of the day printing out a full manuscript that had been requested by a publisher -- yes, 400 pages took me nearly 4 full hours to prepare . . . whew . . .)

2) Playing with Francine and Alexander

During one of our morning outings, Alexander and I worked on his "Way Back" Time Machine, using markers and crayons to draw buttons, lights, screens, dials and panels on a large empty cardboard box that we can both just barely fit into.

Then we used the machine to first go back to the land of Dinosaurs and do some exploring (we turned tail and ran back to the machine, of course, when we heard a T-Rex stomping its way toward us) -- then we went to the future where we saw some really interesting alien creatures. After that we went back in time just a little over a week to watch the building adjacent to the Lister block in downtown Hamilton fall down (Yes, my son is more up on current events than I am, and wanted to go watch the building crumble -- a few days earlier we'd been downtown and saw the aftermath of the side of the still standing building -- he wanted to watch the crumbling of the building)

Of course, now that it's time for me to head back to work, much as I love my job, I just want to crawl right back into Alexander's "Way Back" Time Machine and go back a single day so I can enjoy the fun and enthusiasm all over again. So if you can't find me anywhere, that's where I'll be. Curled up inside the box and making a low humming sound with the back of my throat, trying desperately to go back just one day . . .

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Fee Charging Agent and the Cud Chewing Cow

The fee-charging agent
And the cud-chewing cow
Seem so much alike
Yet are different somehow
After a moment to consider
I think I know now:
It's all the work and the effort
On the part of the cow

(Yes, I took an old poem often written in high school yearbooks and modified it for my own purposes -- I didn't do a bad job if I do say so myself)

I took the time this morning to respond to a first time author who was being interviewed on The Writing Show podcast and thought that the message I sent was one worth repeating here on my blog -- you know, in case first time writers happen to stumble upon it.

What prompted my response (which you'll see below) was the author describing to Paula B, the show's host how an agent had responded to her query with a note that they'd love to see her manuscript. However, due to the fact that they have to pay readers to go through manuscripts which costs time and money, there is a $50 fee charged to read it. So, please send your full manuscript along with a $50 reading fee.

Yadda yadda yadda.

Yes, reading manuscripts takes time -- a heck of a lot of time. It's not easy. It's hard work. Ask any agent or editor out there. It's hours of painful, challenging, frustrating, tiring and often thankless work.

But let me say this: Agents make money selling books to publishers. Publishers, in turn, make money selling books to bookstores and consumers. Any agent that makes money selling "services" or charging fees to authors is NOT a real agent and should be avoided.

Here's the basic script of publishing. Author writes book. Author sends manuscript to agent. Agent finds interested editor from publishing house to accept book. Publisher pays author and agent gets their % cut of that payment. Any diversity from this model (except perhaps where there isn't an agent and the author sells directly to an editor/publisher) should be considered suspect.

Yes, reading unsolicited manuscript submissions can be painful. But good agents, hundreds upon hundreds of good agents do it every day. Because they know their business, they know what they're looking for and they know, like any patient fisherman who sits hour after hour quietly floating in that boat with their rod in the water, that they'll get a bite and it'll be good, and they'll find that author that matches their style, comfort level and area of expertise -- and they'll be able to find that author's manuscript a home. That's what a good agent does. And those good agents make their money by selling their author's manuscripts to publishers.

Simply put -- if an agent can't make money doing what an agent is supposed to do, finding "homes" for manuscripts, then that agent should hang up their pen and pursue another line of work.

However, if you are a first-time writer and are reading this, don't just take my word for it -- go read more on the subject by folks a heck of a lot more experienced than myself. Here are just four examples:

There, I gave my 15% -- er, my 2 cents on the topic . . .

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Daily News Profile

I was delighted to learn that the editor of the McMaster Daily News was interested in doing a piece on me.

I suppose since I've been "in the face" of the daily news for so often now, constantly harassing them to ensure they do a story on different authors we've been getting in at Titles, pestering them to cover events, etc, perhaps they figured if they did a profile on me they'd get me to shut my yap.

We all know THAT's not going to happen, now don't we? :)

Photo by Susan Bubak

But in all seriousness, Susan mentioned that since I was still relatively "new" to the university it might be interesting to do an article on me and my role as Book Operations Manager. Of course, when she found out I also wrote horror, she couldn't help talk about that, too.

Posing for the picture, I grabbed one of the really cool mugs we sell manufactured by the Unemployed Philosopher's Guild. They're really cool - when you add hot liquid to them they change their appearance. For example, the Dinosaur mug I bought specifically because I knew my son Alexander would love it features dinosaurs -- when you fill the mug with hot tea or coffee they morph into skeletons.

They have a whole giant rang of cool mugs and we carry several of them including the Descartes mug, the Freudian slips mug, the Global Warming mug, the Henry VIII mug and the Van Gogh mug, among others -- see if you can guess how they change when you add hot liquid. Lots of fun and they make great gifts. Seriously, c'mon into Titles and buy one.

The article opens with the following couple of paragraphs....

Don't judge a book by its cover when you meet Mark Lefebvre. By day, he's the book operations manager at Titles Bookstore. By night, he's the author of such titles as One Hand Screaming and other scary stories about things that go bump in the night.

Lefebvre, who writes under the pen name of Mark Leslie, is a self-proclaimed "book nerd." The only thing he likes more than reading books is talking about them.

Of course Susan neglected to add ("and he really really really likes selling books, too).

You can read the entire article right here.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Da Count - Mention In The Spectator

It's always fun to get a mention in the local newspaper, but even more fun when the mention includes supporting a talented author.

Wade Hemsworth of The Hamilton Spectator wrote an article about McMaster Graduate Terry Fallis and his Leacock Medal win. I'm quoted in the article as one of the two smartest booksellers in the Hamilton area (Okay, Wade doesn't mention the "smart" aspect -- that's my own editorial interpretation. I call Bryan Prince and Titles Bookstore smart because WE picked up Terry's novel before anyone else in our area. We're not jumping on any Award Winner's bandwagon, we've been along for the ride and believed in the author the whole time)

So this week's count is focused on when newspapers support, recognize and cover local literary talent. Something that always makes me happy. Getting myself and my bookstore mentioned in the article is just a cool bonus.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

HNT - When Good Things Happen To Great People

First time Canadian novelist Terry Fallis has just won the 2008 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour.

I met Terry, who is a McMaster Graduate, when he contacted me at the McMaster University bookstore (Titles) wondering if we would be interested in carrying his first novel The Best Laid Plans. I was intrigued to see that he had put a lot of effort into promoting the novel by offering the entire thing for free via a podcast feed, and started listening to it. And despite my initial disinterest with politics, I was immediately hooked.

Terry's characters captured my heart and funny bone and took me on a fantastic ride in what was one of the best books I read in 2007. This tale of a reluctant politician's rise to power is touching, heartfelt and hilarious.

When I learned that Terry had been short-listed for the Leacock award, I was delighted that it received the recognition it so truly deserved. Because of Terry's podcast of the novel, he'd had much success in building an audience not only in Canada, but with listeners all over the world. And because it's not atypical for a Canadian to have to find success outside of our own country, up until the Leacock nod, it looked entirely possible that The Best Laid Plans was celebrated more in foreign countries. For example, his podcast of the novel was picked up by the English-language service of Radioropa, Europe's largest satellite radio network.

But now, very deservingly, Terry has been recognized in a fittingly prestigious way. And I'm delighted for him. But more importantly, I'm delighted for the people who are now likely to discover and savour this truly wonderful humourous novel.

This week's picture (a rehash of an old HNT post), is simply a picture of me reading Terry's novel The Best Laid Plans. With a poke in the side for folks to go check it out now. Either buy the book (it's available through all major online booksellers like Amazon and Chapters/Indigo) or go listen to the podcast. You will thank me for it.