Thursday, April 29, 2010

HNT - Eerie Resemblace

This past weekend I was one of the author guests at EerieCon 12 in Niagara Falls, NY.

EerieCon is always a fun weekend, filled with great conversations and good times. One of the great surprises from this past weekend was meeting artist Adam English. Quietly sitting in the middle of the audience of various panels, English sketched caricatures of panel members in an over-sized sketchbook he carried around with him.

To a casual observer it just looked like he might have been taking notes -- but he was capturing hilarious renditions of people. And he is extremely talented.

Here's a sketch I was caught in when sitting on a panel called Are Authors Born or Made? We offered our opinions on the following questions: Does writing have to be born in your or can you make yourself into an author? Give examples. What tips can you give aspiring authors (other than be born with talent)? (BTW, the simple answer to the question of the topic of the panel, which we all quickly agreed on was: YES)

Caricature by Adam English, 2010 of (left to right):
Darrell Schweitzer, Carl Frederick, Mark Leslie, Gregory Lamberson

A few of the sketches that were done were signed both by English as well as the subjects and, as I understand, were put up for auction for a fund raiser for some sort of health plan for writers. (I honestly can't remember the specific name of the organization)

In any case, English is an amazingly talented artist.

Of course, he has also captured a fact I never noticed before -- that I perhaps bear a bit of a resemblance to CBC's Rex Murphy. (Although, admittedly, Rex does have a thicker head of hair than I do)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

CBA National Conference

Today is the last day for booksellers to get the "Early Bird" registration fees for the CBA National Conference. This year's theme for the conference is Survive, Revive, Thrive: Reinventing your Bookstore for Today's Marketplace.

Taking place May 28 through 30, 2010 at the Delta Toronto Airport (5444 Dixie Road), here's a quick sampling of the keynote and education session line-up for Saturday.

Keynote Presentation: John Torella - Building Business and Building Your Brand
Join retail expert and author John Torella as he offers a series of ideas, insights, and best practices; reveals what the winners are doing to accelerate growth in a down economy; and demonstrates how retailers are dealing with the perfect storm of increased competition, focus on price, and the growth of e-commerce.

Social Media 201: Taking your online presence to the next level - Mark Lefebvre, Titles Bookstore, McMaster University [Hey, that's me!]
Social media isn’t just a strategy and it isn’t just another way of advertising your business with little upfront cost. And, it’s not enough just to “be” in the social media space by having a Twitter, Facebook or MySpace account or blog; you need to be an active part of it, offering all the value, culture and dynamic interaction your customers experience when physically visiting your store. Follow book-nerd Mark Lefebvre as he outlines various pitfalls store owners can fall into when traversing the social media space, as well as sharing guided examples of businesses and people who are contributing to their online communities, and in turn, benefiting from yet another way to interact with and provide services and information to our valued customers.

Finding The Hidden Money In Your Stores - Bronwyn Addico & Mandy Brouse, Words Worth Books
Bronwyn Addico, Events & Marketing Coordinator from Words Worth Books, together with Mandy Brouse, the store’s social media expert, will explore inventory control, co-op, offsite
events and more to help you find the hidden revenue in your bookstore. In today’s challenging retail environment improving bookseller margins while providing value to your customers is key to surviving, reviving and thriving.

Growing Your Graphic Novel Business - John Shableski, Diamond Book Publishers
The graphic novel format seems to have exploded onto the publishing landscape. As a retailer, how can you capture your share of this explosive market? This session will explore how to select, buy, shelve and promote graphic novels including developing staff expertise and community partnerships.

Of course, the three day conference will also have the popular Sales Rep Speed Dating Luncheon that was quite a blast at last year's event, an Exhibitor showcase, the CBA Libris Awards Reception, Presentation and Dinner (Saturday night), an Author/Bookseller Reception (Friday night), a seminar on loss prevention by Theresa Roswell of Retail Council of Canada, an Authors Luncheon (Sunday), a Sunday Keynote presentation by Kevin Graff called Avoiding the Errors...and Making the Winning Decisions Needed to Thrive as well as the CBA Annual General Meeting and Members Forum.

For full details, check out the conference program here (pdf link)

It's the perfect, tightly-packed, informative, interactive and educational weekend for this particular book-nerd.

Of course, like all great gatherings, only half of the value is in the great line-up of talks, presentations and scheduled items. A great deal of the value happens in those "hallway" or between scheduled moments conversations and interactions that happen with other booksellers, with publishers and with authors. As excited as I am about the scheduled line-up, I'm twice as excited for an opportunity to spend that kind of quality time with so many great people from across the bookselling industry.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hunting And Pecking

It always happens to me. I go to a great gathering of writers and fans, such as EerieCon in Niagara Falls, NY, and I leave re-inspired in many more ways and have found myself doing more actual writing (and less distracted other things) in the early morning hours before I head off to my day job.

A side-effect, I suppose, of spending a few days sitting on panels and talking about writing, talking about the creative process, talking about writing projects.

On one of the panels, where I sat with Kevin J. Anderson, Carl Frederick, Darrell Schweitzer and Sephera Giron, we talked quite a bit about the creative process and what each of us did to stimulate and keep the creative process in motion. This topic panel was divided into a "women's view" and "men's view" (Sephera was our moderator and "on loan" to the men for our panel) and thus we naturally talked over what might be the differences between the two approaches.

But something else we talked about was the actual process of writing, and some of the rituals we liked to employ when writing. I was quite fascinated when Kevin Anderson discussed how his ideal writing session involves going for a long hike in the woods with an audio recording device, purposely leaving his cell phone behind, then moving through the rockies while dictating the first draft of the story, dialogue and all.

I have dictated ideas and small snippets of scenes into an audio device to later be transposed into text. But the ability to do that cohesively amazes me. Kevin suggested that it was a learned skill, and that none of us were born knowing how to type -- that perhaps the first time we sat down at a keyboard (and yes, most of us on the panel were old enough that the first keyboard we experienced was an actual typewriter) we didn't really know how to type and used a single finger to hunt and peck, but that, after time, we developed the ability. He said the same could be true for writing verbally.

I love the fact that when he's on his lone hikes getting writing done, he's away from all the distractions that take a person away from actual process of writing. And though it has been a while since I've done anything more than quickly dictate a short scene idea or character development concept or plot idea, I think I'll try to practice Kevin's ritual.

After all, there's a plethora of great hiking trails in this area. By the time I navigate them all, I could have perhaps moved beyond the "hunt and peck" style of dictating a story that I currently employ and into a smooth flowing stream of prose.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Where Wolf?

I've booked today off work because this afternoon I'll be heading to Niagara Falls, NY for EerieCon 12. But later this morning, and before I leave, I'll be doing an interview with Paula B of The Writing Show podcast.

Due to popular demand from her listeners, I'll be giving Paula a bit of an update on how I'm progressing with my novel "A Canadian Werewolf in New York" -- a project I started . . . aw gee . . . several years ago and which Paula has been following as part of a "reality" series called "Getting Published with Mark Leslie" (ACWWINY is a novel about the "day in the life" of a middle aged man living with the side-effects of being a werewolf)

At least it's proof that the writing process (and finding time for writing when you work full time at another job) is not as easy as it might look to a non-writer.

But I'm not giving any "news" away on the project just yet. For that you'll have to listen to the podcast, which will likely go live in the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

HNT - Eerie Weekend

I will be attending EerieCon 12 this weekend in Niagara Falls, NY as one of the author guests.

I have attended for the past few years and found this convention celebrating fantasy, horror and science fiction a lot of fun and filled with great people. It's a relatively small convention, which means it has a really friendly feel to it. And each year I get to chat with so many great authors, editors and readers. I quite look forward to it.

Here is my schedule for EerieCon this year.


7:00 PM - FREE FOR ALL - Panelists discuss subjects of their audience choice. One of Eeriecon's liveliest panels. Sherman, Clink, Leslie, Gresh, Stephenson, Gardner. Moderator: Frederick

10:00 PM - LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW - James Alan Gardner conducts in depth interviews with guests. Assisted by useless sidekick, Ed McClink. Anderson, Bishop, Sherman, Mak, Gresh, Price, Schweitzer, Leslie.


10:00 AM - WRITING FOR FREE (or almost) - Writing for fanzines and the small press. Do you do it and why? What are the benefits? Leslie, Mak, Price. Mod: van Belkom

11:00 AM - COLLABORATION - Writing as a team might be the way to go. How do you go about it? Give examples of successes and failures. What are the pros and cons? Leslie, Garland, Brahen, Moesta. Mod: Anderson

12:00 NOON - ARE AUTHORS MADE OR BORN? - Does writing have to be born in you or can you make yourself into an author? Give examples. What tips can you give aspiring authors (other than be born with talent?) The men's view. Leslie, Lamberson, Frederick, van Belkom. Mod: Schweitzer

2:00 PM - THE CREATIVE PROCESS - What do you do to stimulate and keep the creative process in motion? How is it initiated? The men's view. Anderson, Frederick, Scheitzer, Leslie. Mod: Giron.

4:00 PM - CAN A BAD NOVEL MAKE A GOOD MOVIE? - The usual routine is a popular, even classic novel gets turned into a trashy movie. Does the opposite ever happen? Can you make a bad novel into a good movie? There has been at least one example recently. Name some of them. Lamberson, Schweitzer, Leslie. Mod: Price

SUNDAY, APRIL 25, 2010

10:00 AM - WRITING IN SOMEONE ELSE'S WORLD - They created it, now you get to follow it up. What are the benefits and pitfalls? Is it difficult or easy to do? Give examples of authors whose worlds have been written of by others. Moesta, Garland, Leslie. Mod: Anderson

Pic from Eeriecon 10: Nancy Kress, Mark Leslie, Sephera Giron, Caro Soles

Another pic from Eeriecon 10: me babbling on about something

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Gathering Of Beautiful Nerds

To quote the charismatic and energetic Michael Tamblyn, "Long form reading is alive and well on mobile devices." That's a bit of the reasoning behind the change of the name Shortcovers to Kobo several months back, and part of his BookNet Canada Tech Forum 2010 presentation entitled "12 Months of Lessons on eBooks at #Kobo in 40 minutes (a love story)"

During the BNC Tech Forum in 2009, Michael Serbinis from Indigo presented the newly released Shortcovers. To test how easy and simple it was to use, I actually logged in, uploaded a short story and released it for free on their services by the time Michael's talk was done. Simple proof at how easy it was for content creators. About an hour later, my tech guru buddy from Waterloo Bookstore, Randy Dauphin, used his iPhone to download the story. Simple proof at how easy it was for consumers. It was great to see how quickly this process turned around in a mobile environment.

At the 2010 BNC Tech Forum, Michael Tamblyn (formerly of BookNet Canada, now the VP Content, Sales & Merchandising for Kobo, dug into what the company learned in that year.

Though Tamblyn could be given a grocery list to read and manage to make it exciting, interesting and humorous (speaking of course to the dynamic and engaging manner in which he speaks and presents), the content behind his presentation is already quite intriguing on its own. This, of course, made for a phenomenal presentation that I'm delighted to be able to see again.

A few key points to highlight in Michael's presentation would be:

  • Long form reading is alive and well on mobile devices (including stats showing people reading mobile devices around "bed time")
  • This is a new release market (highlighting the fact that delaying the ebook release, also known as windowing, results in 48% of the lifetime sales of an ebook being lost)
  • Ebooks are a razor thin margin item (yes, even more razor thin than books already are)
  • Cheaper is not the only value - the less a customer can do with an ebook the lesser the value (highlighting the critical importance of multiple platforms) - this, of course, leads to Michael's great statement that "A book that you can't take with you is worthless."
  • Some hilarious ongoing comparisons between the "contract-heavy" challenges associated with the purchase of an ebook compared to the rather simple exchange that takes place when buying a physical book.

Of course, given Michael's great presentation style (and what he likes to call the BNC Tech Forum, which is #gatheringofbeautifulnerds), it's natural that all the rest of the presentations from that day which followed Michael are now available to be viewed online.

Here's a link to an archive of the videos from #bnc10.

What I love about this (besides being able to revisit presentations I already saw that day) is that, despite the fact I was in track 2, I can now enjoy the presentations from track 1 I missed that day - THANK you BookNet Canada, for this wonderful gift to the book industry you have made available.

Here are links directly to each of the presentations.

But, in summary, what a great day, as evidenced by the incredible and informative presentations that took place thanks to BookNet Canada and a whole great group of presenters. (And yes, I'm still delighted with the fact that I was honored to be included in part of that day by having a chance to present on Trailblazing with Hugh McGuire)

Can't wait until next year.

No wait, I think I can wait, because I still haven't watched all the sessions I missed. I imagine that by the time BNC 2011 rolls around, I'll have enjoyed each of the presentations several times over.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Prelude To The Bogeyman

I recently posted Episode 13 of Prelude To A Scream, a podcast featuring a combination of my short fiction combined with short "behind the writing of" notes.

Episode 13 features "The Bogeyman Can" which opens with the following song lyrics (sung to the tune of "The Candy Man")

Who can take a garbage bag
And stuff it full of kids? (stuff it full of kids)

Who can kill anyone he wants to

And get away with it?

(The Bogeyman)

The Bogeyman can 'cause he stays right out of sight

Until the lights go down

Yeah, I know, silly spoof lyrics. I doodled them onto a sheet of paper as part of a warm-up writing exercise back in the early 90's, and then decided to try to come up with a story in which such a song might be used. Thus, the dark-humour tale "The Bogeyman Can" was born.

Episode 13 runs about 12 minutes in total. I opened the podcast singing the lyrics. But, since I don't sing all that well, I modified the voice tracks into "chipmunk" speed and then did a slower, creepier sounding adjustment to my voice to make a "Bogeyman" sounding backup lyric.

My wife thought it was simply creepy -- of course, she's used to that sort of thing from me.

"The Bogeyman Can" was originally published in imelod (the litzine of horror & the bizarre) in January 1999 and then was reprinted in One Hand Screaming in 2004.

You can visit the podcast page here or click the link below to download the mp3 or, even listen to it online. Just make sure you keep the lights on.

Download MP3 by right-clicking here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Promise Of Digital Is More Than Text Transfer

Yet another great presentation from the BookNet Canada Tech Forum has been posted online.

This time, Dominique Raccah, the Publisher of Sourcebooks, Inc. a company she founded in 1987. I love how it's defined so beautifully on their website as Sourcebooks: Community, Books and Solutions. Do you see how books are nicely embedded between community and solutions?

Dominique did a presentation on the topic area Breaking Ground: Transforming Innovative Ideas to Action.

I love some of the concepts she outlined in her presentation such as the "book unleashed" -- I love that idea. She talked about the promise of digital being more than text transfer, that ebooks are just part of the story.

She outlined the 2002 mixed media project We Interrupt This Broadcast that was a combination book and CD set so you could not only read about the events that shaped the world, but also listen to the original recording and the incredible success it saw. This was back in 2002. Imagine the mixed media projects that could be during using today's technology, using tomorrow's technology.

During this overview of the mixed media book success she mentioned something I thought was critical called the CONTENT CONTINUUM and how books create theatre of the mind. On that point, she stated that "you don't want to interrupt the theatre of the mind, that engagement." (Of course, given that she's from the US, she probably actually said "theater of the mind" but I inscribed it the British/Canadian way . . . my bad)

But again, Dominique didn't just talk about publishing in the traditional sense, she asked the question about communities, she pushed the idea of creating new ways of delivering content, she talked about the importance of integration of the content into a liquid/seamless media experience.

I, of course, also had the distinct pleasure of having met Dominique the evening before at a dinner with the presenters, so she had already impressed the hell out of me and held me in rapt attention. Thus, it was a huge benefit to be able to not only learn from her the evening before the event, but to get to watch her presentation.

And yes, despite a full page of notes, I'm delighted to be able to watch this again online.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

HNT - Just A Watch

Last night during bedtime, my son was playing with my watch while I read to him from Boo Hoo Bird, a wonderful book by Jeremy Tankard. As I watched Alexander turn the watch over in his hands, I had a flash back.

It was September of 1988 and I was moving into a four bedroom house on Elm street in Ottawa with my cousin Rodney and two females I hadn't yet met, both friends he'd made the year before. It was my first year at Carleton University and my very first time moving away from home. It was a pretty big deal to this young man/boy from a small Northern Ontario town - terrifying, even, to consider that there would be more people in one of my first year classes than were in my entire high school just a few months earlier.

My Dad and I were carrying a dresser upstairs when the strap on my watch snapped from the friction.

The watch, with it's cheap plastic band, fell to the floor.

I sighed, watching it fall.

When we placed the furniture down at the top of the stairs, my Dad noticed my watch had broken. Without hesitating, he unsnapped the Timex watch off his own wrist and handed it to me.

I thanked him, put it on my wrist, and have worn the same watch ever since.

Okay, that's stretching it a bit. But I did start wearing my Dad's Timex watch with the metal strap back in 1988, and from that day forward, ended up using the built in alarm on it for my wake-up alarm. That particular watch is long dead, but I have since continued to replace it with similar Timex watches. I think I might be on the third generation of them by now, because I still use the same watch every single day -- my sleeping ear is perfectly tuned to the unique sound of the alarm.

Simply, it's my wake-up alarm no matter where I travel.

But, more importantly, it's like having a part of my dad with me at all times.

Twenty-two years later, I'm still symbolically "wearing the watch" my Dad gave me when I first moved out of the house. It's been a good way to keep him and his wisdom and spirit with me.

So, watching my son play with my watch made me flash back to what the watch meant to me; made me wonder at the marvelous circle of life.

Made me thankful for all that my Dad was to me and hope that I can be all those things to my own son.
But really, it's just a watch. Something you wear on your arm and tell time with.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Child's Right To Privacy

In the most recent episode of Spark (CBC's radio show, blog and podcast of ongoing conversations regarding technology and culture), host Nora Young talks to two different parents about the rights of their children's privacy in today's social media/connected world.

It made me pause and wonder about the way in which I have exposed my son to the world through my blog -- which, for the most part, has been, since I started it in 2005, a pretty unfiltered view into my day to day life, including embarassing pictures, moments and memories of my personal experiences, most particularly in my role as a writer, bookseller, husband and father.

I determined, a long time ago, that many details about my life weren't all that secret anyways. And, given I don't believe I have anything substantial to hide, I wanted to blog honestly and have it be about the real me rather than about a particular scripted persona I was trying to push out into the world.

We already wear too many masks, and besides, I figured anyone with half a mind could see right through any sort of fake representation of who Mark Leslie Lefebvre was.

(Okay, perhaps the one thing I purposely modified was my full name, given that I originally was seeking to push out the nom de plume or psyeudonym that I use and have used "Mark Leslie" as my handle through blogging and most of my social media profiles -- not that it's any secret, since, from day one, I've always included my full name in my blogger profile and "Mark Leslie" is part of my actual name.)

But what Nora's recent interviews on Spark did was made me wonder about the inadvertent violation of my son's privacy.

Sure, my wife can speak for herself and understands the repercussions when I relay a cute anecdote about something she said or that we did. But my son is only 5 years old, and, for most of his life, I have blogged about my experiences of fatherhood as well as posts specifically about him and how much joy and wonder he brings to my life.

And yes, in his way he is aware that Daddio is blogging about him and including various pictures of him on his blog. He has even had fun participating in some of the silly "stories" I have told through words and pictures online -- like the original "Spud Wars" HNT series I posted in which father and son team up to take on Darth Tater and his group of clones.

Sure, he finds them fun and neat now, but what is he going to say when he turns 13 and every little thing, every cute little anecdote, every silly picture I have posted of him is an opportunity for embarassment?

What about that sensitive time in his life when every single thing his goofy old man does is embarassing to him in front of his friends?

How is he going to react when all those private moments, all those cute stories from when he was a tiny infant (such as this post about the "Streak of the Naked Baby") are discovered?

It makes me wonder.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Reunited With An Old Friend

While I can't say I haven't been writing lately (because I have been regularly writing for my blog as well as contributing various non-fiction articles to The Mark News as well as industry magazines like Quill & Quire and Canadian Bookseller), I certainly haven't done much in the way of penning fiction.

Because, apart from a short story I co-write with my friend Kimberly Foottit for the Campus Chills anthology late last year, it has been a long time since I have crafted a short story.

And man does it feel good.

Here's how the recent reunion with my muse went: on Saturday night in the middle of a family dinner, Alexander made an offhand comment about his loose tooth. That comment sent my mind into one of the typical whirlwind spirals that occurs to me multiple times during the day. Most of those whirlwind spirals are the gist for inspiration for stories and most of them are lost with the winds and sands of time. But this time the call was so strong that I excused myself from the table and ran downstairs to quickly jot down the first couple of lines from a story that had immediately occurred to me.

Then, later in the evening, I made more notes and jotted down a few concepts for characters from the tale, and wrote a few paragraphs. Then I left the idea alone and let it just sit in the back of my mind while I did other things -- such as relaxing with my wife in front of a movie, reading a bit, then going to bed.

I got up early on Sunday morning and, refreshed, penned first half of the story. When my wife got back from her Sunday morning writing session I donned my own running gear and went out on a 3K run in the neighbourhood (I hadn't run outside since June 2009 -- most of the running I'd done over the winter had been on our basement treadmill).

The run seemed to have done the trick, allowing my mind (which WAS listening to an audiobook), just what it needed to continue to keep the plotline, characters and details in the back of my mind in order to properly sort out the rest of the story I was working on.

Because this morning I got up a little after 5 AM and finished the first draft of the story which runs about 2500 words.

It's not yet done, since I need to do a few edits and re-writes of the tale, but man did the creation of that story, right from inspiration through the completion of the first draft ever feel good.

It was like being reunited with my muse after a long absence.

Damn, I missed her.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The True Pathology of Unearned Advances

I quite enjoyed the Publishing 3.0 talk Richard Nash gave at the BookNet Canada Tech Forum a couple of weeks ago. Each week the good folks at BNC are releasing a new video of the talks given that fine day.

This is great -- because, not only were the talks informative and inspiring, but there were times when I was either busy writing down something a person had said or was tweeting about it that I might have missed something else. Oh, who am I kidding -- I likely missed lots of somethings, which means it's good to be able to listen to the talks again, and again.

Like the one from Richard Nash of Cursor Books who began his talk by discussing "the true pathology of unearned advances" then went on to talk about books as social glue and books as being a cultural icon that take 15 hours to read and how two different people reading and then discussing the same book can bring people together in a more meaningful way than any other.

But why listen to my feeble attempt to draw out cool salient points?

Watch this video and draw your own.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

HNT - Predictive Science Fiction

Last week I had the pleasure of hosting the book launch for Robert J. Sawyer's latest novel rst at Titles Bookstore McMaster University.

It had been about 11 years since I'd hosting a book event for Rob in a Hamilton area store. (The last time was at Chapters in Ancaster when his novel FlashForward first came out) Not only is FlashForward a great novel (and the inspiration behind the hit ABC television series of the same name), but in it, Rob predicted that bookstores of the near future would have Print on Demand (POD) machines right in their stores in order to instantly access from millions of works of literature.

In his novel, there is a scene where two characters go into a bookstore then sit down to have a coffee while waiting for their ordered POD book to print.

Which is one of the reasons why I wanted to get a picture of Rob and I standing in front of the Espresso Book Machine at Titles Bookstore.

The pictures were taken by my pal Pete Rainford (known to the blogging world as Rainy Pete -- interestingly, I killed Pete in an online fiction serial that I wrote back in 2006 as part of a fund raiser for a local literacy group in Hamilton)

Photo by Pete Rainford

Photo by Pete Rainford

Of course, I'm also eagerly reading Watch right now, curious to see if there are any scenes in which Rob will reveal what I'll be doing in another 11 years.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Roll Up On Your RIM To Win

Every year during Tim Hortons' Roll up the Rim to Win contest I'm a little bit torn over the disposable cup.

Don't get me wrong -- I think the concept, the actual printing onto the previously "unused" area that gets rolled and hidden under the rim of the cup is absolute brilliance on behalf of Ron Buist, who was a long-time marketing director for Tim Hortons. I had the pleasure of listening to him talk at a Campus Stores Canada symposium a few years ago and read his book Tales from Under the Rim: The Marketing of Tim Hortons shortly after that and quite enjoyed both his talk and the book.

However, technology has advanced in such a way that I think Tim Hortons can continue the very successful marketing campaign, but offer a more environmentally friendly way of playing.

And no, it's not that I always have a reusable mug on me -- but I do like to keep one in the car when I'm going on long trips, and I also keep one at work. Tim Hortons does offer a discount on the purchase of a coffee when you bring in your own reusable mug -- but, the saving of 10 cents during the Roll Up The Rim To Win time of year hardly compares to the chance to win a prize (whether it's a free donut, coffee or perhaps a new car).

So, just like there's an incentive to bring in a reusable cup, perhaps there can be an incentive to use a smartphone application (or online entry) for the whole "Rim" promotion. And thus my riff on the "rim" of the cup with RIM as in Research in Motion, yet another hugely successful Canadian success story, the folks behind the Blackberry: Roll up on your RIM to Win!

Here's how I imagine my idea might work.

When customers purchase a coffee during the "RIM" promotional period, they either get the wonderful cup we all know and love, or they get the option to register a randomly generated code either immediately using an application on their smartphone, or, if they don't have a smartphone or the app installed, via an entry form on their website (similar perhaps to the way that iCoke points are entered for contest prizes)

Of course, in order to encourage people to continue using reusable cups during the promotion, there needs to be an incentive. Let's be honest here, most people quickly and easily default back to the "what's in it for me" mentality in much of their daily activities and routines. That's not to say that people don't try to do better, and don't think about consequences -- Earth Hour is quite successful every year; it generates a huge amount of awareness; yet, despite this, most of us go back to our regular wasteful habits almost immediately after that hour is over. Not because people are selfish and evil -- it's just human nature. We need continued reminders (like Earth Hour) to prompt us to be less wasteful, to reduce consumption of materials and resources.

Thus, any promotion that ties back to environmental benefits, such as less waste, needs to be as simple as possible, and needs to offer an added incentive. For doing it "the digital way" I think that people need to get more; thus, two chances to win rather than one is a pretty cost-effective way of giving them more.

So, if I buy a coffee and get my tradition rolling rim, I get a chance to win, just like it has always been? Cool.

But if I do the digital rim thing, I not only get a discount on my coffee purchase, but I get TWO chances to win? Where did you say I could install that free application?

Of course, the whole digital method of "rolling the rim" could be extended to all kinds of social media platforms and made into games and fun sharing (further pushing the environmental message in a fun and competitive way). There is already an application for smartphones like RimRoller in which users can enter their "stats" of wins and track a Win/Loss ratio that is sent out to Twitter. So why not offer something similar?

The idea is simple and I'm sure that, using technology that already exists within the Franchise, (whether it's related to their cash register system auto-generated a number or a number being printed to those little slips of paper that come out showing your remaining balance on your gift card) something can be developed where you either enter the code right into your smartphone application on the spot, perhaps texting the entry code to a particular number or entering it online later. (I like the instant entry option because it might be more exciting to win on the spot rather than finding out later at home, or forgetting to enter)

In any case, I'm sure there are some really smart people out there who could make the idea work.

In the meantime, I'll continue to feel guilty when I take a disposable cup during this promotion rather than my reusable one. (Of course, I'll do my best to remember to recycle or add the cup to my compostable waste. But reducing use is still better than recycling waste)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

WATCH Some More

Robert J. Sawyer is having a party in Toronto tonight for WATCH. If you're in the area, get thee there -- you will have a great time.

If you can't get there, here are some more video clips from the launch at Titles Bookstore McMaster University that took place on March 31st. (The first 3 clips can be found here)

Here are Part Four, Part Five, Part Six and Part Seven of the launch for Watch. These clips are wonderful evidence that an audience can throw out virtually any topic and Rob can speak to it quite eloquently.

I've included below only the embeded video for Part Five, in which Rob talks a bit about the television series FlashForward based on his novel of the same name, including some of the reasoning behind the changes between the novel and the television adaptation (I figured another blog post with multiple embedded videos might be a little bit of overkill)

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Launch for Robert J. Sawyer's WATCH

On March 31, 2010, I had the distinct pleasure of hosting Robert J. Sawyer's launch for WATCH at Titles Bookstore McMaster University.

We not only pushed the launch live to the internet via our MACBookstore ustream feed, but we also recorded most of the event so we could continue to share the thrill it was for us to have Rob kick off his latest cross-Canada book tour in our store.

That being said, I'm delighted to be able to share the event via the following three videos, which include Rob talking a bit about the WWW trilogy then setting up a scene from WATCH that he reads from.

Here is PART ONE which runs about 7 minutes.

Here is PART TWO which runs just under 7 minutes.

Here is PART THREE which is the setup and reading of a scene from the novel WATCH and which runs just under 9 minutes.

Rob answered questions from the audience for another half an hour after this talk and reading. I'm working on getting those clips compiled to share in a similar fashion.

However, as cool as it is to watch this recorded event, if you get a chance to see Rob Sawyer in person, do take it. He is a captivating and engaging speaker sure to delight audiences wherever he roams.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

HNT - FlashBackward

I had the distinct pleasure of hosting Robert J. Sawyer in my bookstore last night for the kick-off of the 10 city book tour he's doing for his latest novel, WATCH. We not only had a full house (all chairs occupied with half a dozen people standing) of fantastic customers with some great questions for Rob, but, as expected, he was a fascinating speaker.

Rob talked about the WWW series (WAKE is now in mass market paperback, WATCH just came out in hardcover, and Rob is going to be finishing the first draft of WONDER in the next week and it'll be out next year), about the experience having one of his novels (FLASHFORWARD) being adapted into a television series, read a short scene from WATCH and then answered questions.

We broadcast the entire event in a live feed to the internet, and had 66 people "tuning in." (The event has been recorded and will be pushed out to the internet so that people who are unable to see Rob during his book tour can enjoy hearing him speak -- that being said, NOTHING beats the in-person experience, but if you're unable to, at least you can still benefit from the talk he gave at McMaster)

In all, a very successful, very fun event. I heard customers and staff talking about how great a speaker Rob is and how he could talk about anything (indeed, if someone in the audience asked a question, he was able to address it and keep everyone spellbound with his charm -- he is not only a brilliant storyteller, but he is also a gifted speaker)

Rob was also very kind when he explained why he chose Hamilton and Titles Bookstore for the world-launch of WATCH. He talked about the importance of booksellers who support authors and pointed out that I'd been very supportive of his novels for well over a decade, talking about him to customers and hand-selling his books. He wanted to show his thanks by doing the launch at my bookstore.

I think what Rob might not realize is that I'm not really helping HIM when I talk to customers about his books and recommend one of his novels to a customer. When I do that I'm doing a huge favour to the customer -- because I only recommend a book if it's something I'm truly passionate about and if it's something I believe they'll enjoy. And, given the range of fantastic novels he has written, it's easy to find something that I know people will enjoy, particularly people who believe they wouldn't like science-fiction. Because, while Rob's novels are all grounded in real science (with a slight speculative twist), they're always about people first. And within the realm of the great books he has written, I know I can find something that a customer will like (yes, even those reluctant to read in the speculative realm)

In any case, I was reminded of the fact that the last time I had the pleasure of hosting Rob for a book event in Hamilton, I was working at the Chapters in Ancaster, and he was doing the book tour for FLASHFORWARD. (And since that novel predicted the advent of POD machines in bookstores, like the Espresso Book Machine that sat about 50 feet away from where he did his talk, I made a point of asking Rob for more predictions as to what I might be doing in another 11 years.)

And for HNT, I found an old photo from really close to that time-frame which was taken back in 1997 or 1998 when I hosted an afternoon of readings from Canadian science fiction authors called "Sci-Fi Saturday."

Left to right: David Shtogryn, Edo van Belkom, Carolyn Clink, Robert J. Sawyer,
Douglas Smith, Andrew Weiner, Mark Leslie, Sally Tomasevic, Marcel Gagne

Wow, now THAT takes me back.

UPDATE: Via this blog's autofeed as a note into Facebook, Rob Sawyer appended a note that the date this picture was taken was July 25, 1998.