Sunday, December 30, 2012

Favourite Picture?

Each year, as we count down the days to a fresh new year, I'm always tempted to post some of my favourite things from the previous twelve months.  I will post a "favourite reads of 2012" and "writing in 2012" recap early in 2013 (and yes, I wait until the year is 100% complete, because I'm still reading and writing up until the bitter end).

But I thought it might be fun to pause and share a few of my favourite pictures from the past twelve months.  (IE, these would be pictures that I was in, or at least involved in -- not general pictures I took)

I think one of my absolute favourites, the one that gives me the biggest smile, would be the one of Alexander and I posing outside the Sci-Fi Dine In Theatre at Disney Hollywood Studios.  Yes, pictures of my son and I goofing around tend to always be one of my top picks.

Another favourite is one of me and Barnaby (my new skeleton who accompanies me to book signings)

Strange that, so far, my favourite pics involve cars, and me goofing around.

Another one that I just adore is one I took of Francine and Alexander on our first morning at Disney this past summer.  It's the two of them as we had just boarded the shuttle bus on our way to Disney Magic Kingdom on our first morning . . .

Cathie Coward, Hamilton Spectator photographer, took my next favourite shot from the past year.

That shot, and the wonderful article by Jeff Mahoney, led to Annette Hamm of CHCH Morning Live contacting me to be on the show the next morning.  That was a lot of fun.  Here's a screen shot of that . . .

I also had a blast at the Warrior Dash this year.  It was another great family weekend. Our family as well as some buddies and their families. A great weekend of fun. And I, of course, posed for a ton of pictures with all kinds of different folks, all dressed in fun costumes. The Dirty Old Birds were among the really fun groups of people that we met and hung out with that weekend.

I also had the chance to hang out with so many fantastic authors this past year.  I think one of my favourite opportunities was getting the chance to interview Michael Connelly in the Kobo booth at Book Expo America and talk about the 20 year anniversary of when his first Harry Bosch novel was published.

But I think my absolute favourite pictures would have to be ones of Francine, Alexander and I at Disney.  Yeah, had a ton of fun this past year, but it seems like Disney wins.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

As the eve of Christmas is upon us, I wanted to take the time to wish you and yours all the best this holiday season.

Of course, Barnaby wanted to get in on the act and pose for a festive shot. I told him I'd do it, but only if I could throw in some blatant self-promotional product placement. Since Barnaby himself is a "product placement" (being a fixture I take to book signings and events) he agreed. He figures there's nothing better than curling up inside near a fireplace with a selection of great books to read.

So, from me and my family (Barnaby included) to you and yours . . .

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Introducing Mr. Scotty Nibbles The Third

The other night Francine and I were watching CHCH and there was a bit on a Bunny Hop adopt-a-thon. There had been a woman in Oakville who was charged for some sort of neglect to properly care for a giant warren of rabbits, all this army of bunnies had all been taken by the Oakville Humane Society, cared for, brought back to health and needed good homes.

So we went in Sunday to see if we could be a good home for one.  (After all, it had been half a year since Earl, our previous independent bunny, had decided to pack his bags and seek his fortune in the world without us.  And we missed having a bunny)

The bunnies had all been given names by the staff (easier to refer to them with names than numbers), and we entered a room with about a dozen bunnies in it.

Scotty got our attention right away because he was zooming up and down a green ramp in his cage that led to an upper level. We petted and checked out many bunnies, then spend some time with Scotty and determined that he liked us and we liked him, so we put in an application to adopt him.

I was able to pick him up yesterday.

Alexander kept wanting to come up with various different names for the bunny. (He doesn't yet know his name, so they said we could change his name).  Over the past few days there have been multiple suggestions.  We all kind of liked the name "Scotty" but Alexander kept coming up with all kinds of names (like Mister Bunny, the name of our very first bunny, the one we had for 11 years; or Earl, the name of our second bunny, who we had adopted from a friend who couldn't keep him but ended up being the wandering minstrel who was only with us for a little over a year - we do suspect that he might have sought his fortune as the sidekick of the Easter Bunny, since he disappeared shortly after Easter this past year).

The other day, Alexander was pretty fixed on Mr. Nibbles.

I still liked Scotty. (You know, so I could call him Mr. Scott -- it gives me a cut excuse to be a Star Trek geek)

So we compromised, and decided to give him a full name.

Mr Scotty Nibbles III

I added the III (or "the Third") to indicate that he is the third black dwarf bunny that this family has owned.  You know, because everyone else in our family has long names with lots of letters - I wanted to make sure Scotty properly felt like a part of the family.

The Bunny Hop Adopt-a-Thon has been extended until Dec 31, 2012. Apparently there are still a lot of great bunnies who need a loving home.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Get Published Podcast: Book Nerd With Many Hats

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Mike Plested for Episode 97 of the Get Published Podcast.

In this interview we talked about writing and publishing, Kobo Writing Life, self-publishing and the book industry.  It was a really fun conversation and somewhat of a continuation of a conversation that Mike and I had in person when we first met at World Fantasy Con 2012 in Toronto in early November.

The entire episode runs just under an hour. You can download the mp3 file here, click on this link to listen to it online, or, better yet, subscribe to Mike's great writing podcast via iTunes.

I love the fact that Mike titled the podcast: Mark Leslie, Book Nerd with Many Hats.

Mike is also the author of a book I recently quite enjoyed.  Mik Murdoch: Boy Superhero. (His full name is Michell Plested) This is a young adult novel about a 12 year old boy's search for super powers in order to protect the people of his small prairie town. 

This novel perfectly tapped into the heart and mind of a 12 year old boy and had me remembering my own boyish quest to want to be a super hero. (Of course, with me, I knew that the superhero I wanted to be was Spider-Man. And, I never really outgrew that desire. I continue to wander around hoping to be bitten by a radioactive spider)

I've linked to the book on Kobo because that's the very of the book I read, and it is a steal at $4.99 Canadian.  This is a fantastic tale for young adults and adults alike.  Better yet, it's a great book to read to a child. In fact, once Alexander and I finish the series I'm currently reading him, I'm likely to read this book to him so we can enjoy it together. I'm pretty sure that he would love it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

One Hand Screaming At Book2Look

I'm checking out this interesting book marketing tool created by Book2Look.

It allows you to browse the entire text of the book (controllable by the author - in this case, I thought I'd make 100% of the book browse-able and search-able)

What do you think?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Silly Christmas Lyric Meme: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Half a dozen years ago I started a silly Christmas lyric meme where I take a song we hear countless times during the holiday season and discuss something that confuses me about it or is worth exploring if merely for the humour . . . (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 inspires silly thought and discuss it. Then either tag people or simply invite your readers to chime in with their own silliness.

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: Santa Claus is Coming to Town (Sometimes written as "Comin'" rather than "Coming.") Written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie , first sung on Eddie Cantor's radio show in November 1934 and recorded by such artists as Tom Stacks, Tommy Dorsey and Bruce Springsteen.

Lyrics in Question: "You better watch out! You better not cry! You better not pout - I'm telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town."  and  "He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake."

The Comment: The song opens with "you better watch out!" - isn't that enough to immediately put a person on the edge of their seat, not to mention a child who might already be a little bit concerned that a fat stranger in a red suit is going to spend a single night performing a series of benevolent home invasions completely undetected while everybody is sleeping.

Yes, I know he's an altruistic jolly old elf of a man. But it's got to be a little bit disconcerting to consider that no matter how securely you lock your home up, this guy will find a way in - even if there isn't a fireplace to sneak in through.

But not only that -- he's watching you, monitoring you, perhaps even stalking your activities at all times. And he goes completely undetected - like a Facebook lurker who monitors your every activity yet never comments or posts, not even indicating their presence with a simple click of that oh so alluring "Like" button.  It doesn't matter if you're awake or sleeping, the man has his eye on you.  Not sure about you, but I just got a "Big Brother" kind of shudder thinking about that.

I do remember, even when I was a child and was singing this song, feeling that odd sensation of wondering how this guy could possibly have eyes on all of us. Is he some middle-aged guy with no job living in his parents basement and spending all day on the internet monitoring everyone using millions of hidden nanny cams, his fingers permanently stained from the steady diet of Doritos and Cheetos? (That could explain why he's so large) No, he's more likely a hermit who does live at the North Pole with an army of elves and they use some sort of omnipotence to monitor the world's children, keeping top secret lists of anything you do that might taint your record and reduce your chances to get that gift you were really hoping for.

Seriously -- it's a wonder kids can even sleep after hearing this song. I still have trouble sleeping, wondering if Santa still monitors everyone, and not just the children.  (Admittedly, my stocking is always full, so it means I must have done more good than bad each year -- [huge sigh of relief])

What about you? Are you with me on just how scary this song might be for kids? Perhaps it's another song that has always bothered you. Steal this idea for your own blog or share your thoughts in a comment here. Have fun, be goofy. Go ahead, it's okay. But remember, Santa IS watching you . . .

[To read my previous Silly Christmas Lyric commentary, check out 2011 (Frosty the Snowman), 2010 (Here Comes Santa Claus) 2009 (I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus), 2008 (Silent Night), 2007 (Silver Bells) and the original 2006 (The Christmas Song)]

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Creative Penn Podcast

I've long been a fan of The Creative Penn podcast.  It's a great podcast for writer which is hosted by Joanna Penn, author of a series of "Arkane" thrillers such as Pentecost and Prophecy featuring a kick-ass female protagonist whose adventures offer something even more exciting for those who enjoy the Dan Brown style suspense novels, but are looking for something more.

A couple of weeks ago, Joanna interviewed me regarding Kobo Writing Life (Kobo's platform for self-publish authors) for Episode #143.

There is both an online video as well as a regular podcast feed of the episode.  (And the video features me towards the tail end of my "Movember" look if you're looking for an extra chuckle)

It's a great conversation with a great podcast host -- and one I was definitely proud to participate in.

The video is also embedded below....


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

That Old Silk Hat They Found

Tis the season for singing about a fat and jolly snowman dancing around in the snow and having a good time.

But every time I start to really think about it, I wonder what might ACTUALLY happen if a bunch of kids put a magic silk hat on a snowman and he came to life.

That's the premise of my story "That Old Silk Hat They Found" which was originally published in a small press magazine called Strange Wonderland back in 1997.  And it's the opening story from Snowman Shivers - an e-chapbook that contains a couple of creepy/dark humor snowman stories.

The other story is called "Ides of March" and involves a couple of strange characters who are driving around and kidnapping snowmen out of people's yards.

They are two fun tales (both stories appear in my collection One Hand Screaming) and are among fan favourites.

It is available free on all major platforms (it took a bit of poking to get Amazon to do ye olde price matching to make it free like all the other players.

So check it out - it's some dark humor reading for the holiday season.

Barnes & Noble

And if you do read it and enjoy it, please do feel free to leave a review on Goodreads, Amazon or Apple.

No seriously, go ahead and give it a review. The Amazon page is rather bare and could use a review or two.  (It's averaging four out of five stars at Kobo, Goodreads and Barnes & Noble - just needs a little love on the other platforms) 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

PWAC Toronto: Self-Publish & Market Your Book

I am quite pleased to join Harry von Bommel and Paul Lima at a Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) event tomorrow (Thurs Nov 22, 2012) night at 7:00 PM (Registration starts at 6:30)

It takes place at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre (Room R318) at 750 Spadina Avenue (near Bloor) in Toronto and is entitled:

Self Publish & Market Your Book

Self-publishing – it's all the rage, and no wonder!  From establishing credibility within a business niche to becoming a breakout author, the tools are in your hands now to help you achieve your book-publishing goals.

At this panel discussion, you'll hear self-published authors tell their stories.

You’ll have an opportunity to learn about:

  •     finding the right topic for your book
  •     preparing your book for publication
  •     writing, editing and polishing, design and layout
  •     where to sell your self-published books and
  •     how to promote your books
The event is free for PWAC members and students - or $10 ($15 at the door) for associate member groups or $15 for non-members ($20 at the door)

Here are some event details, including where you can register.

I think it's going to be a really fun and lively panel discussion.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Red Banner Day

A very talented colleague recently produced this really cool animated banner which promotes my book Haunted Hamilton.

It wasn't cheap, but because he's a friend he cut me a good deal.

I think it's damn cool.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Spooky Sudbury

One of the real pleasures of having been doing promotion and book signings for Haunted Hamilton is just how interesting it is when people share their own true ghost stories.

But it is also an amazing thing to research and learn more about my own town.  Thus, since writing the book on Hamilton ghosts allowed me a chance to explore the history and richness of Hamilton (my adopted home-town), I wanted to do the same for the town where I was born and raised.

I have begun soliciting true ghost stories for a book project entitled SPOOKY SUDBURY which I am co-writing with Jenny Jelen.

So if you're from the Greater Sudbury area and have some sort of ghost story, supernatural or eerie/unexplainable true tale related to that area to share, go ahead and fill out the form.

Monday, November 12, 2012

You Spin Me Right Round Baby Right Round

In May 2012 I was invited to co-deliver a plenary session talk at The Ontario Writers' Conference (with Cynthia Good, Director of the Creative Book Publishing Program at Humber College) called Storytelling 360°: Storytelling in a Digital Age.

We had decided to split it up and have Cynthia focus on specific examples of trans-media storytelling, while I focused on looking at the history of storytelling and how the art of storytelling has evolved with technology.  I also used the concept of 360° to make meta reflections on my own mulch-faceted role as a storyteller, a bookseller and Director of Author Relations and Self-Publishing at Kobo. I outlined my own journey from using a typewriter to various electronic and digital options as a writer while quickly outlining the journey from oral storytelling, the scroll, the printing press and digital books.

It was challenging to do this talk, particularly when I wasn't yet able to talk about the forthcoming Kobo Writing Life DIY platform built to help authors get their work into Kobo's catalog.  We had scheduled the official announcement for the platform to take place in early June at Book Expo America - so while I had been extremely excited about KWL, and dying to share it with a room full of writers, I couldn't yet mention it.  Talk about a challenging test of my self-control . . .

Cynthia opened up the session with a fascinating talk.

I then did my bit . . .

And afterward the two of us participated in a quick Q & A.

It was great collaborating with Cynthia on this talk -- always a pleasure to work with her.  (In a past life, I used to pop in to talk with one of her classes about POD and the Espresso Book Machine - that was always a good time) Ontario Writers Conference was a fantastic day spent with writers, participating in workshops, listening to talks and, of course, networking with other writers. 

All of the talks and workshops were entertaining and informative. One of my favourite bits was when Douglas Gibson did a wonderful job of entertaining the crowd with his "Stories About Storytellers" segment, asking the audience to mention a Canadian writer from his latest book and then telling an interesting story about that author from his personal experience.

As recently as last weekend I had people approach me and state how much they enjoyed my talk that afternoon. That is pleasing to hear, particularly since I have agreed to teach a workshop for the 2013 Ontario Writers Conference, which will be taking place May 4, 2013 entitled BEYOND THE SLUSH PILE: The Ins and Outs of Digital Self-Publishing.  And yes, this time, I will certainly be talking about Kobo Writing Life as I outline possible strategies, step by step details and various elements of tackling the world of digital self-publishing.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lest We Forget

Today, take two minutes to remember.  It's a pittance of time.

"In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae

Friday, November 09, 2012

A Case of Piles

I never thought I'd be delighted to learn that I had a case of the piles.

No, not piles as in hemorrhoids, but piles as in stacks of my book in a warehouse.

The other night my son and I swung through the Costco in Ancaster and I couldn't stop myself from taking a picture of my book Haunted Hamilton sitting in a big giant stack.

There was my new non-fiction book sitting close to Rick Mercer, Lloyd Robertson, Red Green, and a crap-load of Chicken Soup for the Soul books.


Of course, I had initially been a bit torn over this.

You see, I'm a huge supporter of local bookstores. As a bookseller, I want people to purchase my book at their local bookstore.  In particular, the awesome Epic Books and Bryan Prince (they both have signed copies of the book, BTW).  You can, of course, also find it at local Coles, Chapters and Indigo locations in Hamilton.  The point is that I'm a huge advocate for the importance of bookstores to a local community -- they enrich the neighbourhood they belong to, they add a special and unique cultural meeting place for book lovers.

But as an author I'm thrilled to see a giant stack of my books in a warehouse, meaning a heck of a lot more eyes are going to fall on this book. Meaning, sales are likely to be pretty solid. Meaning it's likely I'll earn out my advance and this book will actually be a profitable one for Dundurn Press.  Meaning, I won't be cast off as an author that burned through their publishing dollars without a proper return on that investment.

When I had expressed this concern to friends, many of them assured me it was okay to be delighted -- that a good majority of the folks who'd buy it from Costco likely aren't the same people who would discover it in their local bookstore.  That being in the big box outlet actually opens the book up to an entirely new demographic.

So I've decided to no longer be torn, just tickled about these great piles . . .

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Fifty Shades of Hamilton

Yes, Fifty Shades of Grey has been overwhelmingly popular for several months now. Authors and publishers have been scrambling to take advantage of this huge wave of demand for, well, for literary porn and creating all kinds of interesting spins from the original books by E. L. James.  And there are more knock-offs of this popular series than you can shake a pair of sweaty handcuffs at.

So why should I not try to take advantage of the trend?

Thus, I present:  Fifty Shades of Hamilton (or 50 Shades of Hamilton if you prefer)

First, let me explain the use of the word shade and how it applies here.  One of the definitions of the word is ghost.  Thus, fifty shades = fifty ghosts.

ShadeA disembodied spirit; a ghost.  (Synonym: apparition, phantom, spirit)

So without further adieu, here are the Fifty Shades of Hamilton that appear in my book Haunted Hamilton (complete with references to the page numbers where these appear)

1) The Dark Lady of Customs House (page 25)
2) & 3) Two little boys - Customs House (page 30)
4) Young woman - Customs House (page 30)
5) Fifteen men (unidentified because they were transients) buried alive in tunnel between Customs House & railway tracks (page 30)
6) Mary Stuart McNab - Dundurn Castle (page 36)
7) Sophia McNab as the wedding guest - Dundurn Castle (page 37)
8) 11 men hung for treason - Dundurn Castle (page 38)
9) The woman with blazing red hair - Bellevue Mansion (page 44)
10) The man and little girl of the front lawn - Bellevue Mansion (page 44)
11) Ghostly soliders moving quietly through Battlefield Park - (page 51)
12) Sara Gage - Battlefield House Museum - (page 52)
13) William Black - The Hermitage Ruins - (page 61)
14) The mysterious two figures of the Hermitage Ruins - (page 62)
15) Alma Dick Lauder - The Hermitage Ruins - (page 66)
16) Strange little girl of Auchmar House - (page 73)
17) Woman in the basement of Auchmar House - (page 73)
18) John Heslop - Woodend - (page 78)
19) Spectral orbs of Burkholder Cemetery - (page 80)
20) Wife of Thomas McQueston's brother -  (page 84)
21) The man in grey - Whitehern - (page 85)
22) Jane Riley - Mount Albion Falls - (page 87)
23) The ghostly figure of 1897 - Mount Albion Falls - (page 88)
24) The banging & crashing ghosts - Dundas District School - (page 100)
25) Russell the prankster custodian - Dundas District School - (page 101)
26) Two angry spirits of the Hamilton Armoury Museum - (page 108)
27) Victor the regimental cat - Hamilton Armouries - (page 109)
28) The ghost horse - Hamilton Armouries - (page 110)
29) Ghostly barks of a drill sergeant - Hamilton Armouries - (page 110)
30) Spiked helmet ghost - Hamilton Armouries - (page 110)
31) Semi-transparent soliders on the balcony - Hamilton Armouries - (page 110)
32) Waterdown Wraith - (page 113)
33) The haunted elevator of Waterdown library - (page 116)
34) Prospero's Ghost - McMaster - (page 119)
35) Disappearing spirit of the basement - McMaster / Keg Mansion - (page 120)
36) Lillian's maid - McMaster / Keg Mansion - (page 122)
37) Phantom footsteps of children - McMaster / Keg Mansion - (page 122)
38) Shadows and voices heard in Downtown Centre basement - McMaster - (page 122)
39) Anthony B. Percy of Wallingford Hall - McMaster - (page 123)
40) Victorian "homeless" ghost of the Tivoli - Tivoli Theatre - (page 130)
41) Spirit of the 1920's Woman - Tivoli Theatre - (page 131)
42) Loren Liberman's doberman & the locked doors - Tivoli Theatre (page 132)
43) Distressed spirit of the boy near Caesar statue - Tivoli Theatre - (page 133)
44) Gus's ghost of 1920 - (page 137)
45) The Tombstone Ghost - (page 145) - read entire chapter online
46) The Westdale Ghost - (page 147)
47) Harvey the friendly ghost - Haunted Pubs - (page 153)
48) The Top-hat ghost of the Winking Judge - Haunted Pubs (page 155)
49) Another ghost of a cat - Haunted Pubs - (page155)
50) Ghost in the Green Overalls - Haunted Pubs - (page 159)

How is THAT for attempting to hitch my ride to a trend . . . ? 

In any case, if you want to learn more about these 50 shades (and a few others that didn't make it to the list -- because, hey, I had to round the number down to the correct figure, didn't I?), check out my book Haunted Hamilton:  The Ghosts of Dundurn Castle & Other Steeltown Shivers.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Scared In Studio

Yesterday I had the pleasure of being in studio on Barry Shainbaum's FaithFM radio show Perspectives.  It was a one hour show in which we talked about how I'm afraid of everything, how that fear of my own shadow led to the writing of horror and, of course, my new book Haunted Hamilton.

Yorick, of course, joined me in studio.  :)

Mark and Yorick - Photo courtesy of Barry Shainbaum

The show is broadcast to folks in the Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and Brantford area, but it was also broadcast via a live web stream.

It was a fun hour and you can listen to it via podcast by right-clicking here or going to the online radio show archive.

Mark, Yorick and Barry

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Haunted Hamilton on Bookends

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time at Stephanie Lechniak's fantastic The Haunted Shop in Niagara on the Lake where Justine Lewkowicz of Bookends interviewed me about some of the tales from Haunted Hamilton: The Ghosts of Dundurn Castle and Other Steeltown Shivers.

One unexplainable thing happened repeatedly, causing both interviews to have to repeat multiple takes on the introduction -- the camera mysteriously blurred as the conversation began. It seemed as if we were never going to get through the interview, which is why, when the discussion between Stephanie and I take place, you see us both pretty close to laughing.

Here is a link to the blog post and 11 minute video, which includes Justine chatting with both Stephanie and I in the wonderful must-see shop in Canada's most haunted town.