Tuesday, February 28, 2012

100% Chance of Cloud Today

I have always enjoyed the free-flowing creativity involved in word clouds.

For complete fun I used Wordle's online word cloud generator for a few sites. Here are the randomly generated images . . .

My website (www.markleslie.blogspot.com) . . .

My "I, Death" blog - rolling out the first third of my forthcoming novel I, DEATH in real-time . . .

And finally, this Blog . . .

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mark Leslie Newsletter

So far 2012 is going to be a busy year, at least with respect to new releases.

I have three books coming out via traditional publishers this year (which will be available in both print and ebook form). I also intend on continuing to experiment with pushing content out via alternative digital media.

I thus thought it was time to put together a monthly newsletter.

clicking will open sign-up form in a new window with pretty colour and everything - don't be frightened

I intend on only putting out 12 updates per year and filling it with information about forthcoming events and appearances, products and news that would be interesting to those who enjoy reading my work.

I will also be including special coupons, links to free stuff and other fun giveaways and promotional material -- so if you're a fan of my writing and want to have access to some cool discounts, free stuff and previews of forthcoming work, the newsletter is for you.

If you are a friend and aren't particularly interested in my writing updates, then don't subscribe - the newsletter is not for you. It is meant for fans who want to know more, get more and be privy to special insights and updates related specifically to my writing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lend Me Your Books

There has been a lot of talk about Amazon being generous to authors who make their titles exclusive within their KDP Select program (getting a portion of a shared fee based on how many times their ebooks are borrowed)

However, based on what I have been reading from various authors regarding the actual resulting numbers, it seems apparent the average author doesn't end up seeing much of the approximately half a million  "pot to be shared." Sure it's a big pot, but it is shared broadly.

On the other hand, I just cashed another annual cheque (or check if you prefer) from the Public Lending Right Commission.

The Public Lending Right (PLR) Commission, which is celebrating 25 years distributes annual payments to Canadian authors for the presence of their books in Canadian public libraries.

PLR does a random sampling of libraries across Canada, and every time they find one of your titles, they issue you a small fee for it.  The goal is to promote Canadian authored titles in Canadian libraries and compensate the authors for lost royalties.

The cheque I deposited was $144 -- it was based on one of my books being found in 3 out of 7 libraries sampled.

So far, this is the largest single royalty cheque I have received in 2012. It is certainly a delightful bonus. 

As an author you need only register your title once for them to do an annual poll and issue a cheque. I believe this is the 4th or 5th year I have been enrolled in the program.  It is an amazing Canadian program that benefits authors and readers.

A few handy links:

Check eligibility - Register

I should also note that in June 2011 consultant Paul Whitney submitted a report to the PLR Commission entitled "EBooks and Public Lending Right in Canada" (link is to a PDF of report) and the PLR Folks are beginning to collect eISBN numbers and assess how ebooks could be included for payments by the PLR Program.

Three cheers for the good folks at PLR Commission!

The PLR Registration is currently open.

Registration period: 15 February to 1 May 2012 (postmark as proof)
Registrations by e-mail are not accepted. You must fill out a registration form and mail it to the Public Lending Right Commission along with the required support material.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Can't Blog . . . Writing

Everyone once in a while I get so consumed with multiple writing projects that I neglect this poor blog of mine. I do feel bad about it. My blog and I go back quite a few years. I have been feeding it since 2005 and it has been providing me with a regular way to ensure that I'm constantly writing.

Even if that writing is a self-reflective thing, it has keep me pushing out words.

Even if those words are regularly "rough" and "draft-ish" it is important for me to ensure I follow the basic rule that a writer writes. Every day.

One of my favourite inspirational quotes about writing comes from Hugh Prather:

"If the desire to write is not accompanied by actual writing, then the desire is not to write." - Hugh Prather

This blog, then, has helped ensure that I regularly write. And I will admit that, despite my desire to write every day, I don't necessarily push out words to my writing projects nor my blog every single day.

But I come close. And I try my best.

Ironically, it is when I'm busy doing actual writing - working on articles and fiction and other writing related projects related to actually getting my work published, this blog, that gives me so much and asks so little, gets pushed aside.

Admittedly, like a little "Audrey II from Little Shops of Horrors, I hear the occasional soft cry of "Feeeeed me . . . ." coming from my blog.

And that's exactly why I wrote this post. I was in the middle of reading submissions for an anthology that I'm editing, but I had to pause for a few moments, pay heed to the cries of my blog, and respond with this post. Even if it's a rambling, round-about post, at least I have strung words together and sated the needs of this blog for a moment longer.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Remembering Baba

We lost Baba last year.

Of course, some might argue that we had lost her a long time before that, because much of her personality and mind were subdued and hidden under a murky cloud due to the serious of small strokes that affected her about a year and a half earlier.

You might say that the mourning process began a lot earlier.

And it never truly stopped.

I still think of her every day. Francine and I regularly talk about her - discuss how she might react to something going on, how much she might have enjoyed something else taking place; laughing about a funny comment she made in a similar circumstance. Family gatherings just haven't been the same without her so we often conjure her up in shared personal memories.

Alexander often talks about "Old Baba" - he came up with the name on his own. Baba was always Baba to everyone, so we named my Mom, Alexander's Baba, "Baba Jean" to distinguish between the two. Except Alexander felt the need to distinguish in his own descriptive way, and she thus became "Old Baba" to him - and yes, we all had fun with that.  Of course, Alexander adored "Old Baba" - and she adored children.

There are a lot of pictures of Baba with me and my cousins Rodney & Kevin, all at various stages of growing up (some of them appear in my post "Baba's Boys" & "More Baba's Boys") - but my favourite picture of her is this one where her and Alexander are smiling unabashedly at one another. It's one of those perfect moments that wonderfully captured the special and gentle love she shared with the world.

Baba was very much like a second mother to me; Baba was the epitome of love. When children were worshiping Santa Claus, I was thankful to have a special loving woman like Annie Dusick in my life and I still feel blessed to have had her play such a central role in my life.

I'm thankful for the many memories, all the laughs, the smiles, all those special "Baba" moments I grew up with an enjoyed as an adult. I cherish the fact that no matter how old I got, Baba was always an important figure in my life. At my wedding I danced with my Mom, but I also danced with my Baba to her favourite song - Conway Twitty's "Here's A Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)" - Ironically, even through my university years, I was constantly ensuring I called Baba so she knew that I still cared, that I still loved her, that she was still the central special matriarch of our family.

Baba might be gone, but her legacy, her love and all the things she meant to so many still live on.

I love you, Baba!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Shouldn't It Be About The Books?

I read an interesting article yesterday from an editor at BookRiot.

She (Bethane Kelly Patrick, Executive Editor) was conflicted regarding a book she had in her "review" pile. It was a book that she adored.  Here's a quote from her article . . .

"I picked up another book from my stack, simply because I liked the title and jacket design. Just a few pages in, I knew it was love. The voice was individual and authentic, the prose was snappy, and the plot was odd but maintained its own internal logic.

However, I didn’t want to share which book it was, because…Oh, dear. How can I put this delicately? Because I finally looked at this book’s spine and there saw something to make my heart stop for a moment: It was from Amazon Crossing."

- From The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name: An Editor's Dilemna (Bethane Patrick - @justbethane)

I, having a bit of a track record for actively speaking up against Amazon's behaviour and tactics, can easily emphasize with her dilemma.  I'm leery of any one single player dominating the book industry. So I'm not dismissing her conundrum nor the gut response she has. She actually does a great job of explaining why she has this reaction and talking about the concept of imprints vs authors, etc.

In all, it is a great, and offers good fruit for discussion. It runs parallel, of course, with the announced boycott of Amazon published books by so many booksellers around the world. I'm impressed with the solidarity I see among booksellers, where chains and indies are standing together - something I've long thought they should try to do.

But . . .

. . . part of me, even as I'm agreeing with her, wonders if it shouldn't just be about the book, shouldn't just be about the author.

Photo of Read Across America program - via Bookshelfporn
I've had some great discussions with bookseller colleagues who agree that people often don't buy books based on who the publisher is, but rather, who the author is, and what the story is. Think about it for a moment? When you go looking for that next great read, most of the time you're looking for a good book, not a particular publisher. Yes, this applies more to fiction, as there are some branded non-fiction books, reference material, that have a strong brand-publisher association. But for the most part, you're focusing on the story, on the book content, on the author.

So, shouldn't it be about the books?

There are certainly publishers that have done things I don't agree with - heck, there are great publishers that do things I disagree with, but that has never stopped me from enjoying a book that they released nor their author's work. That has never stopped me from actively hand-selling one of their titles when I felt it was just the right thing for a customer.

I, in fact, have participating in printing, selling and distributing books with my own bookstore's logo on it.  When I was at McMaster, operating the Espresso Book Machine, we created many books using the Titles on Demand imprint. I had a great relationship selling books to fellow booksellers and a relationship where we and the author all profited by making local author's books available through great print on demand technology. In fact, I likely sold more units of a particular book through Bryan Prince Bookseller (just down the street from my own bookstore at McMaster) than I did through my store. And it made me, my fellow booksellers down the street, and the customers, very happy to be able to enjoy a great book by a local author.

So, why, then, should that change just because the spine of the book says Amazon?

A book has been published, it is made available. An author's work is presented to be purchased and read.

Shouldn't it be about the book? Shouldn't it be about the writer and reader communicating?

As a bookseller, shouldn't my main concern be with connecting writers and readers? With introducing great new reading experiences to readers? With sharing my love for an author's latest work?

I mean, that's what drew me to become a bookseller in the first place -- that brilliant and beautiful connection I can help make when I link writer and reader together. When it happens correctly, you're part bookseller, part cupid.

So, shouldn't it be about that?

Monday, February 06, 2012

Go Wolves Go!

My nephew Brett is now a relief player for The Sudbury Wolves. For the past couple of weekends he has been playing on the team.

They played yesterday in Brampton and Alexander and I went out to watch the game. We got tickets right behind the visitors bench so we could "say hi" to Brett through the glass (without embarrassing him, of course)

It was an amazing game. Brett played really well, the team kicked ass (they won 3 to 1), the Wolves goalie was a superstar; and Alexander was delighted to see his cousin playing.

I kept thinking back to how, when I was a kid, heading into Sudbury to see the Wolves play was an amazing experience. I was not only delighted to share that excitement with my son, but also proud to watch Brett playing on that very same team I adored when I was a child.

I know that Brett's father, who passed away two years ago (my cousin Kevin - we were raised almost like brothers), would be VERY proud.

I know I was proud to watch Brett play for the Wolves.

Go Wolves Go!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Switch - An Erotic Horror Story

Back in January 2009 I had an erotic horror story "Switch" published in Black Ink Horror XXX (published by Sideshow Press) - it was limited to 100 numbered copies.

"Switch" was, to that date, the most shocking, horrific and erotic story I had ever had published.

"Switch" is about a psychiatrist who, in a desperate attempt to cure a misogynistic patient, undergoes an experimental body-switching therapy.

Part of this therapy, meant to force an empathetic reaction in the patient, includes having sex while in the other person's body. Some nasty side-effects occur within the fragile mind-body link in both doctor and patient, leading to some rather cruel, usual and disturbing activities.

I recently created an eBook for this dark erotic horror tale and it is now available at Amazon and Smashwords for 99 cents.

The cover was something I struggled with. The art that accompanied the story when it appeared in Black Ink Horror XXX was effective, but way too graphic and revealing. I also wanted to use some sort of photographic image.

Because it was both horror and erotica, it was difficult to come up with an image that properly denoted both.  The one thing I knew for sure was that I did NOT want to use the stereotypical "sexy" vampire bite with blood leaking down the neck picture that a lot of erotic horror seems to employ.

I purchased a stock image of a "Demon Girl" which I felt captured the essence of the insane cruelty that takes place in the story, particularly in the female protagonist, Dr. Connie Watson. And because the model is somewhat sexy and alluring (in a psycho-patient, demon-possessed disturbing sort of way), that hopefully covers the suggestion of erotic elements of the story. Of course, the tale is more horror than erotica - and it is DEFINITELY meant for adults (especially non-squeamish adults) - I feel that this image effectively portrays the dark horrific and disturbing elements of the tale.

The story runs approximately 4000 words.

Here is the opening . . .

Switch (By Mark Leslie)

Dr. Connie Watson stared at the naked body in front of her, admiring the way the breasts slightly pouted to the sides yet pushed forward and up. She gazed down the slender stomach, the gentle curve of the hips, then in to the blonde bush of pubic hair.

This was the first time she was ever able to examine her own body without the usual restrictions of a mirror.

It was incredible. The ritual of mutual projection had actually worked.

Her eyes traced the shapely tanned legs and then wandered back up, past the pelvis, past the breasts and to the face. She stared at the round face framed in short blonde curls, at the tiny nose and the full red lips.

But looking at the eyes, she knew it wasn’t her inside. She could tell that it was Bob’s spirit projected into and controlling her body, for the eyes -- though the same beautiful green -- were wide with confusion and perhaps fear. They were also filled with something she recognized in the eyes of men who looked upon her. Lust. His eyes were fixed down on the crotch area of the body Connie was now inside of -- Bob’s body.

As he leered at her, she became aware of a strange stirring below, and as she glanced down she realized she was beginning to have an erection. What an interesting mixture of pleasure with the strain of eager, somewhat painful anticipation. And all from looking at her own naked body. It was amazing that men could become aroused so easily upon visual stimulation.

“Incredible,” she said, staring down at the growing shaft.

[end of preview . . . . to read more, check out the ebook on Kobo, Amazonor Smashwords]
(the tale will eventually be pushed into other ebook retailers via an automated feed from SW)

I had to cut the preview off there because that's where the fondling and other more adult activity begins to happen . . .

In any case, I decided to push this out as an eBook partially to follow up on the experimentation that I did with my short love/Ghost story Spirits (Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo) and partially to test the theory that erotica and erotic fiction is one of the better selling genres.

We'll just have to see how that goes.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

I Have A Bad Feeling About This

Last night, my son and I were playing and, jokingly, he said: "I have a bad feeling about this!" I immediately recognized it as a "George Lucas" line and started laughing, because I realized that this "got a bad feeling" or "have a bad feeling" line is one that is used multiple times in the Star Wars movies.

Funny how a seven year old points out something that it took this 42 year old about thirty years to discover. I learn a heck of a lot from my son.

Adults should spend more time listening to children.

Alexander and I, Halloween 2011

From Wookipedia, here are the uses in the 6 films . . .

    Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

    "I have a bad feeling about this."
    ―As Obi-Wan Kenobi's first line at the beginning when Kenobi talks to Qui-Gon Jinn onboard Saak'ak

    Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

    "I've got a bad feeling about this."
    ―Anakin Skywalker at Geonosis in the arena, in reference to the approaching execution beasts

    Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

    "Oh, I have a bad feeling about this."
    ―Obi-Wan Kenobi talking to Anakin Skywalker as their starfighters approach a large, closing blast door on Invisible Hand

    Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

    "I have a very bad feeling about this."
    ―Luke Skywalker, when the Millennium Falcon approaches the Death Star

    "I've got a bad feeling about this."
    ―Han Solo, before the walls of the trash compactor start to close in

    Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

    "I have a bad feeling about this."
    ―Princess Leia, while inside the belly of the space slug, just before the mynocks appear

    Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

    "Artoo, I have a bad feeling about this."
    ―C-3PO, when entering Jabba the Hutt's palace

    "I have a really bad feeling about this."
    ―Han Solo, after the Ewoks capture the strike team

Here's a YouTube collection of clips from those movies . . .

Wookipedia also has a listing of uses in books, comics, computer games, the Clone Wars series as well as an extensive use of the phrase both in other George Lucas projects as well as outside the Lucas owned realm.