Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tesseracts Sixteen Launch

This Saturday, at Bakka-Phoenix, a must-go bookstore for science-fiction and fantasy readers in the Toronto area, Tesseracts Sixteen: Parnassus Unbound, a science fiction anthology that I recently edited, will celebrate it's official Toronto Launch.  It takes place Saturday Sept 29th at 3 PM (Bakka-Phoenix is located at 84 Harbord, just off Spadina)

See the Facebook event here.

Tessaracts Sixteen (or T16 for short) is the latest in the award-winning speculative fiction series and focuses on speculative writing where art, literature, music and culture play a central role.  Each tale involves one or more of those cultural elements (which is where the term Parnassus is derived).  T16 features a wonderful medley of short stories and poems by: Neil Peart & Kevin J. Anderson, Robert J. Sawyer, Ryan Oakley, Steve Vernon, Hugh A. D. Spencer, Sandra Kasturi, Michael Kelly, Rebecca Senese, Randy McCharles, Chadwick Ginther, Stephen Kotowych, Carolyn Clink, J. J. Steinfeld, David Clink, Robert H. Beer, L. T. Getty, Scott Overton, Sean Costello, Virginia O'Dine, Melissa Yuan-Innes, Derwin Mak, Kimberly Foottit, Matthew Jordan Schmidt, Adria Laycraft and Jeff Hughes.

Apart from the fantastic writing included inside, the book sports a truly spectacular cover by Jeff Johnston which perfectly captures the theme.

I had long wanted to edit an anthology with this theme, and am delighted with the incredible stories collected together here.  And I can't wait to share this book which I am proud and honoured to have been a part of.  Joining me at the book launch on Saturday at 3 PM will be:  David Clink, Sandra Kasturi, Michael Kelly, Derwin Mak and Hugh A.D. Spencer

Saturday, September 22, 2012

World's Best Neighbour

There are times when you must pause to appreciate the simple, yet powerful things in life.

Like having the world's best neighbour.

My buddy Chad, who has been a neighbour for 13 years, and we've had some really good times over the years.  This past week, Chad got the two of us in to Y108's morning show with Ben, Kerry and Shawna competing with another pair to win a backyard party.   It's part of a "good neighbour" competition they're running. We didn't win, but had a heck of a good time meeting the morning crew that we listen to and joking about our neighbourhood on air.

The competition went into sudden death overtime, and after four rounds, we finally lost.

It actually worked out for the best that we didn't win, because neither of us were going to find it easy to get Thursday afternoon off work in order to host the backyard event with the trio from Y108.  We had a fun time, though, and really enjoyed our chance to goof around in studio with the fantastic Y108 crew.

Later that same day Chad asked for my contact at Steamwhistle. Ever since we won a different Y108 contest last spring (which involved a delivery of a Steamwhistle keg to my house) I'd been having Steamwhistle deliver kegs to my house and back yard (I have a beer tap in the basement).  Chad was having a get together for his son's birthday party and wanted to get a backyard keg setup.

So today, while I was out at Toys R Us with Alexander (visiting with Scout Troopers, Captain Rex and R2D2), Chad texts me to tell me to get home quick, because the Steamwhistle Keg was delivered.  (We had set a goal of making sure we would drink the keg in a single day)

I got back, picturing I'd be helping him set it up and then start drinking it.  (Since what we do best is help each other drink our beer).  And he and the Steamwhistle delivery guy inform me that Chad had ordered a second keg.  One for his backyard party, and one for me, for my basement beer tap.

Can't ask for a better neighbor, can you?

Chad, with his backyard 20L Steamwhistle keg and the 2nd one he bought for me.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Context is King

Sigh, I just got a nasty sounding request from Google Adsense to take down the offensive content on a blog post entitled "That Little Faggot's Got His Own Jet Airplane"

There's a screen shot about the post below.  For the record, as I clearly state in the original post, I'm quoting from the song "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits, mentioning a new items about a decades old song being censored and make sure I'm clear to define myself as against homophobia.  Some of my best friends are gay and some of my family members are gay and I love them all dearly.  Further in the post, I walk through all the other potentially offensive terms in the song, yes, poking fun at the situation.

Here's the email from Google AdSense telling me to remove the offensive content or else . . .

The most frustrating thing about this is that there is no indication that a human actually read this to find it offensive, and no way for me to explain that I'm using a derogatory term quoted from a song lyric in order to discuss the concept of censorship.

It's all about the CONTEXT, people.  Context is king.

For the record, I'm not changing that blog post. I like what I have written and I stand behind it.

I'm also not changing this one either.

Too bad for me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Haunted Hamilton Book Trailer

I recently compiled a bit of a slideshow to go with the talk I gave at last Friday's book launch (which was, I am delighted to say, pretty close to a packed house -- it was a fun time, I got a chance to meet some wonderful people and personalize signed copies for a lot of folks, and Barnaby got to hang out on stage with me)

Since I had the images compiled, I thought I would use some of them to create a bit of a book trailer for Haunted Hamilton.

Photos in this video are by Roger Czerneda, Peter Rainford & Stephanie Lechniak.  
Music - "Unpromised" by Kevin MacLeod of

And if you missed the book signing last Friday and want to get your hands on some, signed copies of the book are available at Bryan Prince Bookseller and Epic Books.  Don't be shy, if they run out of signed copies I'll be making an appearance at both bookstores again before Halloween.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Haunted Hamilton Book Launch

It has certainly been a great media week for me in the lead up to tonight's official book launch for Haunted Hamilton:  The Ghosts of Dundurn Castle & Other Steeltown Shivers.

On Wednesday Jeff Mahoney published a wonderful article about my new book in the Hamilton Spectator, and yesterday morning I had an in studio chat with Annette Hamm on CHCH Morning Live.  (And Barnaby made his first television appearance -- he was scared stiff: didn't say a word while Annette and I chatted)

One downside to the interview is that my son Alexander was watching it live.  And even though he knows I write scary stories, he hasn't yet heard me tell any (except for some funny creepy and funny tales I tell around Halloween) During the interview I relayed one of the stories in the book that creeped me out the most:  a couple waking in the middle of the night and frozen in fear as the specter of an old woman hovered above their bed, looking at them -- only to find out, ten years later, that there was a tombstone embedded in the wall of their home.

So when the interview was finished, Alexander turned to Francine with a worried look on his faceand said, "Mom, are ghosts real?" And for some strange reason, he had trouble falling asleep last night.  (Just like his father, who often lies awake trembling under the sheets)

My publicist at Dundurn (Karen) has been working hard at getting some attention for the book -- I don't think I could have gotten any better support from her, the HPL and the local media. I'm rather overwhelmed, in fact at the amazing support.

I was impressed at how many times CHCH showed this on air ("Tomorrow" = Fri Sept 14, 2012)

The book launch starts tonight (Friday Sept 14th) at 7:00 PM at the Hamilton Public Library Central Branch (55 York) -- it is taking place in conjunction with the awesome Supercrawl (a huge music & arts festival in Hamilton's downtown) and Bryan Prince Bookseller will be on hand to sell the book.

I will be doing a brief talk and then a book signing.  And the good folks from Haunted Hamilton Ghost Walks & Tours will be offering two free downtown ghost walks which will leave from that location and take folks on a wonderfully thrilling tour of some of some of the featured spots and incredible oral storytelling which inspired me to write the book. (If you miss out on these free tours, don't forget to check out Haunted Hamilton's website for details on where and when they'll be next - such as a longer, full-length tour on Saturday Sept 15th -- and book early, their tours and fun Halloween Costume Ball tend to sell out fast)

It should be a good time.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Spirits of Hamilton Haunt New Book

The other day Hamilton Spectator reporter Jeff Mahoney called to talk to me about Haunted Hamilton.  He told me that he quite enjoyed the book, and I was immediately flattered because I had been reading Jeff's articles and columns in The Spec for years and quite like and respect his writing.

Jeff's article about my new book which was headlined with Spirits of Hamilton haunt new book:  Horror author calls his account of ghostly residents - historical and contemporary - a love letter to the city appeared in today's Hamilton Spectator.  It included a great photo that Cathie Coward took of me at my desk.

Here is the photo used in the online version of the article

The print article and the online version (slightly different photos) both show one of my favourite pictures of Alexander on the computer monitor behind me.  Notice, also, that one shot has my coffee mug in it while the newsprint version doesn't.

Jeff's great article garnered some some cool attention. Annette Hamm from CHCH Morning Live contacted me and I'll be on the show tomorrow (Thurs Sept 13th) at 7:50 AM.

And the cool thing:  she asked me to bring my skulls. When I told her about Barnaby (who is still upset he never appeared in the photo shoot - he was at his post in my passenger seat at the time) she said to bring him too.

5 Tips For A Successful Book Signing

I've been doing a lot of in person appearances lately for Haunted Hamilton and will be doing more shortly for Tesseracts Sixteen.

Signed stock of Haunted Hamilton at Coles Eastgate Mall in Hamilton

As I was sitting at the author table during a recent mall store book signing, I started to make some notes on successful things I have tried for signings -- so thought I'd summarize a few tips of things that have worked nicely for me right here.

1) Have Something to Prop You Up & While You're At It Give Me Some Candy

If applicable, use props. Because I write horror, and my latest book is collection of ghost stories about the Hamilton area, the props I use to attract attention, draw people's interest, are spooky in nature.  Yorick the skull has come to book signings with me since 2004.  But I also have a spooky tablecloth, a solid standup tombstone or two, a few other skulls on the table and now Barnaby, a full size pose-able skeleton. These might be considered the hooks. Lots of people look, and those drawn to the spooky tend to wander over to check out what it's all about -- those are my target audience.

In particularly, because my book is about local ghost stories, I hung a "Ghost Stories Told Here" sign that worked nicely - some folks approached, pointed at the sign and said:  "Okay, tell me a ghost story."

Perfect ice-breakers.

One of my props happens to be a giant skull-head bowl. I fill it with small chocolate bars and treats -- Halloween style. Why? Two reasons.  One, since my table looks like Halloween I might as well offer a treat to those who come gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.   Two, and more importantly, it becomes a bit of an ice-breaker as well; allows me to a way to strike up a conversation on neutral ground -- ie, offering them something, not selling them something. Even if they don't purchase something, they leave feeling a bit better because they stopped by and got something for free.

Some might argue that people will feel a little more likely to purchase if you offer them something for free, but that's actually rare in my experience. Plenty of people take giant handfuls and walk off. Some people are like that. I merely offer the candy as a kind, positive gesture.  Perhaps I'm a believer in Karma.

Skulls, tombstone, Barnaby & a sign - I wonder if this is a spooky book?

2) Clipboard for Newsletter Sign-up

If you have an email newsletter (ie, an attempt to build a tribe of people who are interested in getting updates and learning about your next project), then you shouldn't attend a book signing without some sort of email newsletter sign-up form.

You might consider adding a couple of names onto the empty sheet to demonstrate there are already people on the list, since people tend to be a bit more reluctant to be first to fill something out -- but if there's already a list started, they're less hesitant.

A mailing list is a good way to find a group of people who are already interested in what you have to offer.  Go read Permission Marketing by Seth Godin -- it's a dozen years old, but it's still bang on and Godin Gold!

3) The Strange Mathematics of Proximity and Signage

Here's an interesting thing I have noticed. When people see an author at a table, even when there aren't intriguing props, they want to check it out, but folks tend to be a little leery of getting the "sales pitch" -- they want to know what it's all about, but don't want to feel pressured, and thus might not approach.

This is where having a display of your books nearby works beautifully.  Perhaps it's only 10 feet away.  Perhaps it's deeper inside the store, near the cash desk with a sign that simply says "TODAY: Meet author of Haunted Hamilton"

At a recent bookstore event I did, there was a display of my books less than 10 feet away -- far enough that people could check out the book without feeling me hovering over them (ie, they could relax and "enjoy" the experience of browsing, without the sense that I was expectantly waiting to talk to them, interrupt or throw a hard sales pitch at them)
I noticed that several different people who were "afraid" to approach me and took a wide berth, paused to check out my books on display further away.  Upon browsing the book without stress, 3 times out of four, they would approach the table and ask if I was the author and if I could sign the book. Without that display, they likely would have just moved past, curious but not inching close enough to realize it might be something interesting.
Alas, poor Yorick. I signed books with him, Horatio.
4) Sell Only To Your Target Audience

The last thing I'll ever believe is that my books are great for everyone. Horror is not everyone's cup of tea, so I'm used to the plain and simple fact that my target demographic audience is smaller than those interested in romance or thrillers or mysteries -- yes, there might be some cross-over, but my stuff doesn't appeal to everyone; nor should it. Any author who believes their book is great for everyone is demonstrating that they haven't really thought their target audience out yet.

Haunted Hamilton can appeal to three types of people:  1) Those who love ghost stories and tales of true supernatural events 2) Those who love history, particularly local history and 3) Those who love anything having to do with the city of Hamilton.  Fortunately for this latest book, that's a pretty broad target demographic.  However, I do recognize that there are those who simply won't be interested in my book.

It is critical for an author to recognize that fact -- and yet, so difficult for some to realize, particularly since us authors tend to be pretty passionate about our work, our babies.

When I'm at my table sure I'm enthusiastic about and eager to discuss my book -- but I also pay attention to the person in front of  me. And if it's not clear to me that they'd be interested, I come out and ask what kind of books they like. If historic ghost stories of the local area aren't of interest to them, then I'm honest and might tell them a little but suggest they wouldn't like it.  This gives them an easy "out" if they're not interested and doesn't waste my time nor their time.

I think one of the worst things is if someone who isn't interested in the topic or genre ends up buying it.  It'll most likely NOT be a pleasant experience for them, and they're more than likely going to tell everyone they know that you and your book suck. Not a good scene.  But if someone who is likely to enjoy what you've written, chances of them liking it are dramatically improved. Again, why stack the odds against you?

5) Don't Forget Your Manners

Bookstores typically don't make much money at the average event. Sure, they might sell some books, but many times there are costs you as an author don't see.  They have to order extra stock, receive and unpack the stock - set up a display/table, etc. Potentially advertise or produce posters, etc for the event.  Then, when the event is over, they have to send the overstock back to the publisher, which also costs time, resources and money.  If you're a consignment author the work is even more manual and often frustrating for the staff/management, typically because it's a different system that requires extra effort outside the normal daily processes.

In a nutshell, having an event is a lot of work. I know this because I've been a bookseller for two decades. I know the work involved.

Thus, if, after the event, you take the time to write a simple thank-you card and send it to the manager/owner, it goes a long way.  Perhaps there was a staff member there who did something special, made you feel great, was personable, friendly, great with customers. Take the time to make sure you compliment them, praise them in some way; ideally in writing.  It'll make the manager/owner feel good about their store and about their staff.

And it never hurts to have a bookseller, bookstore manager/owner like you.  When deciding which title to put in the front window, on a limited space display, and the choice ends up being between your book and some other book that fits equally well, how do you think your previous positive kind actions will affect that decision? How about when it's time to get rid of extra stock to clear shelf space. Yours or another title? How will your interactions with them affect that?
Coles Limeridge - One Hand Screaming - Oct 2004

Your mileage, of course might vary -- and keep in mind I mostly write horror and twilight zone type stories -- so my tips align with my expected audience.

But these are things that have worked for me.  What other tips would you add -- ie, things that have worked for you?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering And Celebrating Their Lives - Project 2996

For many years now, on the anniversary of the tragic day where 2996 people lost their lives D. Challenger Roe began Project 2,996 which brought bloggers from around the world together to remember and pay tribute to the victims of Sept 11, 2001.

The focus was to take the time to get to know one of the people who died and to celebrate and remember their lives rather than focus on the tragedy that befell them that fateful day.

From the very beginning I loved the fact that the focus wasn't on the tragedy but on celebrating the lives, the people they had been before 9/11.

As part of this tribute, I took the time to find information and remember three different individuals.  And each year, I go back and re-read the posts, think about the lives they lived and the differences they made before those lives ended. As a way to continue to celebrate them

The posts about the people are listed below.

Raymond Meisenheimer - Remembering Raymond Meisenheimer  (2006)

Deora Francis Bodley - Remembering The Lives of Two Heros (2007)

David Reed Gamboa Bradhorst and his fathers Daniel Brandhorst and Ronald Gamboa - Project 2996 - Sept 11, 2008 (2008)

These are just a few of so many lives that were lost on that day and in the days beyond. It is more than ten years ago, but so many lives have been permanently altered, the course of history was forever changed. But at the base of the anniversary of this tragedy lies the simple fact that loved ones were lost, people who loved and were loved and who continue to live on in our memories and hearts.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Commuting Companion

Meet Barnaby, my new commuting companion.

No, he won't get me into the HOV lanes on my daily drive from Hamilton to Toronto.

But he'll provide a bit of amusement from the second looks and stunned reaction from my fellow commuters.

The real reason Barnaby, my new pose-able skeleton, was in my car was because I have been bringing him to my Haunted Hamilton book signings along with my other "spooky" decorations. But I got such funny looks yesterday on my way to and from a signing that I thought I should leave Barnaby strapped in to my passenger seat for a while.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Haunting Locke Street Festival

One of my favourite "end of summer" events each year is always the Locke Street Festival.

Each year, on the Saturday following Labour Day weekend, Locke Street is closed to traffic, an open air market is created on the street featuring vendors, live entertainment, food and fun for the whole family.

Fran, Alexander and I have enjoyed attending this wonderful festival every year.

This year will be a bit more special for me because it'll be the first time that I'll be doing an appearance in Hamilton for my new book Haunted Hamilton: The Ghosts of Dundurn Castle & Other Steeltown Shivers.

I'll be at the table right outside of EPIC BOOKs along with Stephen B. Pearl, Ira Nayman, Barry Adler and D.M. Trink


10:00 to 11:00 – Stephen / Mark
11:00 to 12:00 – Barry / Ira
12:00 to 1:00 Delyse / Mark
1:00 to 2:00   Stephen / Ira
2:00 to 3:00   Barry / Delyse
3:00 to 4:00    Mark / Ira
4:00 to 5:00 Stephen / Barry
5:00 to 6:00 Ira / Mark
6:00 to 7:00 Stephen / Barry
Because of the local interest nature of HAUNTED HAMILTON, that's the book I expect people will be most interested in.  But I'll also have copies of TESSERACTS SIXTEEN, CAMPUS CHILLS and ONE HAND SCREAMING available.

If you're in the neighbourhood, swing by to check it out.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Lady Forgotten

“Lady Forgotten” © 2012 Roger Czerneda

Several weeks ago, I was honoured to be included in a very special evening at Swanmore Hall in the Stephen Leacock Museum in Orillia which was a wonderful mixture of photography and speculative literature.

It was entitled Look. Magic (A Photography Exhibit by Roger Czerneda) and Here Be Dragons (An evening of fantasy with Julie Czerneda and friends)  The friends were Adrienne Kress, Anne Bishop and me.

One of the things I loved about the evening (apart from the great company, the interesting readings and talks, and getting some unique insights into Roger's photography) was the way Roger had incorporated some of the authors' works into the photography exhibit.

The piece Roger had created inspired by Haunted Hamilton, comes from Chapter Nine covering Burkholder Cemetery, which had been established by Jacob Burkholder and his family shortly after they settled in the Hamilton Mountain area in 1794. 

In that chapter I talk about the spectral lights which had been reported as being seen there, hovering above the Burkholder Church and then moving slowly into the graveyard as a premonition to a villager's death.

And no, Roger didn't capture a "real" ghost in this shot - it was brilliantly staged to give a creepy feel to a local graveyard in the Orillia area. And even if you look really hard, you still might not be able to see which phenomenal top-selling science fiction writer posed as the ghost in this photo.

I have a copy of Roger's beautiful photograph hanging in my den. I love how it beautifully captures the essence of the eeriness of my book.

Here is the quote that was run with the photo for the exhibit.

"Many photographs and videos have been taken at the cemetery, each photographer anxious to try to document evidence of the legendary lights. But the main thing that all who visit this historic site are witness to are the quiet graves, some anonymous stones, and others with eerily prophetic messages for the living— all reminders that one day those looking upon the stones will, too, inevitably pass into death." - Page 81, Haunted Hamilton, Mark Leslie, Dundurn Press, Aug 2012

You can purchase the photo from Roger's website for as little as $35 for the matted version.  Just sayin'.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Barnaby Bones

Yesterday Francine picked up a new skeleton for me. This one is a pose-able skeleton.

I have named him Barnaby.  Barnaby Bones. (Yes, it's a play on Barnaby Jones, the old television detective series staring Buddy Ebson)

Barnaby will be joining me as I do some signings in Sept and Oct for Haunted Hamilton.  He will come along with the bodiless skull, Yorick, who has been joining me at bookstore events for many years now.