Monday, March 25, 2013

Où est Waldo

Now I know why I could never find Waldo, despite his very distinctive look.

It's because he is hiding in France under an assumed name.

The French version of "Where's Waldo?" - at Salon du Livre, Paris, France (March 2013)
Où est Charlie, indeed.

He's crafty, that Waldo guy.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I Can't Explain

I wrote a recent guest post entitled An Obsession I Can't Fully Explain for Dundurn's Defining Canada blog.

It was a nice break from all the recent work I have been doing on my forthcoming Dundurn book (Spooky Sudbury - which I'm writing with Jenny Jelen) and the editing that I'm doing for the forthcoming Atomic Fez novel I, Death to compose this post.

For the post, I tried to explain why I enjoy writing books about the paranormal and the unexplained.  My first non-fiction book, Haunted Hamilton, was released in the fall of 2012, and Spooky Sudbury comes out this fall.

Because I have recently been teaching horror writing workshops and have thus had to examine how effective horror works and techniques that can really draw out suspense, suspension of disbelief and pull the right strings when it comes to fear, I had already been doing a lot of thinking about that when Dundurn invited me to do the guest post.

Here's how the post begins:

I have always been afraid of the monster under my bed.

And I still am, despite the fact I learned there really was no monster there – or so the rational mind in the bright light of day would suggest.

Part of the reason I write what I do is because that monster under my bed never really left. As the morning sunlight slowly inched its way into my room, dispelling the shadows and revealing the space under my bed as monster-free, physical evidence of that monster was abolished. But no amount of sunshine or logical reasoning could ever completely remove that monster from my mind.

Go check out the full post.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

It Has Been Ten Years, Dad

Ten years ago today my Dad died.

I still miss him, and I still love him. I still wish I could have just one more minute to spend with him, drink one more beer with him, exchange one more joke, hear one more story or fishing tale. And I would give all of those things up (were they presented to me) for the opportunity of having my son and my father meet. I know that my dad would have loved Alexander and my son would have, likewise, adored his Grandpa Gene.

But there are always things you want, things absent, things left unsaid that you wish you had made more of an effort with.

At the very least, I know that I didn't fall into that stereotypical male habit of holding back feelings and being non-demonstrative.

I never failed to tell my dad that I loved him, I never paused to hug or kiss him, to make sure that he knew how much I respected and looked up to him.

In fact, the last words I spoke to him on the morning he died were "I love you." And this was said as I was giving him a big hug and a kiss just before he went off to the operating room. He never came back out.

Had I held back on sharing that with him I would still be regretting my inability to express what I felt.

And I'm so thankful that my dad knew just how much I loved him.

The lesson, here, I suppose, is this simple thing:  if you love someone, if you appreciate someone, if you have positive feelings towards a relationship, any relationship, why hold that in and keep it to yourself?

Love is at its strongest when it is given out and shared fully.

Because this is the 10th anniversary of losing my father, I thought I would link to the annual memories I have posted on this blog (and where I grabbed these pictures from):  2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Books & Beer Hangout

I was delighted to be a guest this past week on the Books & Beer Hangout -- a hangout produced by Evo Terra and Jeff Moriarty of ePublish Unum.

ePublish Unum exists to help authors compete in the digital world of publishing by giving authors everything they need to embrace the digital publishing landscape.  (Here is one of their books available on Kobo - Evo is also one of the authors of Podcasting for Dummies)

The recorded part of the video chat was about 15 minutes, and we spoke about Kobo Writing Life and Kobo's partnership with bookstores, in particular the American Booksellers Association giant network of independent bookstores across the US.  (This website lists some of the stores that are carrying and selling the Kobo family of eReader devices as well as eBooks)

Anybody who knows me at all knows my intense passion for books and my unabashed love of beer -- and that I, of course, have a real soft spot for indie brews and indie bookstores.  This conversation, then, was less about anything corporate (ie, me representing the fantastic company I work for), but more about being at the center of the ideal topic of conversation.

I mean, c'mon. Books, beer and the independent spirit?

This was a match made in heaven (my version of which includes lots of books and lots of beer) . . .

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Ides of March Are Come (Again)

Despite that warning from the soothsayer, I continue to survive The Ides of March . . .

. . . perhaps it is because I'm not a snowman . . .

Another thing that survives is one of my more popular dark humour/horror snowmen stories by the same name.

It appears in my two story digital collection: SNOWMAN SHIVERS.

And you can get it free on virtually every ereading, platform:  Kobo, Kindle (although only in the US - the international sites are charging 99 cents), iBooks, B&N, Smashwords, Sony . . . and more . . .

"Brilliantly written creepy snowman stories! They were great! I'd love to see more"
     - Nook customer review

"I'll never build another snowman!"
     - Kindle customer review

I had a lot of fun writing about snowman -- and, if I can ever get the two book projects I'm working on put to bed, there are a few other snowman horror stories I have been kicking around and would love to work on.

Maybe I have a thing for strange snowmen stories because I grew up in Northern Ontario and they were a rich part of the landscape.  Maybe I just love those great Calvin & Hobbes snowman cartoons.

Happy Ides of March!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Writing And EPublishing Workshops

This past weekend I just booked another ePublishing workshop with a writer's group that will be taking place in June.

While booking that, I took a look at my schedule for the next few months, and noticed a series of writing and ePublishing workshops forthcoming.  Here are a few of them.

Hamilton, Ontario - Wed March 13th
Hamilton Public Library - Central Branch
"Be Afraid: Write Effective Horror" - Wednesday March 13 at 6:30 PM 
A two hour intensive writing workshop geared towards teens aged 12 to 18 and will cover all of the basics of effective horror writing.  The workshop will include in class exercises and group brainstorming.
This is a free workshop, however, registration is required

Hamilton, Ontario - Thurs March 14th
Indigo Stoney Creek
Writing Clinic for Teens: "Don't Be Afraid To Write Horror" - Thursday March 14 2 PM to 3 PM
A talk outlining various writing strategies including how to turn ideas into stories, creating atmosphere and believable characters as well as outlining various options that exist for authors, from traditional markets to digital publishing opportunities.
Free - sign up by contacting store at 905-578-3658 or visit the kids cash desk.

Grand Island (Niagara Falls), New York, US - April 26 to 28
Eerie Con 15
Along with various panels in which I will be discussing writing horror and ePublishing, I will be co-presenting a digital publishing workshop with author Lynna Merrill.

Registration for this intimate con in which authors and guests mingle easily is less than $50 even if you register at the door.

I will also be launching a special EerieCon inspired digital short (and print chapbook) which is a tie-in to my forthcoming novel I, DEATH.  (The short, called Collateral Damage, includes a character spot sold at the "People & Things" Auction at EerieCon 12 last year - yes, I auctioned off the chance for someone to be killed by Peter O'Mallick, the hero who suffers from a death curse in my novel I, DEATH which is coming later this year from Atomic Fez Publishing)

Ajax, Ontario - Sat May 4th
Ontario Writer's Conference 2013
"Beyond the Slush Pile: The Ins and Outs of Digital Self-Publishing" - Sat May 4th 4:00 PM

Self-publishing is proving to be the way to garner the attention of publishers (think Terry Fallis). When you add the eBook experience to this, the landscape can get complicated very quickly. Learn about new option for authors – ie, the do’s and do not do’s – approaching ePub as a strategic and well-thought out business move instead of a last resort – gathering beta readers, finding a good editor, hiring a cover designer, etc. Realize that self-publishing isn’t necessarily going it alone, but rather assuming all the responsibility of a publisher. What are they? How to manage them?

A key differentiator with Kobo Writing Life over some of the other self-publishing offerings out there is that Kobo embraces collaboration and partnership and values the connection between reader and writer. The recent partnerships with the American Booksellers Association (the independents of the U.S.) are evidence of this cooperation with retailers.

This is a full day conference chalk-full of great workshops, lectures and talks.  Registration fees vary.

The last major one I'm doing, also in May, is a multi-day event run by bestselling authors Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta, called Superstars Writing Seminars.

Colorado Springs, Colorado, US  (May 14 to 16)
Superstars Writing Seminars
Participation in multiple sessions, including Understanding E-Books and Self-Publishing.

Now in its fourth year, the Superstars Writing Seminar is your one-stop shop for creating a successful business plan in the commercial fiction industry.  With five core speakers, each possessing decades of experience at the top tier of the business, Superstars Writing Seminar is the ideal place to hone your existing knowledge base, or begin a brand new trajectory towards the writing career of your dreams!  Topics covered include:

► Economics of Commercial Publishing
► How Editors Look at Manuscripts, Novels, and Short Fiction
► Dissecting a Book Contract
► How to Read and Understand a Royalty Statement
► Dirty Secrets: What You Need to Know About Being a Professional Author
► How to Leverage Your Intellectual Property
► Balancing Acts: Writing World and Real World
► Agents
► Networking and Self-Promotion for Authors
► Understanding E-Books
► Pitching the Big Proposal
► Two Heads Are Better than One: Collaborations
► How to Get an Edge with New Media
► Movies, TV, and Authors
► How to Increase Your Writing Productivity

Rates for this multi-day jam packed event range from $499 to $899. As I understand it, this fills rather quickly but there are still a few spots available. Register here.

I will, of course, be doing other speaking and writing talk engagements -- including some sessions at London Book Fair in relation to Kobo Writing Life. (For example, during the Digital Minds Conference, I'll be on a panel called "The Rise of Self-Publishing and the Hybrid Author") These ones, however, are just a few of the ones that are relatively "local"

Friday, March 01, 2013

Aye, It's March

I was pleased to learn that my FREE digital story collection "Snowman Shivers" is featured on Storyfinds today.

SNOWMAN SHIVERS contains two of my snowmen stories, "That Old Silk Hat They Found" and "Ides of March"

Even though the first of these stories was originally published back in the 90's these are stories that continue to get great reviews from customers.

One of my favourite reviews states:  "I'll never build another snowman!"

One of the things I quite like about Storyfinds is that they provide links to the book on most of the main eBook platforms.  IE, customers can download the book on the platform of their choice.  So whether you read on your Kobo, your Kindle, your Nook or your iBooks app on your iPad, you can easily link to the stories for an easy download.

Mark Leslie on StoryFinds