Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas from Mark and Barnaby

Wishing you and yours all the best this holiday season!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Ontario Triangle

With the recent release of my latest book, Creepy Capital, I spent some time on the road doing various promotions. I started in Ottawa to launch the book, then hit Niagara Falls with a table at Niagara Falls Comic-Con, then Sudbury for Graphic-Con.

In fact, given my penchant for the paranormal, you might call the recent trips part of visiting three points of The Ontario Triangle, in a "Bermuda Triangle" sort of way. (Am I the only one who remembers the fun late 1970's "In Search Of" TV series narrated by Leonard Nimoy - "In Search of the Great Lakes Triangle"?)

That thought made me think about the content of three of my books from Dundurn. And the fact that they might represent The Paranormal Ontario Triangle.

Haunted Hamilton, Spooky Sudbury & Creepy Capital: The Paranormal Ontario Triangle

Interesting. Perhaps I should collectively call the three books The Paranormal Ontario Triangle or Mark Leslie's Paranormal Ontario Triangle.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Spring 2016 Promotional Travel - Part Three - Sudbury

As I have been reflecting on the past few days, this weekend that just passed was the first weekend in the past three weeks where I haven't been traveling to promote my books.

You can read about the first of the three weekends when I officially launched Creepy Capital: Ghost Stories of Ottawa and the National Capital Region by clicking here.

You can read about the weekend at Niagara Falls Comic-Con here.

Saturday June 11th was the 2nd annual Sudbury Graphic-Con. And although it was one of the smaller cons that I've been to, it was among the MOST successful in terms of traffic, the amazing people and the absolute enthusiasm that I've come to enjoy whenever I return to my old stomping grounds in Sudbury.

Sudbury might be a smaller city in mid-north Ontario, but it has the biggest heart, the biggest supportive atmosphere and when the people of Sudbury do something, they put their all into it. Sudbury never disappoints.

Sudbury Graphic-Con brought with it all of those same things and, of the three recent promo travel weekends, I declare it the absolute winner. And it was so fun to check out Big Nick, Sudbury's first super-hero (for those non-locals, this is a reference to Sudbury's Big Nickel), as well as chat with Richard Comely, creator of Captain Canuck.

Alexander and I did the trip, enjoying listening to an audiobook together as well as misc father/son chatter on the 6 hour drive up and back. We had some time on Friday to do a few chores at my Mom's, including cutting the lawn for her.

Alexander at the booth after we had it all set up

Alexander posing with members of the 501st Legion

It's always awesome to see my sister Laura

Captain America (whom we saw in Niagara) was also in Sudbury and posed with Zander

This young lady told me it took about 2 hours to do the make-up for her great Two-Face costume
Rogue was enamored with Barnaby

One guy who came through our booth had the COOLEST tattoo on his hand and arm

One of the coolest things was that Alexander appeared on the local CTV news that night. We stayed up to watch the 11 o'clock news, and sure enough, in the short clip about the con, there's a fun shot of Alexander walking by in his Captain America costume.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Spring 2016 Promotional Travel - Part Two - Niagara Falls

As mentioned in yesterday's post, this is the first weekend in the past three weeks where I haven't been traveling to promote my books. It started on the last weekend in May where I visited Ottawa for the official launch of Creepy Capital: Ghost Stories of Ottawa and the National Capital Region. And you can read that post right here.

The following weekend, I participated in Niagara Falls Comic-Con, which took place Friday June 3rd through Sunday June 5th.

Liz and I arrived in Niagara Falls to check in to our hotel and set up the Mark Leslie table on the evening of Thursday June 2nd.

The whole weekend was fun and comic-con packed; but we also managed to do some fun exploring. (The con didn't start until the mid afternoon on Friday, and our evenings were filled with long walks, fireworks, craft beer, fun and dancing)

The listing for my appearance at Niagara Falls Comic-Con in the Falls Horror Fest section

Barnaby hanging out at the Mark Leslie table in the Falls Horror Fest section

I thought it was cool to spot these two comic characters (Morbius from Spider-Man and Vampirella) walking together

As often happens when Liz and I are exploring, we ended up at a few fun venues that we hadn't planned on, and had a blast. Two of the nights involved great live music and dancing, and one of them involved a lot of people-watching at the Casino and cavalierly throwing around $5.00. (Of which we walked away with 1 cent still in pocket from that giant investment)

The amazing Heather Glabb performing at Taps. As I tweeted, we came for the beer but stayed for the awesome music
Our blockbuster "winnings" of $0.01 at a Niagara Casino

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Spring 2016 Promotional Travel - Part One - Ottawa

This is the first Saturday in the past three weeks where I haven't been traveling to promote my books. This will be the first of a series of three posts outlining some of the adventures had during that travel.

It started on the last weekend in May where I visited Ottawa for the official launch of Creepy Capital: Ghost Stories of Ottawa and the National Capital Region.

For that, I did two radio program interviews and three bookstores. And, along the way, Liz and I had fun exploring Ottawa, and even taking Barnaby Bones for his first taxi-cab ride, his first visit to a bar patio and his night-time visit to Parliament Hill.

Barnaby's first cab ride in downtown Ottawa

Book signing at Chapters Rideau

Barnaby enjoying a brew on a hot evening at Lowertown Brewery after our Chapters book signing

Barnaby stopping to take in the beautiful Parliament Buildings at night

Barnaby enjoying haunting Perfect Books

Dom from Ottawa Ghostbusters posing with Barnaby at Books on Beechwood
A great morning chat with Giacomo Panico of CBC's In Town and Out

Liz and I had fun visiting with friends and family while in Ottawa as well as walking through various downtown neighbourhoods and finding fun along the way in the manner we do so well together. We also quite enjoyed the wonderful time we spent in the CBC studio with Giacomo Panico, host of In Town and Out as well as the thrill of hearing a customer at Costco (where I was buying a few copies of the book) point at the book and say: "I heard that author on CBC yesterday morning!"

That, of course, was just the beginning of the series of weekend adventures (and heck, I didn't even mention the incredible fun we had the night before arriving in Ottawa, exploring Kingston, partially for my next book on haunted hospitals, and partially for a project that Liz and I are working on together.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Capital Gets A Bit Creepier

My latest non-fiction paranormal exploration, CREEPY CAPITAL is now on bookstore shelves.

Come along with paranormal raconteur Mark Leslie as he uncovers first-person accounts of ghostly happenings throughout Ottawa and the surrounding towns - the whole region is rife with ghostly encounters and creepy locales.

Discover the doomed financier who may be haunting the Chateau Laurier. Experience the eerie shadows and sounds at the Bytown Museum. Listen to the echoing howls of former prison inmates at the Nicholas Street Hostel. And feel the bitter sadness of the ghost of Watson's Mill in Manotick. You'll marvel at the multitude of ghosts that walk the streets and historic landmarks of Canada's capital.

I love that, in the book description I'm called a "paranormal raconteur" - I'll need to revise my author business cards.

This weekend I'll be heading to Ottawa to officially launch it at three different bookstores.

Friday May 27th
Chapters Rideau
4 PM

Saturday May 28th
Perfect Books
Noon to 2 PM

Sunday May 29th
Books on Beechwood
Noon to 2 PM

I'm thrilled that Ottawa Ghostbusters will be joining me for the Friday and Sunday signings. (These wonderful volunteers go to events and ask only for a charitable donation for payment. For coming out to a couple of my Ottawa signings, so people can have fun pictures taken with cool Ghostbusters, I've donated money to the Red Cross Fort McMurray fund)

Here's the pic from the Books on Beechwood website. FUN!

I also thought that the cheeky post Perfect Books put up was fun. Politics can be CREEPY indeed.

Oh, and, of course, Barnaby will be there too, as always.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

May the Fourth Be With You And Other Nerdy Greetings

May the fourth be with you.

I always enjoy this early day in May, but it makes me think about other sci-fi or nerdy greetings, introductory phrases and well-wishes from movies and television.

So, in celebration of May the 4th, I thought I'd share these to see if you can name all the sources.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sadder Still To Watch It Die Than Never To Have Known It

I fondly remember those teenage years when I would put on a Rush album, sit there holding the album in my hands, marveling at the overall spectacular visual presentation of the art (usually by the genius Hugh Syme) while the music filled the air in my bedroom and stirred my heart, mind and imagination with spectacular new visions and tales that bounced around inside my head.

Yes, I'm talking about the large square cardboard object that held the vinyl disc inside a paper sleeve that sometimes even had the lyrics printed on it. Occasionally the album cover would open like a book -- 2112 by Rush, of course, did just that. And there was an incredible story inside.

But it didn't have to be one of the themed story albums that inspired my imagination and creativity. So many songs from this band set my imagination on fire and produced characters, settings and scenes from stories in my head. I imagined, for example, with the Rush album that was my proper and full introduction to the band, Grace Under Pressure, a theatrical/musical stage show about a post-apocalyptic world, and invented characters that would further connect the songs together in an overall story arc. Heck, I was even able to connect the songs from Signals together in a similar story arc about a young boy who rose up to become a world leader via following his passion for adapting technology into making the world a "better" place.

So when the opportunity to write a story for the anthology 2113: Stories Inspired by the Music of Rush (edited by Kevin J. Anderson and John McFetridge) came about, the biggest question was which of the hundreds of stories that this band had inspired in me would I write about.

I mean, after all, so many different songs from Rush inspired so many different amazing tales, images, characters and situations. And much of my writing had already contained elements from the band's music and lyrics that infused themselves between the cracks.

And despite the fact that I had already had a story published a year earlier that had been inspired by the song "Losing It" from the Rush album Signals, (a song that continues to bring tears to my eyes and which I got to see performed live during the band's R40 tour), I knew that song, one that had long been an intensely personal song for me, could inspire yet another story.

The previous story that had been inspired by "Losing It" was a dark humour piece I had published in Tesseracts Seventeen called "Hereinafter Referred to as the Ghost." I wanted to draw inspiration from the same song, but this time take a more heartfelt approach.

The song paints a quick portrait of a dancer who is no longer able to dance and a writer who can no longer write. After displaying the loss of their life passions, the chorus chimes in:

Some are born to move the world
To live their fantasies
But most of us just dream about
The things we'd like to be
Sadder still to watch it die
Than never to have known it

For you the blind who once could see
The bell tolls for thee . . .

 The song still brings shivers and a gentle tear to my eye. The music is as hauntingly beautiful as the portrait of the two artists who still hold the passion, yet whose bodies and minds are unable to continue on.

And so, in my story "Some Are Born to Save the World" I wanted to capture that same feeling in the guise of a super-hero at the end of his career. Bryan, the story's main character, has dedicated his life to employing his supernatural abilities for good as White Vector, and the tale captures his rise and fall in that life-long conviction.

It is a story that I am quite proud of, not just because of the tale that the song inspired, but because I know that the story has already reached a number of readers in a positive way. Here are some of the reviews I've already seen that mention the story:

"Leslie explores Bryan’s motivations and fears with a sure hand, and delineates the qualities, good and bad, that could drive a person to dress up and fight crime. Even in the last days of his decline, Bryan is able to rediscover a new purpose and a return of his dignity, and it’s a measure of Leslie’s skill that this change happens in a realistic, yet meaningful fashion." - Brandon Nolta, Tangent Online

"This one teared me up, but in a good way." - Erin S. Burns, Burns Through Her Bookshelf
"This was one of my favourites. The life, death and rebirth of the superhero White Vector. This perfect little gem captures exactly what being a superhero means. I wouldn’t change a thing. You just can’t beat a well-executed origin story." - Paul, Goodreads review

Me and Ron Collins (contributors to the anthology) making a Kevin J. Anderson sandwich
Kevin, Ron and I doing our best "Starman" pose (from 2113, not 2112)

While 2113 might be the only actual Rush-themed anthology that I have had a story published in, I know there will be more tales born out of inspiration from the band's more than 40 years of music.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

There's Snow Story Like A Snowman Story

For years now, some of my most popularly received published stories include a couple of snowman tales that I have written. Both tales, inspired by the question of what might happen if a snowman were to come alive, take decidedly different approaches, and yet they both answer the question with a tongue in cheek sense of dark humour.

Those stories, by the way, are "That Old Silk Hat They Found" and "Ides of March" -- the former was inspired by my reflecting on the whole 'Frosty the Snowman' concept and the latter was written after I had heard a radio report of a man being shot in the process of someone trying to steal the snowman from his front yard.

So when Rebecca Moesta was editing an anthology and was looking for stories that involved teenage heroes/heroines in the midst of a darkness using creativity and heart (an inner 'spark') to overcome adversity, the last thing I imagined I would write would be another snowman story.

I wanted to tackle the important issues of not fitting in, of the dangers of a viral-image sharing culture, of cyber-bullying and teen suicide.

Wow. Tough material, indeed. The question is, how could I possibly work my previous adoration for snowman tales into this story and provide a spark?

I was quite satisfied with the answer to that question in my tale "Impressions in the Snow." Apparently, so was the editor, as Rebecca ended up buying it for Fiction River: Sparks, which was published at the very end of March 2016.

Sparks is part of the Fiction River anthology series that Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith publish and are series editors for.

I was even quite delighted that my name made it onto the cover.

As a teaser, here's the opening to that story as it appears in Sparks.

The snowman's smile saved Karen's life.

     The feeling came over her quite suddenly. One moment she was standing on the edge of the weather-worn bridge, contemplating the rapidly flowing waters twenty feet below, and the next she was staring at the snowman at the other side of the river bank, trying to figure out why she felt an overwhelming sense of recognition while gazing at it.
     Karen and the snowman looked at one another, both of them silent sentinels standing very still at their respective posts, dark silhouettes barely lit by the full moon peeking out from behind the clouds, yet still casting enough light to reflect off of the recently fallen snow. The bridge she stood on and the deciduous and evergreen trees were covered with a quarter inch of the fluffy powder on the tops of the branches and the boughs. But the snowman, like Karen, didn't have any of the freshly fallen snow on the brim of the black top hat crested on its head -- it was as if it, like Karen, had only recently arrived in the forest from some other place.
     As if it had, perhaps, been following her.

In the midst of something that led to her darkest moments, I had my story's hero, Karen, trying to emulate the sexy antics of a mega controversial pop star who rode naked on top of a wrecking-ball and licked a hammer. But instead of using real names in my story, I created Kylie Miles, a former wholesome child-star who performed under the name Suzanna Utah, but then completely changed her image with her latest pop hit and video: "Smash my Heart to Dust." (I mean, nobody would ever guess who I might have been thinking about when I invented this pop star -- right?)

This was a fun story to write. And Karen personifies so much about what I admire in giving and caring young people -- and so much of what I worry about in those kind-hearted and giving souls who leave themselves open to ridicule, particularly before the people around them mature to their level. That can be such a hard time for young people.

Karen's story is fantasy of course, but it speaks of karma, of pushing love out into the world, and, despite the element of suicide, there is a positive message in it. It's a story that I'm quite proud of.

And, it quite effectively shows that I'm not done with writing snowman stories. That and when I write a snowman story I can move beyond my normal comfort range of dark humour. And I have Rebecca Moesta, Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith to thank for that. Had I not participated in the Fiction River workshop I might have never discovered that about myself.

Monday, March 28, 2016

This Author's Earnings

I have been a writer since I was about thirteen years old and spent the summer hammering out a fantasy adventure novel on my Mom's old Underwood typewriter. And I started submitting stories for publication at the age of seventeen.

My first fiction sale happened a few years later, in 1992, for which I received five US dollars and a contributor's copy of the small press magazine the story appeared in.

Since 1992, I have either made money or the "payment in copy" equivalent of actual payment that I, as a young and desperate writer seeking to build a "name" was willing to accept in the very early days. Of course, as time went on, the pay I was willing to write for moved upwards towards what is considered "professional rates."

Along the way I have always had a day job in order to keep a roof over my head and food on the table. This came from the oft-given parental advice I received when I said "I'm going to be a writer." My folks reminded me of the importance of having a good day job so that I wouldn't go hungry while pursuing my dreams. So I sought a "day job" that would keep me as happy as writing makes me. Hence, my ongoing role as "bookseller."

In terms of "day jobs" I've been extremely lucky - always working within my field.  And, as the Director of Self-Publishing & Author Relations at Kobo via Kobo Writing Life (a role I've had since October 2011), it continues to be a rewarding and fulfilling career.

So while I don't yet make enough money from writing to support being a writer full-time I must pause to admit that, even if I did earn enough from writing, I'm not sure I COULD leave the fulfilling and satisfying career and role I play.

But with respect to looking only at that "writerly earning" I just finished putting together the numbers for my writing earnings and expenses for 2015.

And, even though my "day-job" involves supporting thousands of authors who are able to earn enough money from self-publishing to be full-time writers (something I'm extremely pleased to be assisting them with), I don't yet fall into that particular bucket myself. In fact, though I'm a huge advocate for self-publishing as a viable option for writers, I personally earn more than half of my writing income from "traditional publishing."

Here's the breakdown of my writing income sources for 2015:

Income from Traditional Publishing:  52.75%
Income from Self-Publishing: 36.10%
Income from *Mixed Sources:  11.18%

* Mixed Sources refers to income that doesn't come directly from publishers or from direct self-publishing royalty sources. It includes other writer-related income from things such as Public Lending Rights (mixed titles), direct sales of print books, speaking and writer appearance honorariums, etc.

I should add a few caveats to this pie-chart, of course:

First, my numbers show that in the previous year almost 60% of my income came from self-publishing, while only about 35% came from traditional publishing. So it's interesting to see how, in a single year, things can change. This, to me, highlights the importance of being OPEN to all opportunities available as a writer. You never know WHERE the income might come from in the next 12 month period.

Second, if I were to break the income down and only look at eBook sales, self-publishing still leads with almost 90% of my income. The Traditional publishing game, for me, is all about PRINT books. Fortunately, my non-fiction books continue to do well in traditional print venues. However, I barely earn anything from the digital sales of my traditionally published books.

Third, if I were to look only at non-fiction sales, traditional publishing accounts for about 95% of my income. When it comes to fiction, the exact opposite is true. About 90% of my income from fiction comes from self-publishing.

All this is to say that there are pros and cons to each side and I benefit from being open to both.

A few take-aways for this particular writer:

1) Traditional publishing continues to be a good experience for me, particularly with respect to non-fiction titles that are distributed to print retail markets. I'll likely work on at least one book per year for that market.

2) I will continue to self-publish in both digital print formats (using POD - print-on-demand) for projects that earn me decent income but are not likely to appeal to a traditional publisher. Niche market material, etc.

3) Being open to new opportunities and new revenue sources remains a focus for this writer -- I have begun the process of getting books converted into audio, and will continue to be open to new opportunities as they present themselves.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Life Reflected in Art

I've been reflecting all day on the fact that it has been thirteen years since my Dad died.

A few nights ago, when he was feverish and having trouble falling back to sleep, as I laid in bed beside my son trying to comfort him, we chatted in the dark.

He asked me if there was anything I regretted. With tears in my eyes, I told him the one thing I really regret was not having spent more time with my father when I was younger. While I had made it a point to spend time with him once I was a young man (ie, in my early twenties), I often think about all those additional fishing and hunting excursions I could have gone on with him when I was younger -- all that father/son bonding time that I missed out on.

Because the times spent with my dad were always so very precious; and the memories I have are good ones -- fun ones.

I told Alexander that's one of the reasons why I love to spend so much time with him; why the traditional week-long "Boy's Road-Trip" we do every year the first week of July is so important to me. While I do spend a lot of time traveling, I have made spending time with Alexander a top priority.

Every year, on this delightful day in which we're supposed to all turn a little bit Irish and drink a toast, a cheers to St. Patrick, I find myself offering a special little cheer to the many beers that I shared with my Dad over the years. I think of the happy memories, all we had, and not the regrets.

And, today, I have been thinking about how many of the books I've written are reflective of that important father/son bond.

When he was still alive, one of my biggest fears was my father dying. To that end, I struggled with the thought, and imagined having to face it head on. From that fear and anxiety came the novel MORNING SUN.

Sharing parts of the first draft with him that I was working on while my Dad, my cousin Rodney and I were on Manitoulin Island during deer hunting season. (Dad and Rodney were hunting, I stayed back and hammered away on the laptop on the novel)

Dad & I on Manitoulin Island. Him reading MORNING SON; me with a beer

MORNING SON (a novel which I haven't yet published - it remains in a drawer) is more of a contemporary story with a bit of an underlying mystery. It's the story of a bereaved man who learns that his father's last dying wish was to have his son scatter his ashes at his favourite fishing hole. The only problem is that he always kept his favourite fishing hole a closed guarded secret. The young man, a bookstore manager who continually escapes into work as a way to avoid conflict in his life, finds himself compelled back to the Sudbury region to explore his father's past and find that secret locale. But in the midst of uncovering the past, he also unveils a closely guarded family secret that explains why his father was estranged from the rest of the family.

The novel contains many autobiographical details as well as several details from my father's own life. All fictionalized, of course. But many elements -- my father's near fatal motorcycle accident, the less than out-doorsy bookworm son with epilepsy -- are based on reality.

Here's the prologue for that novel:

I never spoke so many words to my father as I did when I was thirty-two and traveled with him from Ottawa to the sprawling network of fishing holes off Highway 144 in Northern Ontario. The only thing that took any real pleasure out of the experience was the fact that my father was nothing more than about five pounds of ashes in a silver-plated urn that I had strapped into the passenger seat beside me.
     A man of few words his entire life, my father's Will reflected the same, stating that everything was to go to his only son, and that upon cremation of his body, I scatter his ashes at his favourite fishing spot. The only problem was that my father's favourite fishing spot was a more closely guarded secret than the US president's nuclear launch code. That and I hadn't fished with my father since I was eleven; I was about as likely to remember where he'd take me fishing all those years ago as I was to guessing the winning Lott 649 numbers. And I would be just as at home reading a topographical map as I would be reading the French language my namesake suggested I possessed.
     Nonetheless, leaving my wife and child behind, I set off to fulfill my father's request, taking myself on a journey of introspection, self-discovery and, finally, a clear picture of who my father really was.
     Despite some of the shocking secrets I discovered, the realization that my father was as flawed and fallible as myself, and the fact he had been dead for several weeks, I never felt closer to my father in my entire life
     And I couldn't have loved him more.

As I mentioned, I haven't yet published the novel. I did send it off to a few publishers back when I first completed it and received a few polite rejections. Apparently, mainstream more "literary" novels just aren't my forte. I then moved on to other writing projects; but every once in a while I wonder if I'll pull it back out, give it another polish, and send it off to a publisher or perhaps self-publish it.

One novel that I DID publish, and which was based on my father's actual death, was, again based on some things from both my father's life and my own. The afore-mentioned near fatal motorcycle accident; my initial adoration of computer programming back in the Commodore PET computer days; not to mention that the novel mostly takes place in a fictionalized version of the building where Kobo's home off is. (I changed the company my hero works for to an online insurance company).

EVASION was inspired by my father's death, and the anger I felt towards the doctors, towards the hospital, towards everyone involved. It also came from the odd thing that kept happening to me for years after he died. I kept imagining I had spotted him in a crowd or driving the car beside me on the highway. It made me wonder: well, what IF he really is still alive? How could that be? Why would it be? The answer to that turned into a thriller -- one in which a man investigating his father's mysterious death finds himself hunted by everyone he knows and encounters. And thus, the novel, EVASION was born.

Here's the beginning of the Prologue for EVASION:

Scott Desmond was looking at a dead man.
     He shook his head, swiped at the sweat running down his forehead and into his eyes, tried to focus more clear-ly on the sight before him.
     There was no mistake about it.
     The man he was looking at across two sets of train tracks was none other than his father – a man who had died almost eighteen months earlier.
     Scott shook his head for the second time, rubbed his eyes, tried to focus through the humidity of the August day. But there was simply no disputing the fact.
     The man he was staring at across the GO train plat-form had to be his father.

EVASION is available in print, eBook and now in audiobook versions. You can also read the entire text of the first draft of the novel (unedited, so you'll have to just suck up the typos and grammar and other issues) on Wattpad where it has had almost 200,000 reads. I'm quite delighted with the audio version and think that Brian Troxell does an amazing job reading it. Click the link below to listen to a sample of it.

Evasion on Audible

I have already written most of the sequel to EVASION. It's a story that focuses on the life of Lionel Desmond. (Lionel was my father's middle name, and, yes, much of Lionel' character was based on my own father -- it was so much fun writing Evasion and based certain personality traits on my Dad. Even more fun exploring a fictional childhood from my father's perspective)

My father has shown up in a few other stories I have written; stories and tales he has shared, or that have been shared about him have surfaced in so many other places, including direct tributes that became a collaborative effort such as the time I wrote him a poem inspired by a painting and he turned the poem itself into a beautiful piece of art. So while these, so far, are the only two book-length works he has appeared in, I'm sure he'll continue to make himself known in other works along the way.

That's the reality of art that pulls snippets from life. That's the reality of continuing to be inspired by someone who meant so much.

Here's to the continued inspiration, the memories and the never-ending love. Thanks, Dad!

Eugene Lionel Lefebvre: June 28, 1938 - March 17, 2003

Friday, January 22, 2016

Evasion in Audio

I recently worked with a professional audio production company to create an audiobook version of my thriller EVASION.

The narration is done by Brian Troxell and he has done an absolutely brilliant job of making the book sound even better.

The full audiobook will be available for purchase on all of the usual sales channels (Audible, iTunes, OverDrive, etc) but I'll also be rolling the novel out in serialized podcast form once I have a release date for when the full audio book will be available.

In the meantime, here's the opening of the novel, or Episode 01 of the podcast that features the opening Author Note along with the Prologue, complete with an intro and outtro that features music from Kevin MacLeod.

Friday, January 08, 2016

My 2015 in Beer: Top 5 Beers, Top Bars and Venues

Apart from being a lover of books, I've also long been a lover of beer.

And in the past 10 years or so, I've enjoyed making an effort at trying new beers. But it got to a point where I couldn't remember if I'd had a beer or not, so about 3 years ago (April 2013), I started using UNTAPPD to track my beer.
Fun beer explorations near Kelowna, BC
I'm far from a connoisseur (ie, I'm not all that good at describing the various flavours, and mostly just either "like" or "don't like so much" the beers I'm drinking) and I quite enjoy trying new beers and also the recent rise of craft breweries that have been exploding in the past couple of years.

I also try not to check in the same beer more than once. But occasionally, for the sake of checking in a beer at an interesting or new location, or for changing my rating of a beer (perhaps, upon second or third taste, I change my perception of the beer), I'll check in more than one.

Here's a look at my beer tracking as pulled from UNTAPPD, for 2015.
  • I tried 789 unique beers in 2015
  • I enjoyed them at 120 unique venues
  • I averaged 3 beers per day in the year
Some other interesting stats:

My Top (Combination of rating plus number of times checked in) Beers drank in 2015 include:

In 2015 I gave 61 different beers a rating of 4.5 or higher (out of five stars) and gave 6 of them a five star rating. The 6 five star rating beers in 2015 were:

The lowest rated beer from 2015 was one called Double IPA from Stoudts Brewing Company, which I gave 1.5 stars to and left this comment: "I'm not fond of the nail polish remover aftertaste."

Among the most popular and favourite venues I checked in this past year include:
I also attended a number of beer fests throughout the year -- and, my beautiful partner in beer-enjoyment and I were able to not only get to a number of them together, but also did some amazing explorations of beer locales within Southern Ontario, in and near Kelowna, BC as well as in various neighbourhoods in New York City. Liz and I have even more fun plans regarding our beer explorations this coming year which I will be posting about at a later date.  (Of course, our other plans for 2016 involve doing an extreme race together, a lot more hiking than we accomplished in 2015, and even more great walking tours of various cities that we travel to together - that should help reduce the somewhat negative effect of enjoying our favourite beverage so often)

Liz and I at Because Beer in Hamilton - Summer 2015

My totals, for UNTAPPD, to date (and which started April 6, 2013) include 1,831 unique beers and 669 badges (yes, UNTAPPD does a great job of the gamification of social beer drinking). I'm pretty sure that I'll get to 2,000 unique check ins before the end of the year, and, based on previous trending, I should hit about 1900 by time the end of January rolls around.

Of course, I also have writing goals.

Now, if ONLY my goals of writing and enjoying beer could ever be merged some-how. Hint Hint - news on that to come.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

My 2015 in Writing

As I used to (and have skipped writing up for the past couple of years), I thought it might be useful to outline some of my writing goals, achievements, successes and missed in this past year.

Since 2012, I have been writing non-fiction paranormal books for Dundurn. Haunted Hamilton came out in 2012. Spooky Sudbury (co-authored with Jenny Jelen) came out in 2013. Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores and Libraries came out in 2014.

While I wrote most of Creepy Capital: Ghost Stories of Ottawa and the National Capital Region in 2015, and turned the book in back in April 2015, the scheduling of the book in Dundurn's line-up didn't end up landing until Spring 2016. So I missed a year publishing a non-fiction title.  My Ottawa ghost story book will be coming out in a few months, this year. In fact, as I type this, my editor has gotten the book back to me and I need to return it by next month so that the publishing process to have the book out in May 2016 can stay on track.

Liz and I about to embark on a mid-winter downtown Ottawa ghost walk

Creepy Capital was a fun book to work on, and it involved multiple trips to Ottawa with my partner Liz who adopted the role of research assistant. We had a lot of fun going on the ghost walks as well as staying in one of the haunted hotels and exploring the museums and other locales that are covered in the book. There was lots of exploring and many fun side-line adventures involved. It felt, to me, like the MOST hands-on research I have done for any of my non-fiction paranormal books.

I also started working on the next non-fiction paranormal book HAUNTED HOSPITALS which is being co-authored with Rhonda Parrish (details for that one to be confirmed an announced)

This past year I managed to get the completed manuscript for A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK to a fantastic editor recommended by folks from the Superstars Writing Seminars, where I am a guest instructor, and have been for the past three years. I'm still only half-way through the edits on that, and, while I had fully intended on getting the book out by the end of 2015, I'm still not quite there. (Oh well, at least it'll be something to get done THIS YEAR!)

2015 saw we sell a short story to a Rush themed anthology edited by Kevin J. Anderson (2113), as well as revise a story I'd sold the year before to another anthology edited by Rebecca Moesta (SPARKS)

Speaking of short stories, I also ended up becoming editor of a couple of anthologies.  The first was based on some amazing workshops led by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I'm editing EDITOR'S PICKS, an anthology idea I came up with while scheming with Dean during their absolutely fantastic Fiction River anthology workshops that are held in the winter each year in Lincoln City. That'll be coming out next year.  I also read through submissions from the Sudbury Writers Guild and selected stories that'll appear in an anthology that they will be publishing either later this year or in 2017.

Also, this past year, Liz and I rented an artist table at Hamilton Comic-Con. While I had volunteered at the Horror Writers Association tables at similar cons in Toronto in the past, this was my first solo author table at a comic con.  And it was an amazing experience. We have already booked tables for comic cons in Niagara Falls, Sudbury and are on the waiting list for Ottawa for later this year.

Meeting John Schneider (of Dukes of Hazzard, Smallville, etc) at Hamilton Comic-Con

Not only was Hamilton Comic-Con a great place to sell lots of copies of Haunted Hamilton and several of my other titles, but I got a chance to meet a pretty cool actor (John Schneider - AKA "Bo Duke") who and found out that he is a super friendly and wonderfully nice guy. He had been checking out the various artist tables and was asking me about my books, wondering which one he should buy. I made sure that he walked away with a signed copy of Haunted Hamilton (he'd never been to the city before, after all, and I figured he should have an interesting souvenir of the city), and I insisted giving him the copy -- after all, he had entertained me for many years; it was the least I could do.

So, whereas 2014 saw three books released, and 2015 didn't see any new releases of mine, it was a year of productivity, finding new promotional opportunities and getting some works in play for this year.

Monday, January 04, 2016

My 2015 In Reading

Wow. So I only posted 3 articles to my blog in 2015. And I didn't even do the annual summation of the books I had read the year before either.

Hoping to kick-start this year into at least 12 posts -- let's see if I can do at least 1 post every month, shall we?


Here's a bit from my year in books as summarized by Goodreads.

  • I read 41 books in 2015 (not counting the ones I had to read for work, ie, as an editor).
  • The shortest book I read was 45 pages (Kevin J. Anderson's Million Dollar Productivity)
  • The longest book I read was 495 pages (Stephen King's The Bazaar of Bad Dreams)
  • The most popular book I read was The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins 
  • (I'm most surprised that Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman wasn't the most popular one)
  •  I enjoyed at least three (perhaps four depending on how you classify them) romance novels in the past year. Two Marie Force novels, one straight out romance (Maid for Love), another romantic suspense (Fatal Affair), one Liliana Hart romantic comedy/suspense (Whiskey Rebellion) and Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project
  • I only read 3 non-fiction books in the past year. Odd, I normally like to read more. In fact, I'm sure I read more - at least one or two other non-fiction books for writers. Perhaps I missed recording a few. Will have to go back and double check that.

I won't break the list down the way I have in years past -- simply, I'll list the books that I most enjoyed having read in the past year, linking to each one.  In no particular order, here at the books I loved the most from my 2015 reading:

Poles Apart - Terry Fallis

The Damned - Andrew Pyper

12 - Sean Platt & David Wright

Clockwork Lives - Kevin J. Anderson

Last Call - Sean Costello

The Martian - Andy Weir

The Crossing - Michael Connelly

The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion

Fatal Affair - Marie Force

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins