Wednesday, May 16, 2018

My Evil Reaction To LAUREL vs YANNY

I'm not sure where that dark part of my imagination comes from.

But ever since I have been writing, my mind regularly turns to the shadows, pulls something either darkly humorous or perhaps just dark in general.

Below are two examples.

During the recent LAUREL vs YANNY audio debates (where, based on a released file, some people hear "Laurel" and other people hear "Yanny") I had two different, yet somewhat similar reactions.

One was dark humour.

The other was just dark and a bit mean and evil.

Depending on your own preferred poison, I present, for you, a choice from two videos that display how my twisted mind works.

Here is the dark humor one:


And here is the more evil one:

You may not want to watch either one.

As I said, I can be twisted. 

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Talk at Kitchener Public Library: Success in Self Publishing

[UPDATE:  This event has been cancelled in May and re-scheduled to later in the year]

I'll be giving a talk at the Kitchener Public Library in a few weeks.

It's called SUCCESS IN SELF PUBLISHING and it'll run Saturday May 26th from 10 AM until Noon.

I love being able to share with writers the fact that they have more choice, more options and more control over their writing journey than ever before. Yes, I embrace and celebrate self-publishing and I enjoy reminding authors of just how empowered they can be; but I'm also cautiously optimistic in my approach and also like to ensure writers recognize that there's no single path for success, just like there are multiple publishing paths that a single author can take.

After all, I have made conscious business-driven decisions to embrace both self-publishing and traditional publishing for different book projects.

During the two hour session, we'll take a look at some common themes and patterns that successful self-published, hybrid and traditionally published authors have in common. We'll explore how authors can get started, strategies for optimizing your author brand, the importance of understanding the business of writing and publishing and much more.


Below is a description from the website where you can register for one of the limited spots available: Register here

With Mark Leslie Lefebvre and Natalie Gibbons, Manager Collections KPL, and Rob Dawson, Georgetown Publications

Your writing is great, but where are you going to publish? Join industry professional Mark Leslie Lefebvre for top tips to self-publishing success. Under the name Mark Leslie, he’s published more than a dozen books, including fiction paranormal explorations for Dundurn. He has worked in every type of bookstore and has thrived on innovation in digital publishing. Mark also worked for six years as the Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations for Kobo where he was the driving force behind the creation of Kobo Writing Life, a free and easy to use author/small-publisher friendly platform.

Following this event, meet with other writers in a reception room.

Friday, May 04, 2018

How To Annoy a Science-Fiction Nerd Today

It is May the 4th! Star Wars day!

May the 4th be with you!

Of course, if you like to have a little fun, either in an attempt to annoy science-fiction nerds or perhaps just to throw a little confusion into the mix, you can share one of the many silly memes that involve mixing memes or confusing popular quotes from a variety of sources. And, of course, providing fictional attribution at the same time.

Here's one I was toying with earlier today.

If I counted correctly, I think this visual meme refers to thirteen different movies or television shows. I suppose I could have tried to add more, but I was already getting dizzy. Can you name the thirteen that I referenced?

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Tell Me About The Early Days of Self-Publishing, George

The other day, while putting together material for my forthcoming Free Friday Frights, I was looking into the origin of the chapbook Active Reader that I had initially created in print.

It led back to 2008 when I had purchased an Espresso Book Machine for the then-bookstore at McMaster University which had been called Titles Bookstore, and we launched a "Titles on Demand" business using a large print-on-demand machine from On Demand Books.

We were the 2nd location in Canada and the 9th in the world to own an Espresso Book Machine. Exciting times.

And, of course, it was the early days of what was about to become the large self-publishing "Gold Rush" of 2011 / 2012. (To be honest, we're still in the early days of self-publishing, as, each year, thousands of more authors learn about the amazing possibilities of what they can do related to selling eBooks globally)

An article from the Dec 2008 McMaster Times
It was my work helping local authors who were interested in print (POD) self-publishing that eventually led me to my role as Director of Self-Publishing & Author Relations at Kobo. Because, as amazing as the machine and having print-on-demand access was, I was still running into the issue of people in countries on the other side of the globe wanting access to locally produced books. So I helped the authors create eBook versions to load to Kindle and Kobo, so we didn't have to worry about shipping costs or logistics.

Pic from Hamilton Spectator article - The EBM, Donna (Bookstore Director) & me
Because the machine required a lot of testing; and, particularly in the early days of the machine, we were doing dozens of tours and demonstrations of it, we needed to create some smaller books so that we could go through the demonstrations quickly (also, without using a ton of paper - ie, printing a 300 page book). So I created a chapbook of about 50 pages that contained three of my previously published short stories. It was easier to use one of my own pieces of writing that I had the rights to than to worry about violating some sort of copyright.

I called the chapbook Active Reader: And Other Cautionary Tales from the Book World.

Of course, once I moved from McMaster to Kobo, and needed to have files to test the eBook self-publishing system (Kobo Writing Life) I had been responsible for creating there, I converted the book into eBook format.

 And, in mid 2017, I then had the book converted into audiobook format using Findaway Voices.

It was interesting how, when doing a book in print, you needed to have a minimum page count in order for the book to be properly bound using certain binding technologies. (For POD, I think the minimum page count that worked well might be somewhere between 30 and 40 pages). The maximum page count for an Espresso Book Machine was somewhere in the 550 to 600 page range. Of course, for ebooks, there's no minimum and no limit. As I have enjoyed sharing when talking to audiences who aren't familiar with ebooks, "you aren't limited to the standard format of 300 pages bound between two pieces of cloth."

Funny to look back about ten years ago and see what I had been up to.

Remembering how cutting-edge this POD machine in a bookstore was, I was only beginning to understand the power of digital publishing.

Who would have guessed what these past ten years have actually entailed?

In many ways it feels like only a few years have passed since I was cranking out POD books at the bookstore at McMaster and sharing the possibilities of that brave new world with anyone who would listen; in other ways, it feels like at least twenty years ago.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Ghost of Jack Kerouac

Yesterday's live talk part of my weekly Free Friday Frights included a talk about the chapter "Kerouac's Favourite Haunt" in my 2014 book Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores and Libraries.

Once you get me talking about the things I am most passionate about, I will go on and on. In the chat, I not only share the stories I had heard about the ghost of the famous author who allegedly haunts this bookstore, but my love for visiting bookstores, especially a place like Haslam's which is the largest and oldest independent bookstore in the state of Florida. (Not to mention that today is Independent Bookstore Day)

I also, of course, introduce other things I am passionate about, such as the discovery of local beers. And there are at least three local beer spots in the neighborhood of Haslam's. One that I visited a few years ago (Urban Brew & BBQ) and two more that I just discovered (Taphouse 61 and Cage Brewing)

Hmm, with Novelists Inc, Haslam's Bookstore and at least four great beer spots to check out (I discovered Mastry's Brewing Co. a couple of years back), I have more reasons than ever to look forward to this fall in St Pete, Florida.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Don't Judge My Love of Sharing Ghost Tales

In my weekly Free Friday Frights adventures I have enjoyed the combination of sharing live videos of reading my fiction or just sharing a ghostly tale from the research I have done for many of my non-fiction books on the paranormal.


And last Friday (Friday April 13th), while I was enjoying a couple of pints at The Winking Judge in Hamilton, as part of a quick teaser video that I had originally posted live to Facebook, I walked about the 2nd floor of this haunted bar and shared a few of the ghostly tales I had heard over the years.

I re-edited the original live video to add in a few fitting visuals as well as some haunting background music.

Here is the revised and enhanced video:

You can read more about this in a post on my Spirits Untapped blog entitled "Ghostly Tales From A Hamilton Bar," which also focuses more on the "beer" and "beer culture" aspects. (IE, if, after seeing the beer I'm holding and wanting to know what it was)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Going Your Own Way

"If I could, maybe I'd give you my world
How can I when you won't take it from me?"

These lyrics, near the opening of the Fleetwood Mac song "Go Your Own Way" might be familiar to authors who are trying to share their words, their worlds with an audience.

Sometimes the desire to give and to share is there, but perhaps the audience isn't, or isn't receptive to it.

Image result for fleetwood mac go your own way

But elements of the song, particularly the main words of the chorus also related to an interview I recently did with author T S Paul for my Stark Reflections Podcast.

Scott, like the person being sung to in this classic pop rock song, went his own way.

Specifically, he didn't listen to people who told him that he was crazy or out of his mind with the ideas he had for his own writing plan and the path he was determined to follow.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Friday the 13th: The SUPER Superstition

There are plenty of things in western culture that we associate with superstitions and luck.

A broken mirror brings seven years of bad luck. Don’t let a black cat cross your path. Walking under a ladder also brings bad luck. But of all the superstitious beliefs even those who are skeptic regularly acknowledge, the superstition surrounding the fear of Friday the 13th is compiled up an intriguing selection of different fears and beliefs which form a recipe for a super superstition, if you will.

According to Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained, it has been estimated that as many as 8 percent of Americans actually suffer from the crippling fear of the day Friday the 13th, known in phobia terminology, as paraskevidekatriaphobia. Say that one five times really fast!

Let’s take a look at the two main ingredients that helped to create the commonly dreaded day of Friday the 13th.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

5 Ways To Use Free As An Author

When I was recording a recent episode of the Stark Reflections on Writing & Publishing podcast, I began reflecting on the various ways that an author can leverage FREE in order to build their author platform.
Below are those points, quickly summarized.

1) To Get Readers Hooked on a New Series

Offering the first book in a series free can bring a large funnel of new readers to your books. And, for authors who perhaps don't have more than a few books in that series, sometimes offering a free short story that is linked to that series is a great way to get people to try out your characters and their unique world/setting.


Sunday, April 08, 2018

Finding Inspiration in Everything

I was pretty pumped to be interviewed by USA Today bestselling author Patricia McLinn on her relatively new podcast that focuses on readers.

AUTHORS LOVE READERS is a conversation between authors about how and why they create stories.

It was a heck of a lot of fun! 


I know Patricia from author circles and usually see her once a year at the annual NINC (Novelists, Inc) writer's conference in Florida. It was great to be able to catch up with her and to share some insights and reflections on the writing part of my life, which I have recently returned to with new dedication and conviction.

Patricia asked some great questions and pulled some interesting tidbits out of me as well, including why I chose to market my work as "horror" even though most of the material, though dark, doesn't quite go into what most people think of as horror.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

What's In An Object?

It's funny how a simple inanimate object can have such an effect at bringing back a flood of memories.

This past weekend, my son and I spent the long Easter weekend with my Mom back in Levack.

Because my Mom had given Liz and I Baba's long-standing recipe for pierogi last December, and we had gone through at least a couple rounds of making them on our own with Liz's girls and Alexander, I told my Mom that Zander and I would make some pierogi for her.

My Mom hadn't made pierogi since her mother, my Baba, died in February seven years ago. She keeps buying them from Costco. So I thought it might be fun for her to have some home-made pierogi. No, not as good as Baba's (nothing could ever replace those) - but home-made and, like Baba's, made with love and just a touch of calamity in the kitchen.

When, back in December, Liz and the girls and I had been making pierogi, I remember being quite particular about the vessel we used to cut the dough into the round shapes for crafting the little Eastern European dumplings. I likely went overboard in my desire to find just the perfect glass or cup to use, and was never quite satisfied with what we ended up using.

It was because Baba had always used a particular little tea cup for cutting her pierogi dough with. A small white cup with red roses and green-silver stems and leaves; complete with a couple of chips in it that suggested it had been long and well used.

Baba's Teacup
Baba's pierogi tea cup

Looking at that teacup brought back a huge flood of incredibly powerful memories.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Better Keep Listening. There Might Be A Bit About Blessed Are The Big Noses

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a big fan of Monty Python and that LIFE OF BRIAN is one of my favorite films.

They might also know that I enjoy quoting lines from the film. Lots of lines. At almost any opportunity I can get.

And, of course, one of my fave characters to quote is Brian's Mom, Mandy.

For example, almost ANY time some says "Speak up!" I usually follow it with this (in the appropriate voices, of course):

Monday, March 26, 2018


Starting on Friday April 6th I will be starting a weekly feature that I'm calling FREE FRIDAY FRIGHTS. It'll be hosted on my main website at and use the hashtag #freefridayfrights.

Every week I will post, for approximately 24 hours, a free frightening read. I'll alternate between fiction and non-fiction.

Some time during that same 24 hour period, I will host a live video on my Author Facebook Page where I'll either read the short story or I will discuss/share details from the non-fiction / true eerie/ghostly tale that is posted.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

New Directions in Self-Publishing

I'm going to be speaking in a panel discussion on the topic of NEW DIRECTIONS IN SELF-PUBLISHING on Tuesday March 27, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario.

This short video introduces the topics of what Meghan Behse, Nina Munteanu, Stephanie Fysh and I will be covering.

Here's a little bit about the event.

Self-publishing has come a long way since the first print-on-demand services surfaced in the late 1990s. Driven by technological change, shifting reading habits, and proliferating formats, self-publishing is a constantly evolving space where success can be elusive, but where the odds improve with detailed knowledge of the industry, investments in professional editing and design, and a willingness to adapt to changing conditions.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Podcast: Three Things That Are Wrong with Self-Publishing

A few weeks back I reflected a bit about things that I saw wrong with indie or self-publishing.

Don't get me wrong, I first embraced self-publishing back in 2004 and continue to self-publish as well as traditionally publish my writing.

So, I thought that, by identifying three of the biggest issues I continue to see happening in self-publishing, I could help writers navigate them.

My Stark Reflections podcast entitled "3 Things That Are Wrong with Indie Publishing?" (Revised to the shorter "What's Wrong with Indie Publishing") . . .

. . . goes through these in detail, both the issue and a potential solution that I suggest. And you can listen to the episode here.

But, in a nutshell, here are the issues addressed:

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Cat Fight Blooper Clip

As I was interviewing Natasha Bajema, the author of BIONIC BUG, for a forthcoming episode of my Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing podcast, two of the cats (Fish and Meredeth) decided it was the perfect time for a little misunderstanding between the two of them.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Podcast: Do You Hear What I Hear?

In my ongoing Stark Reflections on Writing & Publishing podcast series, I recent interviewed Kelly Lytle from Findaway Voices about the amazing opportunities for independent authors and small publishers to help get their books turned into audio and distributed globally.

I started using Findaway Voices in the summer of 2017 to test out their services. I had two shorter "chapbook" sized books converted into audio format.

  • Active Reader: And Other Cautionary Tales About The Book World
    • This contains three short horror stories where books are central to each tale. One is about an eerie bookstore eager to "take" new customers, the title story is about the macabre misuse of a bookstore loyalty card and the final story is a dark humor look at what might happen if someone takes the advice of a self-help book a little too far.
  • Collateral Damage: A Sin-Eater Mis-Adventure
    • A short story about an encounter that Peter O'Mallick, the main character in my novel I, Death, has in the midst of attempting to use his death curse to fight crime.

The Findaway system was easy to use and the narrators they hand-selected for me to choose from were great. I'm quite pleased with the production quality of these books and look forward to working with these two narrators again for other projects.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Superstars Writing Seminars 2018

I attended Superstars Writing Seminars this past week as a guest instructor.

Superstars Founding Faculty Members (F) and Guest Instructors. Left to Right: Lisa Mangum, Jonathan Maberry, Kevin J. Anderson (F), Rebecca Moesta (F), James A. Owen (F), David Farland (F), Brandon Sanderson (F), Eric Flint (F)

Even though I was there to teach and share insights about Kobo and Kobo Writing Life and digital publishing, and even though it was my fifth visit to this annual conference, I still walked away with an incredible amount of knowledge. I ALWAYS do.

And that's one of the reasons I keep going back. The industry keeps changing and the learning never stops. And this conference is filled with information about both traditional publishing as well as indie and digital publishing options for writers, always focusing on the BUSINESS of being a writer. (Even though there is an intensive "craft day" now tacked on at the front of the conference)

Pic from VIP Dinner - Photo courtesy of Lauren Lang of Jacobin Photography

Apart from the presentations, panels and discussions I participated in, I also scooted around between sessions and in hallways and did a series of live Facebook videos of chats with various folks, including the founding faculty, guest instructors and other industry pros who were attending. It was part of my wanting to share, via my Stark Reflections/Stark Publishing brand, insights and tidbits of info for writers who couldn't be there.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Returning to Lincoln City

I will be returning to Lincoln City at the end of February as part of the WMG Publishing Fiction River Anthology workshop. This is one of many amazingly informative and valuable workshops that Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch teach.

In previous workshops, I pulled together the anthologies Editor's Choice, Feel the Fear and Feel the Love (forthcoming).

This year I'm reading for a new anthology focusing on superstitions.

Earlier today I was reminded of my last trip to Lincoln city in the fall of 2017. After M.L. Buchman (internationally best-selling military romance writer) and I had a delightful and delicious pizza dinner at Tie Dye Pie (formerly known as Humble Pie) . . .

Inside the awesome Tie Dye Pie pizza parlor - where customers are encouraged to write on the walls and ceiling

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Podcast: Optimizing Your Author Brand with Robert J. Sawyer

The latest episode of my Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing podcast features an interview with Canadian science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer.

It's a great conversation where we talk about how Rob was the first science fiction writer to ever have a website and how he made sure to generously apply the keywords Science, Fiction and Writer throughout the site (aptly named in order to appear at the top of most keyword search results for people looking for a science fiction writer. (IE, when someone from the media wants to talk to a sci-fi writer about a recent scientific news item)

This (among other author brand exercises) has helped Rob land more than 400 radio and more than 400 television interviews over the years.