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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores and Libraries

I am delighted that Dundurn is going to publish my third non-fiction exploration of the paranormal.

Just like my first one (Haunted Hamilton) was about the city I live in and love, and my second one (Spooky Sudbury - co-authored with Jenny Jelen) was about the city I grew up in and continue to adore, this third one is about something VERY close to my heart.



Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores & Libraries (slated for publication in the Fall of 2014) is going to focus on the places I cherish and am quite passionate about. I have been a bookseller since 1992 and have spent my entire life surrounded with books. In my travels, one of the things I enjoy most is checking out local bookstores; and when I'm in a town long enough I like to also investigate the local library. The people who work at these locations are truly my kind of people, and often the stories they share not just about the books they love but about their community and sometimes, when the spirit moves them, about some of the darker stories and local legends, are worth compiling and sharing.

Like my looks at two beloved cities and their people, Tomes of Terror will be as much about the wonder of the places that hold books as much as it will be about the ghost stories that are shared about those spaces.

One of my favourite book quotes is Cicero's "A room without books is like a body without a soul." I hope to capture the very spirit of those words in my book, by celebrating both the wonder and magic of the bookstores and libraries that are written about as well as the thrill and chill of the ghostly tales that accompany those locations.

Though I already have a number of stories compiled, I'm still collecting tales. So if there is a local bookstore or library that you are familiar with that is haunted, has an eerie tale associated with it, or even just some interesting story that might make a person wonder if there are more things "in heaven and earth" than we normally perceive, please feel free to share them using this submission form.  It just could be the chance to have YOUR favourite local bookstore or library featured in my next book.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Help Me Capture A Caption

I took Barnaby to visit Santa recently. It was fun for everyone, including Santa.

But every time I look at this picture I keep wondering what words are possibly being exchanged between Barnaby and Santa.

Rather than decide this completely on my own, I thought it might be more fun to open it up to everyone and see what fun stuff people can come up with.

So, please help me capture a caption for this photo.

Feel free to leave your caption in the comment field - but, for the purposes of trying to give something back for your effort, I created a FORM where the caption can be entered, and that way I could easily pull the options from a compiled list to decide on a winner as well as draw some randomly selected names to receive fun prizes.

CLICK HERE TO SUGGEST A CAPTION


Here are the prizes being offered.

GRAND PRIZE
  • Signed copies of my books: CAMPUS CHILLS, HAUNTED HAMILTON and SPOOKY SUDBURY
  • A signed copy of my forthcoming novel I, DEATH (Atomic Fez, Late 2014)
  • A signed copy of the 10th Anniversary edition of ONE HAND SCREAMING (Late 2014)
PRIZES FOR ENTERING (3 randomly selected entrants will each receive)

  • A $10 gift certificate from Kobo, Amazon or Chapters/Indigo

Entries will be accepted until midnight on Dec 23rd, 2013.  A Grand Prize winner will be selected  and a post will go up with the winning entry.  The grand prize winner and random entrant winners will be contacted by email over the "Christmas holidays."

For more Barnaby fun, check out his Pinterest and Facebook page.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

End of November Events

I will be doing a series of speaking/writing engagements to cap off November.

On Wednesday November 27th I will be the featured author during the Brantford Public Library's Aspiring Author Gala Showcase, which is a chance for authors from the community to meet, share a bit about their work and then learn from a colleague.  I'll be sharing a bit about my publishing history, how I have embraced both traditional publishing and self-publishing and also do a reading.

Brantford Public Library, 173 Colborne Street, Brantford, ON -  6:30 PM  - FREE EVENT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC


The lovely poster that the good folks at Brantford Public Libary made for this event


On Thursday November 28th I will be speaking with the Sudbury Writers Guild on a talk entitled EMBRACING ALL OPTIONS. I will discuss self-publishing, digital publishing, outlining the various options available to writers. While I will be covering a multitude of opportunities for writers I will, of course, be sharing detailed insights and about all that Kobo Writing Life has to offer to writers and help authors who are taking advantage of eBook publishing to sell more.

Kinsmen Room B in the Parkside Older Adult Centre at the YMCA (140 Durham Street , Sudbury, Ontari) - 6:30 PM -

On Friday November 29th I will be signing copies of SPOOKY SUDBURY at the Coles in New Sudbury Centre between 1 and 3 PM.  To celebrate BLACK FRIDAY, I'm offering all shoppers free copies from a selection of my eBooks at Kobo. (And, no, you don't need to own a Kobo reader in order to read them - you can use one of the FREE Kobo apps on virtually any device. Also, the books in which I own the rights to have no DRM on them, so the ePubs can be moved onto any device that reads ePub files (like a Sony or Nook reader - although, let's be honest, the Kobo readers are the best ones on the market anyway - and yes, I suppose I'm a little biased)

And on Saturday November 30th, I'm going to desperately try to finish my NaNoWriMo novel. I'm in the home stretch now, with less than 10,000 words to go......


Saturday, November 16, 2013

NaNo NoNo's

So NaNoWriMo is half over.


At just over 20,000 words, I'm slipping behind. I can blame the extremely long hours that I work, all of the traveling I have done these past few weeks and the fact my job is one of those 24-7 ones where I dip into email at virtually any hour of the day.

But, ultimately, I have NOBODY to blame but myself.


My stats as of 8 AM this morning - I wrote for about 1 hour and produced 1000 words. I need to write at least a few more hours today and a few more hours on Sunday to get back on track


Here are a few things that I have done wrong.


1) PLAN & OUTLINE
I fully intended to outline the entire novella I'm working on in advance. At least get the beats down. And I had started on it - I had made some notes regarding the generic story arc, but I never completed more than the first third of the novella's detailed story beats. So far, it has been good, and I have (as always happens) discovered characters and situations and scenes that never occurred to me while planning the story -- but that has also slowed me down, meaning I might produce 1000 words on a particular day rather than the 1667 required.

2) EMAIL & OTHER DISTRACTIONS
I have dipped into email first thing in the morning, where I had originally budgeted a half hour to one hour slot for writin, and ended up falling down the rabbit hole that my 24-7 job can often become. The work will never go away, there'll always be well more than I can tackle. Thus, if I don't put writing first before digging in to email, I'll never get back to the writin.

3) NOT WRITING EVERY DAY


To get 1667 words per day, I need to plant my butt in a chair and produce words. Simple enough. I must remember my favourite writing quote, which comes from Hugh Prather: " />If the desire to write is not accompanied by actual writing, then the desire is not to write."



Here are a few things I have done right:


1) I have taken advantage of unique fresh time-slots and locations to get extra writing done - at the airport, on the airplane; writing instead of watching TV at night, etc. I have also used an audio dictation while in the car to record notes and story beat ideas

2) I have done my best to shoot for 2000 words rather than 1667 words, so I can buffer myself for those days I don't write, or don't write as much. The reality is, those no writing days, or less writing days will happen, so that buffer has helped.

3) I have kept at it and not let myself get discouraged. When I look at the monthly chart above, I see more green than red, so far. Sure, I'm behind, but I'm still fighting the good fight.
I look at it this way -- even if I don't hit 50,000 words, the fact that I have dedicated time to getting writing done is a GREAT thing. In my mind, EVERYONE who writes at least SOMETHING during NaNoWriMo ends up ahead.


I plan on getting back on track this weekend by investing a bit more time and ensuring that I can hit this forthcoming week AHEAD of the curve, rather than continuing to fall behind.

We'll see how that turns out.

Friday, November 01, 2013

NaNoWriGo

It's crazy that I haven't posted to this blog since October 10th - particularly since this has ben the most wonderful time of the year. And I'm not just talking about the great Halloween season that I adore, but about the release of SPOOKY SUDBURY and all of the promo, events, book signings for the Sudbury book as well as HAUNTED HAMILTON, the release of another short story in TESSERACTS SEVENTEEN, taking place.

But, alas, work has been absolutely crazy, and taken away virtually any free second I have had.

Which is what makes November, and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) that much more important.



I have signed up and committed to writing 50,000 words this November as part of NaNoWriMo. Last time I signed up (2006), I wrote only about 40,000 words, but that work turned into the forthcoming novel A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK (which I'm rolling out a draft version of on Wattpad)

This time, I'm writing a novella tentatively titled EVASION.  And, though I have some notes and an outline for the novel started, I haven't written a single word yet.  Here's my NaNoWriMo profile page.

Today is the start of that, here is my tracker (so far 0 words written).

I'm traveling today for work, but do plan on taking advantage of some layover time to get some writing done today - and for the rest of the month will have to sneak in short bursts of writing time amidst all the other things keeping me busy......


Ready, set . . . GO!!!!!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

50 Shades of Hamilton

An article I wrote for Hamilton Magazine called "50 Shades of Hamilton" was just published in the magazine's fall 2013 issue.

"Hamilton is rich with history and a diverse sense of culture. It is also a city rich with ghosts. Fifty or more of them, in fact."



The article outlines the 5 different types of ghosts that haunt the Hamilton area as covered in my 2012 Dundurn book Haunted Hamilton, by breaking them down into the following categories.

  • Historical Ghosts
  • Truly Eerie & Creepy Ghostly Tales
  • Sad & Forlorn Ghosts
  • Ghosts in Public Places
  • The Practical Joker Ghosts

I originally riffed on the "Fifty Shades" idea of counting the ghosts in Hamilton, on my blog last year. I didn't realize that the editor of Hamilton magazine (Marc Skulnick) was a fan of ghost stories - but when he contacted me to see if I'd put something together for the fall issue, I pitched the concept.

The article opens with the following paragraph....

"Before you think this article has anything to do with an explicit erotic relationship between a recent college graduate and a business magnate, I should remind you that one of the definitions of "shade," according to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary, is simply a ghost."


The magazine spread is filled with beautiful historic pictures of the city as well as a collection of short tidbits from the book regarding haunted places.

No, that's not Patrick Dempsey on the cover - it's Rodrigo Venturelli


It's cool when something like that can eventually be converted into another piece of published writing.  And the extra exposure reminding people of my book doesn't hurt either.


Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The Day I Outsold Stephen King

Last Saturday was the official book launch weekend for Spooky Sudbury. I drove up north late on Thursday evening and spent most of the day on Friday doing a few different media appointments.

Jim, my publicist at Dundurn, had scheduled in studio appearances with Gary, Rich & Hilary In The Morning (Sudbury’s KiSS 105.3 FM) and Markus Schwabe of  CBC’s The Morning North as well as recording some videos at the haunted Bell Mansion for Eastlink News.

Jenny arrived on Saturday to join me for a launch that started at Chapters at 11 AM until 1 PM, and then at the Coles from 2 PM until 5 PM.  Jenny had to head back down south that night. On Sunday Sept 29th I did one final signing at the Sudbury Costco before heading back home to Hamilton.


Barnaby and Mark

Mark and Jenny, signing the last copy left at Chapters


We sold out at the Chapters in a little over a half hour. But we stuck around until our scheduled end time there. Chapters had copies of Haunted Hamilton (as well as copies of Campus Chills and One Hand Screaming), and the adjacent Costco had plenty of stock, so some people ran next door to grab a copy from there to get signed.

Barnaby hangs out on a bench outside the Coles New Sudbury while Jenny signs at the front of the store
Jenny's boyfriend Bruno hangin' with Barnaby
Mark, Barnaby and Lynn Murray (one of Mark's teachers from Levack Public School)
Then we moved on to the Coles, where there was enough stock to last almost two hours before selling out Barnaby sat on a bench outside the store and attracted a huge number of people. At least a dozen different groups stopped to each take their picture with Barnaby, many of whom were likely tweeting and posting them to Facebook.  I thought that was a pretty cool promotional opportunity, particularly since Barnaby was wearing a SPOOKY SUDBURY t-shirt.

On the Sunday, the signing at Costco happened.

Costco entrance sign announcing book signing


And that took me by complete surprise.

I'm a bookstore guy, so, while I had been pleased with the fact Costco was interested in having me in for a signing, I wasn't sure how successful it would be. Sure, there was lots of stock. But would the customers there be interested in an author?

The answer to that question is a resounding: YES!

First, the staff greeted me so warmly, and had everything laid out perfectly, including a sign at the front and a decorated table across from the skid of books. One of the managers said that I was only the second author ever to sign at that Costco. Canadian music icon, Anne Murray, was the only other author who has signed there. And hockey legend Bobby Orr was the only other author who was scheduled to be there later in the fall.  That was some pretty fine company for me to be in.

Author table at Costco Sudbury. (Barnaby was happy to meet up with his old Costco friends)


I was tickled when I saw that Spooky Sudbury was sitting on a skid near Stephen King's hot new book Doctor Sleep. So, I, of course, had to take a picture of it. I mean, how often would I ever be merchandised so close to a writer I have admired for decades? So close to a book that was hitting the charts at #1 in markets around the world?

I had to snap a picture of that, of course.

The signing at Costco was amazing. People continued to line up to chat with me and get a signed copy. Folks were buying multiple copies, for birthday gifts, Christmas, and other occasions. I ended up staying most of the rest of the day, and realized, towards the end, that we had pretty much decimated the pile of books.

BEFORE: A skid of hundreds of copies of Spooky Sudbury. (Doctor Sleep by Stephen King is on the left)

AFTER: The Spooky Sudbury pile cut down by half, "lapping" sales of Doctor Sleep
When I looked over at the pile of Doctor Sleep, I was surprised and quite pleased to see that Spooky Sudbury had outsold it. And, as a bookseller friend later pointed out, given that King's book is 3X the size of mine, the sheer number of unit sales to deplete the skid so far down was truly amazing. He said I didn't just outsell King, but I lapped him. (thanks for the ego-boost, Nathan!)  :)

Yes, I know, it was only in a single store in a single city in a single afternoon. But at least I can say that I outsold Stephen King.

One must, after all, look for ways to define oneself as a "big fish in a small pool" - thus, even though it was in a very limited fashion, I can boast about having two bookstores sell out of one of my books and outselling the King of horror.

Not bad, if I do say so myself. And I figure, I better say it. I just have to be careful not to break my arm while trying to pat myself on the back.



Friday, October 04, 2013

Finalist for 20th Annual Hamilton Literary Awards

I was quite pleased to learn that my book Haunted Hamilton: The Ghosts of Dundurn Castle & Other Steeltown Shivers is a finalist for the 20th Annual Hamilton Literary Awards in the category of non-fiction.


I was also quite happy to see a new award being announced that celebrates Hamilton author Kerry Schooley. Kerry was a friend, a writer, a poet, and a central figure in the Hamilton literary community, someone who welcomed me to the local scene with open arms and always had time to assist and prop up other writers. Kerry taught and mentored many writers, wrote under the pen names John Swan (mystery) and Slim Volumes (poetry) and supported the local arts scene incredibly. Hamilton lost this literary treasure in 2010. He is, of course, still quite missed. Thus, the Kerry Schooley Award is a delightful and wonderful addition to make the 20th annual awards that much finer.

The incredibly entertaining Kerry Schooley doing a poetry reading as Slim Volumes


Also nominated in the category of Non-Fiction are Hamilton Illustrated by David Collier (Wolsak and Wynn) and Empty Cradle by Diana Walsh (Dundurn)

The winners will be announced on November 12, 2013 in the Norman and Louise Haac Studio Theatre at Theatre Aquarius (190 King William St, Hamilton, ON)

Here is the press release for the awards . . .


The awards are, as one must suspect based on the name. put on by the Hamilton Arts Council.  Here's a bit more information about them.

Connecting Artists, Creating Opportunity, Inspiring Change

Mission Statement: To communicate, advocate and mediate for the arts and the role of the arts in the community of Hamilton.

Vision Statement: The Hamilton Arts Council exists to strengthen the role of the arts and culture in the City of Hamilton by making the arts accessible and relevant to the entire community.

Values:

1. We value all members of Hamilton’s diverse creative communities.
2. We believe that the arts in Hamilton are made stronger through collaboration.
3. We hold that our Artists provide a critical creative dialogue essential to the ongoing social and economic
health of the community.




Thursday, October 03, 2013

Northern Life Article On Spooky Sudbury

This past Saturday, Jenny and I did our book launch for Spooky Sudbury at Chapters, and a reporter from Northern Life (Ryen Veldhuis) interviewed us and took a few snaps.

Ryen's article and one of the pictures (a fun one where Jenny, Barnaby and I are all looking a little spooked while reading from the book -- okay, Jenny and I look spooked. Barnaby, as always, just looks a little happy) appear in an article in today's Northern Life.

Mark Leslie, Barnaby Bones & Jenny Jelen - Picture by Ryen Veldhuis, Northern Life
I love the fact that the article points out we had sold out within the first hour. At the time it was a bit frustrating, because there were more customers wanting the book than there were books available, particularly since I'm sure Chapters could have easily sold another 20 copies, and this is a local interest title that will likely continue to ramp up in sales as Halloween approaches.  But in retrospect doesn't the fact that the book sold out sound really exciting?  The manager at Chapters assured me he would be re-stocking the book, they also had copies of Haunted Hamilton in stock (which I signed), and he said he'd be ordering in a few copies of my previous books Campus Chills and One Hand Screaming.

We ended up selling out at Coles (they had brought in 55 copies) later that afternoon, and the following day I sold over 200 copies at the Sudbury Costco -- but of course, when a store has a skid, it's really hard to sell out . . . even though sales that day took a nice chunk off the gigantic pile -- and I can proudly boast that, for a few hours in a single store in a single city, I outsold Stephen King's Doctor Sleep.


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Spooky Morning North

Last Friday I was in studio with Markus Schwabe of CBC Morning North to chat about the new book Spooky Sudbury: True Tales of the Eerie & Unexplained.



Markus was a great host and we had a fun time, particularly when we set Barnaby up with a pair of headphones and took a few pictures.


It looked like Barnaby was really into it. But he did let Markus and I do all the talking.

Our conversation can be listened to as an audio clip here.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Spooky Swag

Barnaby was excited to try on a new t-shirt when some of my Spooky Sudbury swag arrived this past Friday.



I'll be bringing the swag to the book launch events that Jenny and I are doing this coming weekend in Sudbury.

Barnaby will, of course, also be there to greet people.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Goodreads Giveaway

I recently worked with my publisher to create a Goodreads giveway for SPOOKY SUDBURY.

It works relatively simply. You determine how many copies of a book you want to ship (it has to be a physical book), WHERE you want to ship it and how long the contest will run.  Goodreads then has to approve it and if so, it's live.



When I contacted my publicist about it, he said, sure, Dundurn would ship 5 copies to any address in Canada.  (Spooky Sudbury is a regional title, focusing on ghost, UFO and supernatural creature stories set in or near Sudbury, Ontario).


We had 197 people enter the contest.  The winners were drawn earlier this week.

Yesterday I popped down to Dundurn's office to sign copies of the winning entries and they are being mailed out today.

Laura Harris (editor), Mark Leslie (author), Jim Hatch (publicist)

I had the pleasure of getting to meet my amazing editor (Laura Harris) and awesome publicist (Jim Hatch) in person. One of the things I love about Dundurn is that the people there are wonderfully supportive. Yes, I toil in the indie-publishing world, and also release self-published products. But I also enjoy working with a great publisher, too. I find that there is much to be gained by embracing both traditional publishing and self-publishing ventures.

Laura was a fantastic editor to work with - she helped Jenny and I take the book from a really good original draft to something really great. She made insightful suggestions, asked great questions, pointed out modifications that would make it even better and kept things on track. And Jim has been tirelessly working at various angles to get some spotlight on the book -- so far, I'll be doing two radio spots and one television spot next Friday when I'm in town. And there's more great promo opps coming.

The results of the giveway are that 103 people added SPOOKY SUDBURY to their Goodreads libraries (only 7 of them are Goodreads friends).  Getting your book added to folk's libraries by getting them to add it to their "To Read" and even better, their "Read" library, help aid in the discovery of a title.  Of course, getting people to rate and review the boo, help best of all. But it all adds up.

Banner for Spooky Sudbury - author photos by www.jorophotography.com

SPOOKY SUDBURY is being released officially next week.  Jenny and I will be signing copies at the Chapters in Sudbury from 11 AM to 1 PM on Saturday September 28th.  Then we're heading over to the Coles New Sudbury from 2 PM until 5 PM.  Here's a link to the event on Facebook.

Here are some places you can purchase the book

Print Book - Chapters/Indigo
Print Book - Amazon.ca      Amazon.com
Print Book - Support US Independent Bookstores
Print Book - Barnes & Noble

eBook - Kobo
eBook - Jan's Paperbacks (Oregon) - US Indie Store I'll be at in Nov. (You can search for the eBook at your favourite local indie bookstore to purchase the Kobo book through them and support your local bookstore - http://www.indiebound.org/ebooks)
eBook - Amazon (Kindle)

eBook - Barnes & Noble (Nook)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Atwood For The Win!

Margaret Atwood's latest book MaddAddam is just out (Kobo eBook / IndieBound Print Book Link / Amazon Link).  Earlier this summer, she was at Kobo's home office in Toronto for a Kobo in Conversation with Carol Off to discuss her new book.


During the conversation, Margaret began discussing the Wattpad novel (The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home) she had co-authored with Naomi Alderman of Zombies, Run! (an absolutely wonderful GPS-based interactive running app).  They ended up having a little side-bar conversation in which Atwood explained how a character could get out of a perilous seemingly dead-end situation being trapped in a cabin with a ravenous zombie trying to break in.

Kobo edited a snippet of that conversation into a video entitled Margaret Atwood VS Zombies.



Is there really any doubt as to who would win such an encounter?  Atwood FTW!

I have long been a fan of her writing. But I am also a fan of her spirit, energy and playfulness.

After decades of enjoying both reading and selling her books, I had the distinct privilege of being able to present her with the Canadian Booksellers Association Lifetime Achievement Award last year, which was an absolute honour for me.  And yes, I never get tired of sharing this picture.

A Bucket-List Type Thrill - May 2012 - Presenting Margaret Atwood a CBA Libris Lifetime Achievement Award
I was too nervous the night of the CBA Libris Awards to remember to ask for her autograph, but I did manage to get her to sign the back of my Kobo Glo when she was here at Kobo.

One thing I did neglect to remember to ask her, though, was for some tips on how to ensure I didn't get ambushed by the random zombie mobs when I run using the aforementioned Zombies, Run! app.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering A Tragedy By Celebrating Their Lives

On the anniversary of the tragic day where 2996 people lost their lives blogger D. Challenger Roe began Project 2,996.

The concept was to bring bloggers from around the world together to remember and pay tribute to the victims of Sept 11, 2001.



Photo from 9/11 Virtual Career Fair article by Kevin O'Brien - Huffpost

Roe instructed bloggers 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.

I still love the fact that the focus of this blog meme wasn't on the horror, but on celebrating the lives, the people they had been before 9/11.

Here are my own links to three individuals that I focused on learning a bit about and sharing.  Ever year, on this anniversary, I re-read the posts, think about the lives they lived and the differences they made before those lives were ended.

The posts about the people are listed below.

 Raymond Meisenheimer

Deora Francis Bodley
 
  Remembering The Lives of Two Heros (Blog post from 2007)


David Reed Gamboa Bradhorst
  Project 2996 - Sept 11, 2008 (Blog post from 2008)



It's my small way of celebrating these lives, and not forgetting.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Goodreads Giveaway for SPOOKY SUDBURY

In preparation for the book launch for SPOOKY SUDBURY, which will be taking place on Saturday September 28th in Sudbury at two different locations (11 AM to 1 PM at the Sudbury Chapters and then from 2 PM to 5 PM at the Coles New Sudbury), my publisher is offering up 5 copies of the book as part of a Goodreads Giveaway.

Promo Banner for SPOOKY SUDBURY, featuring Barnaby, Mark & Jenny


The giveaway contest is open to anyone in Canada.


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Spooky Sudbury by Mark Leslie

Spooky Sudbury

by Mark Leslie

Giveaway ends September 18, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
So go ahead - enter for your chance to win. Good luck.

And if you don't win one, don't worry, there will be plenty of copies available for purchase at the events listed above.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Return of the MAC

I spent 5 wonderful years working at McMaster University for the campus store formerly known as "Titles Bookstore."  McMaster was a fantastic place to work, the people, both at the bookstore as well as the amazing staff and faculty that I got to know while I was there were amazing, and it is an opportunity and experience I cherish.

I am delighted, next week, to return to my old McMaster stomping grounds as part of a pretty amazing multidisciplinary celebration of Robert J. Sawyer's archival donation to the University Library Collection.

In honour of Rob's generous donation, the university is hosting a special three day conference entitled Science Fiction: The Interdisciplinary Genre from Friday September 13th through Sunday September 15th.



Special guests at the conference (apart from Robert J. Sawyer) include John Robert Colombo, Julie E. Czerneda, David G. Hartwell, √Člisabeth Vonarburg, Robert Charles Wilson, and Chris Szego. 

Never mind the amazing content and people involved, but get this:  The conference is FREE.

There is more information hereHere's the Tentative Program.  And you can check out the Facebook Page.

Rob and I in front of McMaster's Espresso Book Machine - 2010


I am delighted to be doing a talk and presentation called "Digital Pi: The Transcendence of Digital Publishing" -- I will be sharing some of the things that I have learned, in over twenty years of bookselling, about how digital technology is allowing authors, publishers, academics, students and readers amazing opportunities to share and explore the world around them in bold new ways.  I will, of course, be talking about the Espresso Book Machine at McMaster, how publishers and universities have embraced a "deliver digital / print local" methodology, how innovative publishers are evolving to embrace eBooks and other born-digital projects that take publishing to exciting new levels.

And I will, of course, tie much of my thoughts back to the writings of Robert. J. Sawyer.  I mean, the man owns virtually every eBook reader known to mankind and has been doing readings off of a handheld digital device of one form or another for as long as I can remember.

Rob doing a reading from his novel WATCH on an ereader March 31, 2010 at Titles Bookstore

When I was at McMaster and working on various POD experimental projects in publishing, such as CAMPUS CHILLS, an all original anthology of Canadian horror stories set on campuses across Canada by some of Canada's most amazing writers of dark fiction and printed and launched on the EBM's at McMaster, Waterloo and University of Alberta bookstores, Rob was an avid supporter of the project, and wrote a wonderful introduction for the book.

Campus Chills Contributors: Kelley Armstrong, Kimberly Foottit, Mark Leslie, Sephera Giron, Michael Kelly, Edo van Belkom (McMaster Book Launch October 2009)


Rob has given so much to the science fiction and academic communities.  It will be a special thrill and an honour to participate in an event that celebrates him and his donation to a wonderful university.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Author Photos For Spooky Sudbury

In early July, Alexander and I took a quick road trip up through Tobermory (where we did some fishing), took the ferry to Manitoulin Island (where I took some photos), and on to Sudbury and Levack (to visit my Mom and where I could take some more photos for use in my new book)

Part of the reason for the trip (apart from a fun "boys adventure) was so that Jenny Jelen and I could get some author promo pictures for use for our forthcoming release, Spooky Sudbury (coming in late Sept 2013)

One beautiful afternoon, Jenny and I met with John and Shelley Robbie (of Joro Photography) to have some photos taken at High Falls (a local tourist attraction in Onaping Falls, the community we all grew up in)

Barnaby, naturally, made it into some of the shots.

Barnaby Bones, Mark Leslie & Jenny Jelen - Photo by Joro Photography

Here is a grouping of some of the great pictures taken by John.


Friday, August 16, 2013

An Adventure To Choose To Support

Remember the old Choose Your Own Adventure books? How would you like to do one in real life?




When I was doing a talk at the Ontario Writers Conference last year on the topic Digital Storytelling 360° I made a point of bringing up the possibility of writers crafting a story or even a mystery based on the GPS and or QR code function of a person's smartphone (it's at about 10 minutes in to the video) that brings them to or relies on physical world locations.

Interestingly enough, being part of that dream happened. 

I am delighted to be one of a group of authors taking part in a new collaborative writing project.  The other writers and I are creating writing Choose Your Own Adventures that you can do in real life!

Not only will the readers/participants actually get to stand where the story is happening but they can dictate what happens next, while exploring the weird and wonderful features of a new (or old!) city.

I will be penning the story that takes place in Toronto, Ontario.

It's a pretty progressive plan and an exciting project to be a part of.

But we need your help to get this project off the ground.

To do this we have set up a crowdfunding page for our project http://pozible.com/chooseadventure.

If you don’t know what crowdfunding is, it’s all explained on the page. But one thing to keep in mind is it involves rewards and they are amazing, including everything from signed books to Skype conversations with the authors.

If you are interested in seeing such a project get kick-started and could pledge to this project I would be greatly appreciative. Even if the only thing you can afford is to pass the word onto your friends, family, and colleges or just pledge $5, every bit counts! It really does.

We launched a couple of weeks ago and the funding and support is coming from around the globe.  But we still have a long way to go and really could use whatever support you can offer.

I mentioned that I am writing the Toronto story, if this project is able to establish the funding required.  But it will cost a lot to get this going, ensure all the writers are paid and that the technology and physical world elements are all in place to make this happen effectively.

Here are some of the stellar writers who will also be writing a choose your own adventure for this project:

Isobelle Carmody, Marianne De Pierres, Sean Williams, Mindy Klasky, Sophie Masson, Michael Pryor, Tansy Rayer Roberts, Kim Wilkins, Angela Slatter, Lee Battersby, David B. Coe, Jennifer St George and Robert Shearman.

If you are able to donate or simply share this cool project I would greatly appreciate it.  And if this project gets off the ground, I look forward to working on the Toronto adventure and sharing updates about it.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Kobo Writing Life Podcast

The second episode of the Kobo Writing Life podcast went live this morning.



Episode Two (or, Episode 002 if you prefer), features an interview with Robert Levine, author of FREE RIDE.

The interview includes Robert's perspectives on copyright and pricing as well as the difference between writing for dailies, weeklies and monthlies to transitioning into writing a full length book with an entirely different publication schedule.

Episode One (or Episode 001), features an interview with Steve Vernon, author of such items as the Flash Virus serialized YA thriller, The Tatterdemon Trilogy as well as non-fiction books such as Haunted Harbours and Maritime Murder.

Christina (KWL Team), Steve Vernon and me
For Steve's interview we talk about his role as a hybrid author and why he has embraced both traditional publishing as well as self-publishing.  I thought it was interesting that part of the reason is that Steve has SO MANY stories to write and share that traditional publishing just can't keep up with his production pace and schedule.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Barnaby Warrior

One of the photos I forgot to post in my Warrior Dash Barrie 2013 summary post from a few days ago was a picture I took of my skeleton Barnaby in my Warrior Dash t-shirt from last year.

It would have been hilarious to run with Barnaby or just have him posed on one of the obstacles in shirt, running shorts and shoes, as if he were a runner that couldn't make it over one of them - you know, as if he'd been at for THAT long . . .

In any case, here he is, ready for battle, but ensuring he is resting before the race . . .


Friday, July 26, 2013

Get Your Warrior On! (Warrior Dash Barrie 2013)

I ran the Warrior Dash in Barrie at Horseshoe Resort for the third year in a row.

Pierre and I in costume for 2013 Warrior Dash - photo from Barrie Examiner


And for the third year in a row I wore my "Conan the Barbarian" costume that my aunt made for me when I was 14.

My Conan costume - from my early teens (when I was a lot more skinny)


Yes, I know, it doesn't fit as nicely as it used to when I first wore it to the Halloween dance at Levack District High School

No, not even as nicely as it fit when I was in University

Halloween - at one of Pat & Mike's infamous parties in my university days


But it has been the tradition for three years now, that this is the costume I wear for the Warrior Dash.

2012 Warrior Dash - Me, Pierre, Tricia and Chad

For the first year, Pierre, Chad and I ran the race.  Last year, Chad's wife Tricia joined us.  And this year, Chad finally broke down and wore a costume. In previous years, he wore a shirt that read: "I don't do costumes!" -- but, a man of extremes, he went from wearing no costume to wearing a . . . wait for it . . . Borat bathing suit . . .

There are some things that just can't be unseen.

Me, Pierre and Chorat....for some reason, Tricia is nowhere to be seen


Chad, Pierre and I, post-race muddy


Needless to say, Chad's costume was the "talk of Warrior town" that morning.

Also needless to say, Tricia refused to run with us and ran on ahead, keeping a safe 1 KM or more in front of us lest people see us together.

Also needless to say, shortly after the race, Chad changed back into his civies.  But the damage had been done, the eyewash needed to be handed out along with the free beer that came with the tracking chits.

Fun costumes = lots of extra beer from fellow Warriors

Speaking of tracking chits, Pierre and I scored quite a few extra free beers from folks who were driving and couldn't use theirs.  No harm done there. None of us were driving, because we stay both Friday and Saturday at the resort and enjoy it as party of a mini family vacation.  Horseshoe resort has some amazing activities for the kids, and they always enjoy the zip line, the rock wall climbing, the maze, the trampolines and the Aqua Ogo balls (giant hamster balls filled with water that you climb into before it is pushed down a hill)

Alexander coming in on the zip line
Zander on the climbing wall


Cuddling with my better half in the big red muskoka chair

Horsing around with the kids (Alexander, Gavin and Oliver) in the pool on Friday night



This year, thanks to advice from my pal Sean, we booked a couple of the condo suites and had tons of space, a full kitchen, fridge, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer and two bedrooms.  (Not that the male warriors got all that much sleep -- we made friends with some cool runners from Sudbury and hung out with them both nights)

I have to say that the race this year was even more challenging, more fun that last year. They continue to improve the obstacles each year. I hurt my knees and elbows falling down the back side of some of the obstacles.  I even rolled through the mud, across the gravel and right off the trail into the woods on one of the obstacles that I fell down.

Here's the washing machine with our Warrior costumes in it. Yikes!


They reversed the course from the previous two years, beginning the race with a climb right up a long slope to the top of the hill -- talk about exhausting the runners right away -- but it served a nice purpose, quickly thinning out the pack that used to bunch up the minute we hit the woods in the previous years.  So it kept things flowing nicely.  Going up and down the side of the ski hill continues to be the biggest challenge of the race -- I mean, who cares about the bared wire (which did slice open my back quite nicely at one spot), and leaping over fire or scaling ten foot walls when you have to go back up that damn ski hill?  At least there was a lot of shade on this year's trail.

After the race, Pierre and I shaved our heads (Chad was already shaved and again, Tricia stayed far away)  We had an audience for this and were laughing about Drunk Barber....

Drunk Barber - free haircuts, if you can handle the fact it's "one cut for all heads"



One of the most hilarious pictures is when I had just jumped off the cargo net and was doing my Warrior Yell for Francine, when Chad ran in front of me. Cheeky bugger!

My Warrior Yell pose "white washed" by Chad's cheeky photo bomb


Kudos to the folks at Horseshoe Resort and Warrior Dash for upping their game yet again.

It was a fun novelty race (we don't race competitively, but rather stick together as a team and run together, enjoying the fun of going through the obstacles, laughing at each other and having some fun) and a weekend that I look forward to every year.  We mixed our time between hanging out with our families, meeting new friends and, given that Pierre and I stayed in our costumes for quite a while on Saturday, posing for dozens of pictures.

I can't wait until next year. In fact, I have already registered for July 19, 2014.