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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Silly Christmas Lyric Meme: Twas The Night Before Christmas

Years ago I started a silly Christmas lyric meme where I take a song we hear countless times during the holiday season and discuss something that confuses me about it or is worth exploring if merely for the humour . . . (feel free to play along and share your own silly thoughts about Christmas lyrics on your own blog)

I'm going to slightly break with tradition this time around and go with a poem rather than a song. But Clement C. Moore's "Twas the Night Before Christmas" (AKA "A Visit from St. Nicholas"). Although this poem HAS been set to music many times over the years.



The Rules: Pick a Christmas lyric that inspires silly thought and discuss it. Then either tag people or simply invite your readers to chime in with their own silliness.

Feel free to use the "Cousin Eddie" image by copying the following code and replacing the '(' and ')' with '<' and '>' :

(a href="http://markleslie.blogspot.com/2006/12/mark-leslies-silly-christmas-lyric.html")(img src="http://static.flickr.com/136/321235351_90abf16624_m.jpg" alt="Mark Leslie's Silly Christmas Lyric meme" /)


The Song: Twas the Night Before Christmas, attributed to Clement C. Moore.

Lyrics in Question: "When what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer with a little old driver..." and others, to be mentioned.

The Comment: I propose that the popular interpretation of this poem is missing out on a simple fact. Santa isn't a human-sized man at all, but, in fact, a tiny elf.

That could certainly explain how he can slip down the chimney without issue.

Let's look at the line. One assumes that the tiny sleigh and reideer are because of the distance Sanata appears up in the sky. But nowhere does Moore mention that Santa is really high or far away. He simply calls the sleigh miniature, and the reindeer tiny and the driver "little" and "old."

Later, the narrator describes hearing on the roof the "prancing and pawing of each little hoof."

And, when Santa arrives, he is described with a droll little mouth and a little round belly. Moore even comes right out and says: "He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf."

Then, he describes how Santa stands laying his finger on the side of his nose and then rising up the chimney. There is no description of crouching or trying to jam his human sized body into the fireplace. It's a quick and easy movement; easy, because he's elf-sized and not human-sized.


I still love this poem and have enjoyed reading it to my son every year. And I'm not at all put off by the fact that Santa is a tiny little elf rather than a human sized coke-drinking overweight man. Santa is still Santa, after all.


[To read my previous Silly Christmas Lyric commentary, check out 2012 (Santa Claus is Coming to Town) 2011 (Frosty the Snowman), 2010 (Here Comes Santa Claus) 2009 (I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus), 2008 (Silent Night), 2007 (Silver Bells) and the original 2006 (The Christmas Song)]

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Post NaNo Chat

So I made it through another NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), hitting the 50,000 word mark but not quite finishing off the novel I was working on. Ideally, I'll have some time between now and the end of the year to wrap up that first draft and then let it sit for a few months before attacking the second draft.

But, for the Kobo Writing Life Podcast, I recorded a chat that I had with some fellow Kobo staff members: Shayna, Camille and Bessie -- we shared our personal experiences with NaNoWriMo.

Video snapshot from the KWL Podcast NaNoWriMo Chat


You can download the MP3 here, listen online at the Kobo Writing Life Blog, or even subscribe to the RSS feed.

It was a fun chat -- always interesting to hear how different writers approach the same task.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Playing The Lemons You're Dealt

I was recently up at my Mom's house in Levack. I've been spending a lot of time there lately as I help her sort through some health issues.

Being back in my childhood room leaves plenty of space for introspection. This has been a particularly challenging year with twists and plot turns that I just didn't see coming. So one can imagine how that might lend itself towards engaging in self-reflection and looking back at my life. And, being in the home I grew up in, of course, comes with all kinds of physical props that can stir so many different memories.

But the other day I was fascinated with a particular piece of "art" that I had created when I was in Grade 12.

It was a piece of art I called Second Excalibur.

2nd Excalibur - check out the "signature" of "ML" I used


I chose that name because I was imagining a post-apocalyptic world in which all of our modern technology and weapons are gone and humankind is left with the types of tools and weapons from our past. In the midst of the turmoil and chaos, a new leader who will bring peace and order to the madness will arise, identified (in an Excalibur/Sword in the Stone style manner) by the person who is able to pull this sword from the "stone."

The stone, in this case, is a combination of rubble and a brick wall, representing a world that is partially destroyed, likely by war.

And when I thought back to how I ended up deciding to create this piece of art, I was reminded of the age-old adage of playing with the cards that you are dealt or taking the lemons that life hands you and making lemonade.

Basically, taking an unexpected situation and, not only making the best of it, but making something good of it.

The particular art project, you see, was the result of a mistake, a screw-up I made. We had been mixing the powder and water that would turn into the "clay" for creating a sculpture. I ended up leaving the stir stick in the mixture, left it out and forgot about it. By the time I discovered my error, it was too late and a terrible mess. I had a cup with a rock hard blob with a wooden stick sticking out of it.

My art project was ruined.

Or perhaps not.

As I sat looking at the mess I had made, I thought about what I might still be able to make with it. So I peeled the cup away from the globby rock-solid mess. As I did so, I was fascinated how one side of it was so perfectly smooth while the other was "wild" and jagged and more natural.

So I started to etch a pattern in the smooth side to make it look like a brick wall. I wondered if I could play on the thought of a half crumbled wall. But then I considered the sorry wooden stir stick that I just couldn't pull out. Not being able to pull it out made me think of the sword in the stone. Then I got the idea to carve the wood into a sword and make it part of the sculpture.

And from that, Second Excalibur was born. A piece of art with a bit of a societal back-story to it.

Second Excalibur


It's not a great piece of art, but I think it's a creative one, and evidence that, even when things go wrong, there might be a way make it work, to just go with it and see where that takes you. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Sometimes, when writing you might "write yourself into a corner" and either feel stuck or perhaps end up writing a scene or circumstance (in order to get you out of that corner) that takes you in a completely different direction you might never have thought of in all your planning. And what you end up creating might even be better than if you hadn't made the original errors in the first place.

Life can be like that too.

An unexpected twist or plot-turn might, at first, seem to be a negative thing. But are there things that can be gained as you head down that new path? Do those twists take you somewhere new where you can discover things you might not have been able to see before? 

You, of course, need to have your eyes open and look for those opportunities; inspiration can come from what might otherwise be considered a bad turn.

Having supposedly failed 1000 times at creating the light bulb, Thomas Edison was quoted as saying "I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps." And Fred Astaire, whose career spanned 76 years allegedly kept the following memo, from his very first screen test:  "Can't act. Slightly bald. Also dances."

Edison and Astaire seemed to have both done pretty good for themselves.


It's partially perspective; partially persistence; partially patience.

Lemonade from lemons. Playing the cards you're dealt.

When life deals you lemons, make playful art. That's my advice. If you're willing to take advice from a man who has been mixing and messing up metaphors on his blog since 2005, that is.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Ode On A Traveler Mug

So yesterday, in my rush to get my son to school and get onto my Hamilton to Toronto commute, I left my traveler coffee mug on the kitchen counter. I didn't notice it until I was already on the road, and completely forgot about it until the end of a long day where it greeted me when I arrived.

Not once did it question why I had created it and left it there alone.
Not once was it angry at my human-ness.

My coffee mug, like a devoted canine companion, was there waiting for me with imagined puppy-dog eyes to look up at me as I finally returned from a day started without it.

And for that reason, I write this poem.


ODE ON A TRAVELER MUG


You noble, elegant and quiet vessel
Of infinite wakefulness
In those silent morning hours

You beautiful purveyor of AM bliss
Of inspiration, of energy
And of ritualized addiction

You friend of humanity
In your comforting, warming ways
You carry forth the essential 'lifeblood'
And allow it to travel, to move through space and time
Ever warm, ever present, ever within reach

Earlier that morning I brewed a special blend of black crushed beans
And poured it inside you with all the greatest intent
Of bringing you, and the treasure you carried inside you
With me on that day's quest into servitude

But, rushing, oblivious
Perhaps because of the fact I hadn't yet savoured
Even a single ounce of the fruit that you bore

I departed on my journey alone
I departed on my journey without you
And had all but forgot the grand designs
I held in my heart and mind for you

Finally, twelve hours hence
I returned home
Only to be greeted by your presence

Standing, patiently, lovingly, like a stoic sentinel
Like a beloved, cherished and faithful canine companion
Greeting me from where I left you alone and quietly waiting for me
On my morning breakfast counter

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Eleventh Hour

So I made it through another NaNoWriMo.

As predicated, I fell behind mid month. I hit a slump that I couldn't seem to pull myself out of.

But I managed to pull it off mostly in the 11th hour. I made it to 50,000 words but know that I have another 2000 odd words to write to finish the short novel.

I'm temporarily out of words. I'll let the images speak for me.

Started strong, faltered, remained flat, then starting pulling up my socks



And...

 

Saturday, November 08, 2014

NaNo OhOh!

This morning, I'm about to continue working on the first draft of a novel that I've decided to write during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)  And by novel, I mean a really short novel. Something in the range of about 50,000 words.

It's called Coversion (potentially Covert Operations, but I like the title parallel option) to the much-requested sequel to Evasion, which I wrote last November.  Evasion has had almost 130,000 reads on Wattpad, and I've had a lot of people ask for the next one . . . so why not just roll with it.

I started out the month a few hundred words ahead on the 1st and the 2nd, but I have started to lapse.

As of this morning (I haven't started writing today), my average daily word count is 1284 (with a goal of 1667), meaning I wouldn't be done the book until December 9th. Not bad, but if I let it keep slipping, I'm in trouble.

Here are my stats. (Note that if you click this link after 9:30 AM EST on Nov 8th you might see different numbers than appear below)


I had started off okay, but I'm slipping. Time to double-down (which is what November 8th is at NaNoWriMo - okay, they call it Double-Up Donation Day because it's about doubling your donation if you plan on donating on the same day many writers try to double-down their daily writing because, like me, they likely worked long hours during the week and thus fell behind in their word count)



But I'm hopeful, because here's how Evasion looked throughout the month last year - LOTS of falling behind with a final giant last minute production styled day where I ended up okay just in the nick of time.

Evasion stats from 2013
I came close a few times, but didn't ever hit the point I was supposed to be at any point during the month. I played a terrible game of "try to catch up" all month. But I managed to pull it off at the last minute. Not bad.

Evasion Wattpad Reading Stats


And Evasion was a fun short novel to write. So far, Coversion is intriguing for me to write, because I'm having to explore a lot of questions and unanswered mysteries that I set up in the first book but, even though I resolved the basic plot of that novel, I still have some 'splainin' to do.

Apart from being able to read the entire novel for free at Wattpad, Evasion is available in eBook via many platforms including Kobo and Kindle and is also available in print.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Ghostly Bookish Tales for Halloween

This morning I was a guest on CHCH Morning Live, in studio with Annette Hamm, talking about my latest book, Tomes of Terror.



We had the chance to chat about a few stores, including the tale of Lord Combermere's Chair, The Willard Library Ghost Cams, Waterdown Library and the tales of books bound with human flesh.

Annette is always a fantastic host to chat with and the CHCH staff are a great group of people

Here's a link to the video.



Happy Halloween!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Eerie Elevator at Waterdown Public Library

It was a slightly rainy, windy and overcast night at Waterdown Public Library

Last night I did a talk and reading from Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores and Libraries at Waterdown Public Library. The location is included in a chapter of my book and talks about the eerie elevators there and the fact that, despite being checked for mechanical error, they often have a life of their own, opening for no reason when nobody has pushed the call button and even trapping people between the two floors.

A #horrorselfie in front of the tombstones at WPL

The elevators started acting in this manner shortly after a pair of tombstones from Waterdown founders Alexander Brown and Merren Grierson were found and placed on display at the library.

One of the many signs advertising this talk/reading
I had a blast with the staff of the library, who were all awesome. But I mean, really, how could bookish people not be amazing? The library was decorated with all kinds of great Halloween displays, appropriate spooky-themed reading for adults and kids alike, and they had wonderfully creative signs hung all over the store announcing the event, which took place on the second floor in the children's section.

Barnaby, all set up and ready for the talk and reading


I casually relayed several of the stories from my new book, as well as from Haunted Hamilton, then I read from two short chapters and wrapped up the evening with the tale of "The Legend of Prospero's Ghost" - a story about my own personal experience with this ghost at McMaster University.

The awesome Waterdown Library staff posing in front of the elevators/tomestones

The interesting thing is that, even though the library was closed and all staff and patrons were upstairs listening to me tell my tale, the elevator door to the second floor opened twice on its own. Sara, one of the staff members there, told me this took place during my talk - it's a good thing I didn't notice it myself, otherwise I might have run screaming from the building.

Sara and Kari posing with Barnaby

I am a big chicken, after all . . .

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Events Week of Halloween

For a writer of dark fiction and true ghostly tales, the week leading up to Halloween is often a busy one. Not only do I have a new non-fiction book out - TOMES OF TERROR: Haunted Bookstores & Libraries, but my new novel I, DEATH is also currently making its way into the world.



Here is my schedule for this week.

Tuesday October 28th - 7:30 PM - Waterdown Branch, Hamilton Public Library
(25 Mill Street North, Waterdown, ON)
Reading, talk and book signing, including stories about the haunted elevator at the Waterdown Branch

Tuesday October 28th - 10 PM Eastern - TBR Podcast Interview
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JZjkgO5v8U)
Author Mark Leslie Lefebvre joins TBR to talk about scary books. Post apocalyptic fiction, horror, thrillers - anything scary is game! Live listeners, please note we'll be running at 10PM EST this week. Jamie Maltman, Michael La Ronn and Patrick Stemp will see you there!

Wednesday October 29th - 7:00 PM - Terryberry Branch, Hamilton Public Library)
(100 Mohawk Road West, Hamilton, ON)
Reading, talk and book signing, including a couple of stories involving the Terryberry Branch of HPL

Thursday October 30th - Merril Collection, Lillian H. Smith Branch, Toronto Public Library
(239 College Street, Toronto, ON)
Shining a Light on the Dark Side
The Friends of the Merril Collection present a discussion of horror writing and publishing in Canada, featuring members of the Horror Writers Association: Sephera Giron, Mark Leslie, Nancy Kilpatrick, and Richard S. Todd. This event will take place in the Merril Collection reading room on the 3rd floor of the Lillian Smith branch.

Friday October 31st - CHCH Morning Live - Approximately 8 AM
At approximately 8 AM on CHCH Morning Live, Mark and his skeleton mascot Barnaby Bones will be in studio making an appearance on the morning program to share a few creepy tales about haunted bookstores and libraries.

Friday October 31st - Evening
Mark Leslie will be Trick or Treating with his son!!!!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Writer's Block

I often get emails from writers looking for assistance or information regarding either the business or craft of writing, and it's always great to connect and help a fellow writer out.

So I thought that, instead of just responding, I'd take some info from my response and share it here in the hopes that it might be useful to other writers.

This morning's query was about writer's block.

Q: How do you deal with writer's block?



That can be a tough one. I will often jokingly say that if you don't believe in writer's block, it won't believe in you. (ie, don't GIVE it the power over you) - however, that answer often frustrates an author who has already been over-powered and is stuck in their writing.

One technique I use stems from the thought that actually writing is the best cure for writer's block.  There was a quote I remember reading years ago, likely in the pages of Writer's Digest magazine, and it is that writing begets writing.

So if I'm stuck on a scene or particular piece of writing, instead of staying stuck where the writing and the muse seem to have left and abandoned me, I go ahead and write something else - either another piece/story or a different part of the same story by SKIPPING the spot I'm stuck.

I do it with the following two thoughts:

1) Either the writing itself will get me enough back into the flow that, once I'm "running" again with word flow, I can return back to that stuck part and just motor through it. (Part of that "writing begets writing" mantra I mentioned earlier)

2) Perhaps there was something ABOUT that piece I got stuck on that was the culprit - something wrong about it that didn't ring true - which might mean going back and re-doing it a slightly different way - (ie, your tires get stuck in a rut when driving down a dirt road and it has taken you into a 'dead end' spot preventing you from continuing on, and you can't get your tires out of the rut. So, you back up, alter the path slightly and avoid the rut and try a slightly different way to get where you were going)

In any case, here's hoping that these thoughts on writers block help you overcome it should the little monster show itself in your writing life.