Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Starting (cow) Bell

The little ghouls and goblins seem to have gone to bed now. A lean year for us with only 17 kids coming to the door. And we live in the suburbs. It wasn't a bad night out, relatively speaking. The temperature was about 8C (that would be about 46F for my American friends) and no rain. Just a bit of wind. Perhaps the H1N1 business has scared off a few tonight? That's a whole other story with the supply here having run out today...

Anyhow, it's now midnight and time for the NaNoWriMo to begin for this year. I'm too tired to be pumped. I think I will start this with a whimper and go to bed now and get up early for the attack. I notice, though, that my computer clock says that it's 11pm, so has it really started yet? I am ringing the starters bell...cow bell, that is. You all know what that means. Click here for what I think is one of SNL's funniest skits. Welcome to all Saint's Day and happy NaNo to all participating.

Friday, October 30, 2009

All Dressed Up...

My wife has the day off and will be spending some of this afternoon trying to get Sean's halloween costume together for their cadet dance tonight. I think he could care less about the costume and would show up in his 'civvies', but I'm encouraging him to participate and not be flaky like I was at that age.

I believe that we have the workings for a Hannibal Lecter costume. He has a quality to his voice (Sean) when he delivers the infamous line about Chianti and fava beans...

I haven't done the 'dress-up for halloween thing' since I was a kid. I did dress up in a white paint suit from work for the Santa Claus parade a few years ago. You know the scene: walk along with the float and hand-out candy to the kids (this, of course, differs from my childhood when they pitched the candy at the kids waiting along the sidewalk.) Oh, and there was the time in school that I dressed up in a full body cat outfit in the gym...but that's another story.

I present to you the top 5 costumes that I would wear, in no particular order, should I ever participate in this special time of year.

Yep, Captain Jack Sparrow. What's not to love about the dreds and cool beard!

Ahh, the aforementioned Lecter. My son might have the voice down, but not the glassy-eyed look indicative of folks partying too long.

Sometimes the original is the best. I think that I could pull this off as I've done the shaved-head thing before.

Our friend Pee Wee...OK, so that's a little weird. Don't worry, I won't touch that one...

So what guy that grew up in the '70's didn't want to be the Fonz? Except in Canada, he would be ending his sentences in Eh?

What costumes would you pick? Feel free to throw your picks up on your blogs...

Have a great halloween tomorrow night. Watch out for creepy people.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Strange Days

I always find that this is a strange time of year. Strange in the way that time seems to elapse more quickly. I've just noticed that five days have passed since my last post. There always seems to be so much on the go when you get into the halloween to Christmas corridor.

I have been polishing up a story for 52 Stitches, who will be re-opening for submissions on October 31. I've also been compiling notes for the NaNo this year. Yikes! A mere 4 days away. As a practice for this, I have been getting up at 6:15am each morning to get together my notes that I have scattered all over the place. The early start also gives me extra time to read the fine blogs of others. As a result, I have found a couple of things to bring to your attention.

First, Erin Cole has been hosting some amazing horror stories at her blog Listen to the Voices. The 13 Days of Horror has been a great lead-up to halloween with writers such as Michael J. Solender, Laurita Miller, Barry J. Northern, and Paul D. Brazill. I know what you're thinking...that's a lot of initials talent. Most of you are probably familiar with today's guest writer, Angel Zapata. Do yourself a favour and check out Erin's blog for some halloween horrors...if you dare!

Most of you are also familiar with Brenton Tomlinson over at Musings of an Aussie Writer. He will be editing the first anthology for Blade Red Press: Blade Red Dark Pages, Volume 1. This sounds like a high quality publication and, with BT at the helm, you know that they will print only the best. You can check out thier submission guidlines here, but keep in mind that submissions close on November 30.

I will now get to my paid work. I realize that I have been pimping a lot this morning but fear not...I will have a hot shower and give myself a good scrubbing!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I Am Not Plugging This Product

I thought that I'd post a link to a commercial on YouTube. The link is here because I still haven't figured out how to embed the damn things in my blog.

I'm not a fan of Johnnie Walker Scotch but I am a fan of Robert Carlyle. I've followed the Scottish actor since his work in the TV series Hamish Macbeth, but he is better known for movies such as The Full Monty, Trainspotting, Angela's Ashes and Ravenous. Some may remember him as the villian Renard in the Bond movie The World is Not Enough. Someone sent us a link to a commercial. It's called "The Man Who Walked Around the World" and was shot earlier this year. I think that it's a great piece of work, obviously shot in one take and gives you a quick history of the Johnnie Walker dynasty. I like Carlyle because he takes on challenging, often despicable, characters. They are often crude, violent, and say all the things that we would like to but are too polite to do so.

It's over 6 minutes long, but the last minute is just rolling credits. If nothing else, watch it for a great view of the Scottish countryside (I believe that it was shot around Perth).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Renaissance Man

The most appropriate definition I could find on this was..."a present-day man who has acquired profound knowledge or proficiency in more than one field."

I would like to think that this would also apply to women. Have you ever met somebody that has inspired you in some way? I don't mean the team coach that gives the inspirational pep-talk. It goes far beyond that. Something intangible.

I registered for a night-school class at King's College (London, Ont) back in Oct. 1996. It was called 'The End of the Millennium-Psychological Perspectives.' It was taught by Dr. Jaroslav Havelka, a psychology professor originally from Czechoslovakia via Italy, who came to Canada in 1951. The first lecture opened with "What is the report card for our civilization? The last millennium people were dying with the name of Messiah on their lips...but they were better off than us as we are rotten morally." He attributed this to something he called 'Scientific Materialism' and the fact that we are much more 'ego bound' than our ancestors. And so began the eight lecture series...

As is my custom, I tend to get places early and sit with a cup of coffee. I waited prior to class on a couch in the large entry hall of the building when Dr. Havelka wandered along. He recognized me as one of his students and sat and began chatting with me. How was I enjoying the class, what did I do for my work, etc. I was a bit surprised at first, not accustomed to professors chatting socially with me showing interest in my life. I wish that I had taken more advantage of that to pick his brain a bit.

In the fall of '97 there was a story in the paper about a popular university professor having passed away. He died of cancer only 12 days after being diagnosed. It wasn't until a few years later that I began to learn more about his incedible life journey.

His wife, Jane Vincent-Havelka, was the keynote speaker at the 50th anniversary of the college, who were establishing a permanent collection of his art work. I have the 9 page speech that I printed from the Internet a few years ago, and am now unable to find it online. The best link I could find was to the information poster of it here. I'll list in point form some of the events that occurred in his life.

  • born in Moravia, Czechoslovakia in 1922
  • area was occupied by the Nazi Reich in 1938
  • his was involved, with his father, with the partisan against the Nazis
  • he was sent to work in a tank factory in Vienna (where he attended evening classes at the university) and had access to music, museums and theatre
  • he returned to Czech after the war, attending classes at the university
  • the Soviets cracked down on intellectuals, and he secretly fled to Milan to attend university on a scholarship. He was unable to tell his parents, and he never saw them again
  • he obtained a Ph.D. in 1950
  • immigrated to Montreal in 1951 and began studying psychology and physiology at McGill. He became a research assistant and studied brain functions under famed neurologist Dr. Wilder Penfield.
  • had no formal art training, but was a prolific artist producing woodcarvings, drawings (his self-portrait is above, 1993) and painting
    he wrote plays and essays and his novel, Pelynek, won an international prize. His final books, Variations and Musings of an Inquisitive Mind, were psycho-philosophical essays.
  • established the department of Psychology at King's College in 1969
  • is fluent in six languages
  • had a special interest in thanatology, the study of death, and was an active participant in the King's College Centre for Education about Death and Bereavement. For 30 years he studied Eastern Religions, particularly Buddhism, and the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and the Tibetan Book of the Dead were constant companions.

I could continue on with more points, but I would be beating it to death. It's difficult to put into words the aura that a person like this emanates in a crowd. Yes, he was a charismatic and engaging speaker with some truly amazing ideas. But one got a sense of well-being from him and you couldn't help leaving his lectures with a desire to learn more. To push yourself beyond your comfort zone...

Anyway, I've prattled on too long. I realize that this post is probably of little interest to anyone but myself. And I would be surprised if any of you has read on long enough to get to this point.

In October of 2001, an exhibit of 350 pieces of his art work was exhibited in a church in London. About half of these were on sale. I saw a number of pieces that depicted either Christian or Buddhist themes but I couldn't afford to put out the money at the time. I now have two things to regret about that period of time. I should have engaged Dr. Havelka more in conversation and I should have purchased a piece of his art to remember him by. If you happen upon a person who touches your instincts in such a way, act on them and learn more. I may live another 47 years...perhaps I'll get a second chance to learn more.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cracking the WIP

We have had a real potpourri of weather today--from overcast to pouring rain and then hail and then wet snow. The winds have been gusting to 140km/h.

Hello winter.

I seem to have had a recurrence of the plague-like symptoms of 3 weeks ago, with the addition of a bit of breathlessness. I hate going to see doctors, but a couple more days of this should have me motivated.

I haven't really had a writing project on the go for a number of weeks. A series of rejections really took the wind out of my sails. I have dusted off a semi-complete short story in hopes of finishing it before the start of NaNo. I'd like to submit it to Fifty-Two Stitches when their submissions reopen, appropriately, on Halloween. It will be a challenge cutting down what should be a 2000 word story to about 750 words or so. Aside from that, I'm still jotting notes and ideas into three separate notebooks (in different locations) in an attempt to better outline Metropolis, my NaNo story.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thanksgiving...and a bit more pimpage

It's the long weekend in Canada. We will be celebrating Thanksgiving on Monday. My wife, son, the big black dog and myself are off to spend a couple of days at my parent's house 'round the bay. A pity the weather isn't cooperating more. At least it's not snowing yet. Yes, I said the 'S' word!

You may recall, a couple of months ago, I mentioned in a post about searching for a cottage. We were very interested about a chunk of land with a small house on blocks. We emailed the couple with no fixed price, but asked for a property survey or some legal document showing the amount of land and its boundaries. They got back to us after about a month with a hand-drawn sketch of the property. Not quite what I had in mind. The property had a well, but it kept running dry in the summer so he had it filled in for safety reasons. There were too many "iffy" factors for our liking and, despite the stunning view, it wasn't worth the risk. We had decided, during the month we waited for a reply, that we were going to put the money the bank had approved us for into renovating the kitchen/living room of our house (a four level back split). If anything is left over after that, the siding could use re-done as well. I guess at some point sanity kicked in for us and we had to make the more rational choice of upgrading what we had instead of over-extending ourselves for a week end getaway place that would also require some TLC...even if the view was to die for.

That provides a nice little segway into a bit more pimpage I'll throw at you. While attending the night school classes in creative writing in 2007/08 I met a woman called Debbie (who is one of my NaNo buddies this year). Her husband is a talented landscape photographer by the name of Terry Adey. I would recommend you check out his website for some stunning and haunting images of the Newfoundland coastal regions. The attached photo is from his web page.

Have a great week end everyone!

Friday, October 9, 2009

More Odds and More Ends

When I was typing out the 'More Ends' in my title, I began to giggle. I got to thinking about Natalie Sin's profile that's a lot of ends. My copy of Necrotic Tissue 8 arrived yesterday. My wife commented that they even ship it protected in bubble wrap. Yes they do, protect the evil that lurks within. Between the glossy covers of this issue you can find "The Hoarder" by Natalie L. Sin. I'll be getting to that one right away.

My thanks to those of you who submitted questions per my last couple of posts (you know who you are ;) They are now forwarded to Kelley Armstrong to answer. Watch for the Q & A in the near future.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Odds and Ends and NaNo

Just a quick post to bring up some random issues.

  • A reminder to everyone that I am still looking for questions to pass on to Kelley Armstrong (see previous post). You've got until the end of the day tomorrow in your time zone to get questions to me at Every question is greatly appreciated folks (at the moment, including my own question, I have two....

  • I have finally considered myself 'certified' insane and signed myself up for the 2009 installment for NaNoWriMo. I am a NaNo virgin and will need a lot of prodding and a friendly shoulder to cry on. Seriously. I mean it. I need all the friends I can get, so if you want to buddy me you can find me here.

  • Katey Taylor had a great post last week about Banned Books week, with links to the Most Challenged list for last year and Frequently Challenged or Banned Classics. You can link to her blog here. This is, of course, a debate that has been society for almost as long as there have been books in print. It's by no means just a problem in the US. Please link to an article I read yesterday at about the Toronto District School Board considering removing "To Kill a Mockingbird" from its system because of a complaint from a single parent. Wow! I wish that I weilded that sort of power *sighs and shakes head*.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I Have a Secret...

In my last post, I referred to a writer's group I procrastinated in was involved with from about 1991-96. Anonymous Writers of London were a group of people--mothers, fathers, students, retirees and day-job workers--who gathered on a bi-weekly basis to share and critique their work in progress and learn from one another. There were a few talented 'up-and-comers' in the group. One woman in particular, in my humble opinion, displayed a tremendous work ethic and regularly demonstrated a writing style and voice that proved she was ready to make the leap to the elusive 'next level'. The young lady? Her name was Kelley Armstrong.

For the benefit of those who may not have heard of Ms. Armstrong, she is the New York Times bestselling author of the Nadia Stafford mystery series and the Otherworld series of novels. The 10th book in the series, Frostbitten, is now available. Her second Otherworld anthology for charity, Tales of the Otherworld, will be out in April 2010 and The Reckoning (third book in the Darkest Powers Trilogy, a YA urban fantasy) will be available May 2010. More on Kelley's background and her books can be found at Wikipedia here.

Lori Titus at Flashes in the Dark did a great interview with Kelley Armstrong last Sunday in her regular 'Sunday Special' feature. For those of you who may have missed it I have the link here. I have known of Kelley's success as a writer of horror, fantasy, and crime fiction for years but have never contacted her since our AWOL days...until last week. I emailed her assistant, Alison, who kindly passed along my message to Kelley, who has been in Montreal this past week end as 'Author Guest of Honour' at the Con*Cept convention. She graciously took time out of her busy schedule to get back to me and agreed to a 'Questions and Answers' session here on my blog.

I invite all of my online friends--writers of horror, fantasy, mystery, crime fiction, etc.--to submit questions for Kelley Armstrong to answer. I also ask you to pass on my request to your readers in hopes of getting a great pool of questions. I will collect the questions and pass them on to Kelley. She will return her responses and I will post the questions and answers on my blog in the near future.

Some points that I would like to make about this Q & A session:

  • I will send all questions to Kelley but, depending on the number of questions and time constraints, she may not get to them all.

  • I will post the questions and answers, but not the names of the people that wrote the question (to protect the 'shy', or in the event that not all are answered or there are duplicates of questions).

  • I am confident there will be some creative 'thinking outside the box' sorts of questions. There are some regularly asked Q & A at her website here, so I would advise checking it out to avoid asking her questions she frequently receives. Actually, check out her website anyway as there's a tremendous amount of information to be found there.

  • Rather than posting your questions in the comments section, I ask that you please email them to me at (I'll give until end of the day Wednesday the 7th).

    I think that Kelley Armstrong is affording us a unique opportunity to 'pick her brain' about all things horror and fantasy. She is a creator of otherworlds with vampires and werewolves, with witches and demons. Kelley has had experience with online fiction, short stories in anthologies, E-serials and episodic novels with continuing plot lines. She even noted in her email that she has participated in NaNoWriMo and hosts a group on her site to encourage others. I look forward to reading your submitted questions. Thanks!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

Since beginning blogging, and paying a bit more attention to writing related issues, I have been hunting for a box that contained old high school and university papers. I even paid my son to search the crawl space on my behalf. He could not find it but, in Quasimodo fashion, I searched the smelly little space until I found pay dirt. Not only did I find the papers, but also 3 short stories that I wrote in the early '90's while meeting with our creative writing group in London. That was called AWOL--Anonymous Writers of London, not to be confused with the other AWOL in town, Adventurous Womyn of London.

To the right is the first of 4 papers I wrote for my first year English professor. It was regarding the Captain's double in Conrad's short story "The Secret Sharer." The words written by the instructor (whose name I have stricken from the top of the page) are probably not very clear. But his sentiment is. My writing skills were lacking somewhat in September 1980, just shy of my 18th birthday. Being a sporting chap, he gave me a chance to re-write the paper for the next class. I won't bother posting it here, but the amount of red on the page indicated he was again down a pint of blood.

The semester played out pretty much the same for each of the papers and their re-writes I completed for Dr. xxxxx. They had to do with scenes in such classic novels as "In The Penal Colony" (Kafka), "The Turn of the Screw" (James) and "The Sun Also Rises" (Hemmingway). I was trashed and drowned in a sea of red with each paper and re-write I completed attempting to improve my writing (and grade). Keep in mind that I attended school to study sciences, not English. and had classes in chemistry, biology, physics, geology, calculus and of course English. I also had to attend 3 hour lab sessions weekly in chemistry and biology.

I'm surprised that I maintained my sanity during the first year. A 5th paper and subsequent re-write may have prompted me to the clock tower, sniping at bearded, tweed-coated academics that bore a resemblance to Dr. xxxxx. After the final exam, I was presented with my 48.5% grade; good for a chance to enjoy his class another semester. I did, however, discover that I could take the other first year English class. I wrote my papers for Dr. yyyyy and was given a C+ grade. Perhaps this English shtick wasn't so bad after all? I'm hoping that the first semester professor wasn't biased against me because his ex-wife was my English teacher in high school.
The bottom line? I deserved a poor grade for that ill-fated English class because my written skills probably did suck back in 1980. They still leave a lot to be desired as I'm the first to admit that I have difficulty telling the difference between a preposition and a proposition...and I'm constantly reminding myself: use the active voice dumb ass! I just tend to go with what sounds good and flows. Grammar be damned.
I wish he could have used a bit more compassion at conveying his criticisms. Offered more encouragement. Or at least less discouragement. I think my love of horror began that year as I imagined evil ways of dispatching Dr. xxxxx with his own red marker. But I suppose that I really shouldn't judge him until I've walked a mile in his shoes (yep, I do know what a cliche is).