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.

Examples:

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! 

The episode was entitled FINDING INSPIRATION IN EVERYTHING WITH MARK LESLIE.

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

Announcing FREE FRIDAY FRIGHTS


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 www.markleslie.ca/freefridayfridays 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 SFWriter.com) 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.

Monday, January 22, 2018

A (Super) Brief History of Publishing

I was asked, several years ago, to be one of the guest speakers at The Writers of the Future for the 30th Annual Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles, California. The topic they wanted me to cover was the future of publishing.

You can't, of course, consider the future of publishing without first taking a quick look at the history of publishing.

And that's exactly what I did, in this talk that begins with the thought that publishing was derived from human-kind's innate desire to share stories.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Hemingway And His Cats Have Nothing on Me

So I was writing in the study (a beautiful book-lined room with the requisite desk, computer, reading chair and comfy love-seat coach, not to mention some skulls and a great painting of Hemingway writing for good measure) the other day.

As I looked up from my writing, I realized that all four of the animals were lounging in the room with me.

After a slight heart-warming pause, I snapped some quick pics of the little fellows and posted it to Instagram with the following note:

"I’ve always loved this #jameslumbers painting of Hemingway called “The Sun Never Set” that hangs in my writing space. Love Papa’s cats in the image, and now have two similarly coloured ones PLUS a couple of puppies too!"

Left to Right: The Sun Never Set by James Lumbers, Meredith, Indie, Atticus and Maya

I have always loved that particular James Lumbers painting (among so many of his other works because of the beautiful "Moments in Time" that he captures using ghostly figures -- go figure that a writer of ghost stories and thrillers might enjoy that), but now this painting has an additional heart-warming feel to it, given the furry friends that I spend most of my days with lately.

I noticed, recently, that two of the cats in the Hemingway painting have the exact same coloring as Meredith and Atticus (the pair of mother and son cats in our home). Yes, Hemingway might have an additional cat in this painting, a Siamese cat, but we have two cats and two dogs: a golden retriever and a labradoodle.

So there! ;)

I finished three chapters on Macabre Montreal this week. I think I earned a celebratory drink of scotch. Thinking about Hemingway has, for some reason, put me in the mood for that . . .

Left: Papa Hemingway. Right: My Hemingway scotch glass: "Write drunk, edit sober."

Friday, January 19, 2018

Podcast: Stark Reflections on Capturing Reading Data via eBooks



In the third episode of the Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing podcast, Mark interviews Sinead McElhinney, PR Coordinator on the Communications team from Rakuten Kobo in Toronto, Ontario about some interesting reading data that Kobo released near the end of 2017. They discuss the analysis of reading data, understanding core eBook readers better, as well as some of Sinead’s favorite things about her role in the book industry.

Sinead and Mark at RT (Romantic Times) in Atlanta in May 2017 (May the 4th, if you catch the subtle hint from Mark's t-shirt)

During their conversation, Sinead and Mark discuss:

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Podcast: Stark Reflections on Writing & Publishing Episode 2: Living the Healthy Writer's Life with Joanna Penn



In Episode 2 of the Stark Reflections on Writing & Publishing podcast, Mark interviews Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn about her latest book The Healthy Writer: Reduce Your Pain, Improve Your Health, And Build A Writing Career For The Long Term (co-authored with Dr. Euan Lawson) and they also have a discussion about trends in publishing and speculation about the opportunities that are likely to be on the horizon for writers.

The Healthy Writer 

In his introduction to the episode, Mark announces that Findaway Voices is now an official sponsor. He shares his own experience with using Findaway Voices to create audiobooks and also his plans for some forthcoming projects.


 

In Mark's interview with Joanna, they talk about:

Monday, January 15, 2018

Virtual Talk/Presentation - Understanding the Business of Writing & Publishing

On Wednesday January 17, 2018 I will be leading a virtual talk/presentation called Understanding the Business of Writing & Publishing.



The virtual talk, which is free to Canadian Authors Association members (or costs $10 for non-members to attend), is being hosted by the Waterloo-Wellington Branch. (Now local to me since my January move to Waterloo from Hamilton)

The description for the 1.5 hour workshop is below, as is the registration link.


Monday, January 08, 2018

Year It Was, What a Beer It Was, It Was



So I recently posted my annual update of my previous year in beer. I use the Untappd app to track and rate the beers that I have in a year. I have been using Untappd since early April in 2013 and have checked in a total of 3,479 unique beers since then.

When explaining Untappd to my friends, I usually describe it like Goodreads for beer.

You can read the FULL post on my Spirits Untapped blog, but here are a few interesting highlights that I have pulled out.

Unique Beer Check-ins: 829
Unique Countries: 7
Unique Venues: 118
Unique Brewery Beers: 407
Top Style: IPA
Top Venues Included: The Winking Judge (no surprise there, our favourite haunt and it was right downstairs from where I used to live), Arabella Beer Park (our new favourite local beer spot to hang out in the KW area)