Archive for April, 2010

One Book, One Community = one thrilled writer

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Waterloo Region chooses The Best Laid Plans as its 2010 selection for One Book, One Community

My cup runneth over. For the last two years, after what I have come to call my “Leacock shock,” I’ve noted on several occasions that I surely have exhausted my lifetime supply of good fortune. Clearly, I was wrong. Learning that The Best Laid Plans, my first novel, has been chosen as the Waterloo Region‘s One Book, One Community selection for 2010, has left me feeling elated and humbled at one and the same time. Okay, with this glorious news, surely now my lucky streak has come to an end. It must have. I’ll certainly be very careful crossing the street in the coming months. What a thrill this is. I am extraordinarily grateful for this unexpected honour. When I see the names of the other distinguished writers who have gone before me in OBOC’s eight year history, including Alistair MacLeod, Jane Urquhart, Nino Ricci, Joseph Boyden, and Lawrence Hill, you can imagine how that makes a rookie writer feel. I see my name on that list, and it immediately brings to mind the lyrics of that classic Sesame Street song, “One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong.” etc., etc. I hummed that tune all the way home from the Leacock luncheon two years ago, and I’ll be humming it on the drive down to Cambridge for the OBOC announcement. In short, I am floored.  Of course, as a new writer, ever hopeful that great swaths of the population will somehow find, buy, and read my book, being the 2010 OBOC selection is a very big deal in my fledgling writerly life. I’m told that an estimated 17,000 people read Larry Hill’s great work, The Book of Negroes, last year. While I know that doesn’t translate into 17,000 sales (I’m a big supporter of the public library!), needless to say, my publisher is very excited at the prospect of an unanticipated spike in demand for The Best Laid Plans in the local bookstores and library branches of the Greater Waterloo Area.

But this wonderful news brings an added measure of pleasure and satisfaction. You see, books and reading have been among the greatest joys in my life. I’ve collected funny novels for more than 20 years and have amassed a modest but personally fulfilling library, including every Leacock-winning book since the award was inaugurated in 1947. Seriously, I don’t know where I would be, or even who I would be, were I not such an ardent reader. So, the idea that my novel might play some minor role in either rekindling a lapsed reader’s love of books, or sparking a newfound joy in the written word in one who doesn’t read much at all, leaves me feeling warm all over. There are many noble community causes, but encouraging reading has got to be right up there near the top. That, to me, is the real triumph of One Book, One Community, and why I’m so thankful to be a part of it.

For this unique recognition, I can only offer my deepest gratitude, and as much of me as you can bear during the OBOC celebrations.  I’ll be there in April, June, and in September, and am already scheduled to read at Word on the Street in Kitchener. With the sequel to The Best Laid Plans coming out in September, called The High Road, my dance card will be quite full, but I will always find room in it for visits to the Waterloo Region. Who knows, I may even move there! I am just so pleased, surprised, and honoured that I think I’m about to break down in a fit of uncontrolled reading. I’m in your hands and at your service.

Here’s the shot from the Waterloo Region Record from the launch held this morning at Cambridge City Hall. It was a great day.

Sherlock Holmes — A favourite literary figure

Monday, April 26th, 2010

I don’t think I’ve ever confessed to my longstanding affection for Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s extraordinary Victorian sensation. It was probably 25 years ago when I finally picked up a Sherlock Holmes story and fell headlong into one of literature’s most famous and timeless creations. I promptly read the entire canon in very short order and have been revisiting Holmes and Watson ever since. I have several different editions of the Holmes novels and stories, including the e-version on my Sony Reader, and the magnificent three volume New Annotated Sherlock Holmes that was published a few years ago. A must-have for any true Holmes fan.

If I analyze my love for the Holmes’ adventures, I’d have to say that the absolutely beautiful writing, the evocative sense of place and time, and the carefully woven stories themselves combine to hold me in their thrall. They are, quite simply, a joy to read. So what brought on this sudden focus on Sherlock Holmes? Well, I was flying to St. John’s a few days ago and happened to watch a great documentary on the little screen in the back of the headrest in the seat in front of me called, The Search for Sherlock Holmes narrated by the Scottish actor, David Hayman. It was a fascinating show that included interviews with leading Holmesian experts, including my hero, Stephen Fry. When the documentary ended, I immediately pulled out my Sony Reader and immersed myself in the London of the late 1800s and the brilliant prose and plotting of Arthur Conan Doyle.

If you haven’t read Sherlock Holmes, don’t wait any longer. For more than a century, first, serialized in the pages of The Strand magazine, illustrated with the now famous Sidney Paget sketches (like the ones that open and close this post), and still in print today, Sherlock Holmes has captivated readers around the world. A more enduring literary figure, I cannot imagine.

Elora Writers’ Festival starts to promote

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

This is shaping up to be a great event. What an honour it is to appear with such stellar writers. Getting to meet writers has been one of the many benefits of my little journey into the literary world. I’m really looking forward to this event. Elora is just a lovely town — extraordinarily picturesque — with a deep commitment to the arts. This one will fill up quickly, so if you have any interest in attending, you may want to book now.


Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

It took a little longer than with the Kindle store and the Sony Reader bookstore, but TBLP has just landed on KOBO, the Canadian ebook retailer. I’ve really enjoyed reading novels on my Sony Pocket Reader and I think many others do too. I’m glad that readers can get TBLP, and soon, The High Road too, as ebooks. Reading is reading, paper or screen.

Blue Heron “Books and Brunch” event

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Last weekend, I spoke, read, and signed at a “Books and Brunch” event organized by Shelley Macbeth and Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge, Ontario. Unlike most of the readings I’ve done, this time it was more of an interview led by the prolific writer, journalist and broadcaster, Ted Barris. Ted and I shared the stage together in 2008 at an event in Barrie, Ontario. He presented his compelling book, Victory at Vimy, about the Canadian role in securing Vimy Ridge in the first world war. That day, it was my great pleasure to get to know Ted, and my great misfortune to speak directly after him. He is a riveting speaker. Our brunch together in Uxbridge was terrific, and the food at the Wyndance Golf Club was amazing. It was a sellout, with more than 100 in the audience, including my sister, Susan, my brother, Tim, who took these great shots, and several other family and friends. Ted and I conversed at the front and I read a couple of excerpts. Then the floor was opened for questions. Finally, I signed copies of TBLP.

It’s always nice to have a line-up at the signing table!

My thanks for Shelley Macbeth and Ted Barris for such a great event.

Reading TBLP as an ebook

Monday, April 12th, 2010

I’ve blogged before about how much I love my Sony Reader. So when TBLP was recently issued as an ebook, I thought I’d better buy a copy and see how it looks on my Reader. So here it is. Whether you like to read on your BlackBerry, iPhone, Kindle, or countless other electronic devices, you can now enjoy The Best Laid Plans. It still hasn’t yet appeared in KOBO, but we expect it to turn up there soon. Of course, TBLP still works as a regular handheld paper device.

Author photo change for The High Road

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

My identical twin brother Tim, an accomplished photographer in off-hours, took the author photo for TBLP and, we thought, took the shot that was originally to have graced the back of The High Road. I quite liked the new photo but some have said that I look a little too serious for the writer of novels that are supposed to amuse the reader. I appear a little serious because I usually look like a raving idiot when I smile for the camera. You think I doth protest too much? You haven’t seen the reams of smiling photos still lying on the cutting room floor. They could scare little children. Enter Clarence Johnson. Clarence is a photographer with an interest in eyewear. He snaps photos of people and their glasses and posts them on his interesting blog, picpu. Clarence happened to be in the audience when I read at Word on the Street in Toronto in September, 2008, shortly after the McClelland & Stewart edition of TBLP was published. I noticed the shot on the picpu blog months later when it popped up in a Google search. Because I didn’t know the photo was being taken, it doesn’t have that posed look that I deplore. Seems a few folks saw the shot on my blog and a consensus emerged that it might in fact be a good author photo as it seems to capture the spirit of humour, laughter, Leacock, etc. So it looks like we’re going with Clarence’s shot as the official author photo. Thankfully, he kindly granted permission. I’ve broken the news to my brother. He lay on the floor kicking his feet and flailing his arms a bit, but eventually accepted the decision. Just kidding. Tim’s been great about it and given what he had to work with, I think his shots are still the best non-candid photos ever taken of me. So my thanks to Clarence and to Tim for their support and understanding. Here’s the photo:

Yes, I know it’s closely cropped at the top, but that’s not a bad thing for a guy with an ever-expanding forehead!

Books & Brunch event in Uxbridge tomorrow

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

I’ll be in Uxbridge tomorrow for brunch and a reading oragnized by Shelley Macbeth and her wonderful Blue Heron Books store. Apparently, more than 100 tickets have been sold for the event so I can feel my abdominal butterflies assembling. I have some family and friends kindly attending the brunch so there’ll be a few familiar faces in the crowd. I truly enjoy meeting readers of TBLP and my publisher is encouraging me to keep up the events with The High Road due to hit book store shelves in September. I believe there are still tickets available so if you’re in the neighbourhood, I’d love to see you. You can score tickets by calling 905-852-4282.

TBLP can now be downloaded as an ebook

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

I recently reported that The Best Laid Plans was going to be made available as an ebook. Well, TBLP has just now appeared in the Amazon Kindle store and in the Sony Reader store. It has yet to appear in the Kobo ebook store here in Canada but it shouldn’t be too much longer. When The High Road is published in early September, it will be available right out of the gate in print and electronic forms. However you read it, I hope you enjoy it.

The 2010 Leacock Medal finalists unveiled

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

This time of year always brings back vivid memories of March 27th, 2008. I was in Montreal on business, in between client presentations, when I discovered via Google that The Best Laid Plans had been shortlisted for the 2008 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. I thought I’d had a stroke. Seldom can we point to a specific instant when our lives are irreovocably changed. Not to be melodramatic about it, but March 27th, 2008, at about 12:30 in the afternoon, is one such instant for me.

Yesterday, in Orillia, Ontario, the 2010 Leacock Medal finalists were announced. It’s an interesting assembly of very funny writers, some better known than others. Will Ferguson, a two-time Leacock winner, and William Deverell, who was short-listed last year too, are joined by Kathryn Borel Jr., Glen Chilton, and Bill Conall.  It’s time for me to get reading! Incidentally, Will Ferguson is the brother Ian Ferguson, another Lecock winner and kind “blurber” for The High Road. Regrettably, I’ll not be able to be in Orillia for the luncheon at the end of April when the winner is announced, due to a prior book-related engagement of my own. But I’ll be there in spirit and I’ll definitely be in Leacock’s hometown for the Gala dinner in June. In fact, I’m the Master of Ceremonies for the event. I offer congratulations to all of the finalists.