Friday, 30 September 2011

Feature & Follow Friday

It's definitely time to join the fun on Feature & Follow Friday. F&FF is a blog hop that expands your blog following by a joint effort among bloggers. It's hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

Today's feature question is:

What book that hasn't been turned into a movie (yet) would you most like to see make it to the big screen, and who would you like cast as your favorite character?

This is a tough one, because I'd be very interested to see a movie version of any one of Lee Child's Reacher novels, perhaps Tripwire. The problem is casting, because Reacher is such a compelling character. There's been so much talk about Tom Cruise playing Reacher, and that's just so WRONG. Reacher's a big guy. A really big guy who digs swimming pools with a shovel for money and can tear a door off its hinges if sufficiently motivated. Tom Cruise is a little guy. A really little guy. He just can't do it. In fact, I can't think of anyone who COULD play Reacher.  Can you?

Ottawa Independent Writers General Meeting

Last evening I attended a general meeting of the Ottawa Independent Writers that was held in the Library and Archives Canada building on Wellington Street. For over 25 years the OIW has been a gathering place for writers, editors and like-minded individuals to meet and share their experiences. This was the first meeting I'd attended, and I found it a very enjoyable experience.

The meeting featured guest speaker Steve Lowell, who delivered a seminar on effective public speaking. Steve emphasized several very important principles to remember when making public appearances, and I thought he did an excellent job working with volunteers from the audience to provide examples of good and poor public speaking habits. His website is found at I'd particularly recommend that you take a look at his blog, which has some very interesting anecdotes and tips. Thanks to Steve for an enjoyable and informative seminar.

Thanks as well to Theresa Jobateh, membership director, for her able assistance and her friendly welcome. Thanks also to Carl Dow, president, and the other members.

I will be appearing with other OIW members at the Ottawa Authors and Artisans Fair on November 20, 2011 at the Jack Purcell Centre, just off Elgin Street. Hope to see everyone there.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

On Being Conditioned by Other Species

Photo: Tim D. McCann
I'm a fan of science fiction going back to my youth and I do occasionally write supernatural fiction (I'm working on the outline for the next one now), but I have to admit that I'm still creeped out at how subtly and insidiously I am being conditioned by members of other species that reside in my house. I feel as though I should be in a body snatchers movie running down the middle of the road shouting "they're among us!" and "they're taking us over!"

For example, I have a fluffy orange and white cat who looks completely harmless until I get up from this desk. He then begins a mind control routine featuring whiny vocalizations that ultimately compel me to feed him, if only to make the horrible sound stop. This happens many, many times a day. I feel so ... used.

Then there's the specimen pictured on the left. This hefty Siamese-DSH likes to come and go as he pleases.The front door is not far from this desk, where I try to spend much of my day. Problem is, I tend to be a little distracted. I tap on the keyboard and stare at the monitor. But look at those penetrating blue eyes. Who can resist...... You will obey..... I wish to go outdoors....... When direct mind control through visual compulsion fails, because I'm paying more attention to the monitor than to him, he has trained me to get up and open the door for him by jumping up on this desk and sitting on my right hand. The one I use to move the mouse around. He waits until I put my hand on the mouse and then he pounces. When I try to resist, moving the mouse around beneath his bulk, he shifts his weight a little to overflow onto the keyboard, which begins to squawk horribly in a shrill error message. He knows this sound triggers my deepest conditioning and that I will immediately get up and do his bidding.

Just when I think I'm finally free from their horrible grasp, I relax a little and shift my weight. This causes my chair to emit a loud noise. Immediately my border collie, the vacuum fighter, arrives with a toy in his mouth, demanding to play. He understands this prompt will cause me to get up and give him a treat as an attempted bribe. "For godsakes chew this and leave me alone!" I plead.

Of course, Mike. We only want what's best for you. Relax. There's no cause for alarm. Just let it happen...... It'll be all right. You'll see.....

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A Brief Note on Spelling

Those of you who are attuned to such things may notice variations in my spelling between my first book, The Ghost Man, and my second, Blood Passage. You may also notice variations from post to post in this blog.

I can explain. Really, I can.

I belong to the generation that was educated in British spelling with no tolerance for American variants but ultimately found its way to what can legitimately be called Canadian spelling, which contains elements of both (see Lynn Quitman Troyka, Simon & Schuster Handbook for Writers, 3rd Canadian edition, p. 398 for confirmation that there is such a thing). In normal writing I preserve the "u" in colour, favour, and humour, spell "cheque" with a "que," and enjoy seeing "theatre" end with an "re."

The Ghost Man is set in eastern Ontario, and I tried to stick faithfully to Canadian spelling throughout. By the way, if you find a flat-out Americanism in it, point it out to me and I'll award you a prize. I'll think of something appropriate! (Only one prize per boo boo, though, so get there first!)

However, Blood Passage is set in Maryland, and in the spirit of establishing a convincing atmosphere I chose to use American spelling throughout. This switch wasn't as easy as it sounds, because habits can be very deeply engrained, and as a former editor I took it as a point of pride to favour the "u" at all times. So I really had to pay attention as I was rewriting and rereading, but I had Microsoft Word on my side because its automatic spell-checking thingie was set to American English and it red-lined any Brit-flavoured variations. It's possible, though, that something non-American got through. If you spot a non-American spelling in Blood Passage, point it out to me and I'll also award you a prize (same conditions as above).

I've been having problems in this blog, though, and I admit to you straight out I'm back and forth like the weathervane on the barn roof. In posts where I'm discussing Blood Passage I have sometimes written with American spelling, trying to stay in character, as it were, and in other posts I've reverted to my more natural Canadian spelling.

So I put it to you: which would you prefer to see?

Let me know what you think!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Canadian Police and Peace Officers Annual Memorial Service

Today marked the 34th annual Canadian Police and Peace Officers Memorial Service on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. This ceremony honours police and peace officers throughout Canada who dedicate themselves to the protection of Canadians, and it remembers those who have given their lives to keep our communities safe.

There are almost 700 officers on the Honour Roll, and this year those who gathered paid tribute to four officers who lost their lives this past year: Cst. Sébastien Coghlan-Goyette of the Sûreté du Quebec, Cst. Michael B. Potvin of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Sgt. Ryan J. Russell of the Toronto Police and Cst. Garrett Styles of the York Regional Police.

Read more at the CPOMA website:

Canada Customs (now CBSA) has always been a proud participant in this event, and if you visit the Organizations page at the CPOMA website you'll see a great selection of Customs patches from over the years, including the one above which my wife, Lynn Clark, proudly wore as a customs inspector, superintendent and technical trainer for many years.

Our thoughts go out to the families of the four officers recognized this year and to everyone who participated.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Chapters - Kanata

A quick note to readers in eastern Ontario that Blood Passage is now on the shelves in the Chapters - Kanata store located at Kanata Centrum, 400 Earl Grey Drive.

Please be aware that the book is not included in their database at this point but is located in the Local Authors section in both Kanata and Pinecrest stores, which means if you try to find it in the in-store computers it won't show up, except for a couple of "Used and Rare" copies available from the UK at a very expensive price. I have no idea why these copies are showing up, and the manager I spoke to couldn't explain them either. To make a long story short, if you go into a Chapters store to look for Blood Passage, you'll find it on the shelf in the Local Authors section.

By the way, I will be appearing in the Chapters - Kanata store to sign copies of Blood Passage on November 19, 2011 from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. More on that at a later date.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Blood Passage Book Signing at Chapters Pinecrest

Yesterday I was pleased to be at Chapters Pinecrest in Ottawa, ON for a book signing event for Blood Passage. As you can see, they set me up on the center aisle tucked in with the cook books. It was great! By the way, Chef Michael Smith has a new cook book out that looks incredible. I'm not kidding! (Nancy, I hope you get it for your birthday!)

Thanks to everyone who stopped by, including Jean, Nancy and Jenifer. I enjoyed meeting you all. Thanks as well to Danielle and Serge, former Customs colleagues of mine who looked in to make sure I'm staying out of trouble. Your support was very much appreciated, and thanks to Serge for the photo. You tried your best, but that's as good as it gets!

Many thanks to Chapters manager Sarah and store manager Kevin, as well as the entire Chapters Pinecrest staff, for your assistance, good humor and encouragement. It was greatly appreciated.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

What Happens When I Can't Write

This past week has been rather stressful, related to the caregiver responsibilities I mentioned in an earlier post, and sometimes this stress and upset affects my ability to write worth a dingdang. Yesterday morning was the first stretch of time in a while when I could sit down at this machine and take a shot at the next Donaghue and Stainer short story, but naturally nothing happened. There wasn't anything there.

As I floundered, my wife started the vacuum cleaner upstairs. Our border collie, Cody, has recently developed a very deep and passionate hatred of the vacuum, as some dogs do, attacking it rather violently. When he heard it start up he left my side, where he generally lies when I'm working here, and flew upstairs to take on his hated enemy.

Since my brain was at least partly functional, it inspired the graphic you see on the left, which I photoshopped in about 15 minutes from an online jpg file. My apologies to Russ Manning et al. Thank goodness the universe has Cody to defend it from those hated, evil machines!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Found Books

"Found Books" is a themed posting that I enjoyed in the past and have decided to revive here in The Overnight Bestseller just because I think it's fun. It's sort of a Goodreads thing where I talk about books that I've found second-hand and that I'm currently reading. "Found Books" because I wasn't particularly looking for them but happened to come across them when I was browsing, bought them on impulse and discovered that I liked them. Inexpensive, second-hand books that deserve a shout-out.

These books are usually non-fiction that I read in the afternoon after I've run out of creative juice for the day and want to shift my brain into another gear. (Fiction I read at bedtime.) In the summer, if I don't have to drive anywhere, I take the book, a glass of bourbon and a cigar outside with the dogs and sit in the screen tent, hiding from the bugs, puffing, sipping and reading. This is how I read Life Before Life by Dr. Jim B. Tucker, which inspired Blood Passage, and Team of Rivals by Dorothy Kearns Goodwin, which, as those of you who have read Blood Passage will know, Hank Donaghue gave to his confidential informant Smoke Archer as a gift.

First up in this new feature are two books that I'm reading together. I began with Alexander Hamilton (Penguin, 2004), the biography by Ron Chernow. I found Hamilton in the Value Village for $3.99 in hardcover. I love American history in general and quite a few years ago read Burr, the historical novel by Gore Vidal which covered the other side of that infamous rivalry, and when I saw Hamilton sitting there I knew it was a golden opportunity to learn more about a historical figure I was only vaguely familiar with. The other book I'm reading along with it is A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution (Harcourt, 2002) by Carol Berkin, which I also found in Value Village, at $2.99 softcover. Berkin is a professor of American history at CUNY, and this book focuses on the constitutional convention of 1787 in which the American federal government was born from the rudiments of the original Confederation.

I knew that Hamilton was a federalist, that he believed strongly in a strong federal government with powers that would bring the individual states into a united collective, but I didn't really know anything about his origins or how young and precocious he was when he served as Washington's aide-de-camp during the Revolutionary war, nor how far-reaching his influence was in shaping the United States as it is today despite the negative portrayal that popular history seems to have given him. I had already read almost 100 pages before I watched the recent rebroadcast of Adams, the HBO miniseries, in which Hamilton is portrayed as a toady, a sneak, and a monarchist in disguise, so I knew this was dramatic license at best. Chernow is doing an excellent job right now, as I read, to clarify the relationship between Hamilton and Washington. The Revolutionary War hasn't yet reached its conclusion at the point where I am right now in the biography, so time will tell.

I started reading A Brilliant Solution because I couldn't help myself. Berkin sucked me in right away and I couldn't put it down. Again, I was only foggily aware that James Madison was the key figure in the creation of the American constitution and suspected that Hamilton must also have been involved, but now I know I'll get the complete picture as I read this book. I'm trying to hold back on this book because I want to catch up chronologically in Hamilton before I read about the convention in 1787, but it's a struggle. Berkin is telling an excellent, well-balanced story and I can't keep away from it. A chapter at a time is all I'm allowing myself as I move through Hamilton, a much longer book.

Why do I mention these books? Because I feel they are very timely. Americans have found themselves drawn into an increasingly intense debate about the nature of their political existence. The rise of the Tea Party and libertarianism, combined with President Obama's health care initiative and other federal processes such as the economic recovery measures, seems to have intensified the struggle between opposing forces -- a federal union on one side and individual state republicanism on the other side -- which I'm now learning is a fundamental tension rooted in the very creation of this nation. I had no idea the extent to which individual states had conducted themselves as sovereign entities at the conclusion of the Revolution and before the creation of the Constitution, going as far as to issue their own currency, establish tariff barriers and set up customs services to control trade with other states. How reluctant they were to participate in a United States of America!

As a Canadian I have the luxury of not having to express an opinion and support a side. For me it remains a subject of intense interest, particularly since the opinions and policies being expressed today have such clear echoes from 224 years ago. I would urge everyone with a similar interest in the current political debate in the U.S. to read these books, or books on this subject, to understand the historical roots of this debate and how fundamental these issues are to the American nation.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Smashwords Download Milestone

The Plaid Raccoon Press was pleased to note this morning that we passed the 500 mark in downloads of Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel publications on Smashwords. This number does not include free samples of Blood Passage, the first Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel. Blood Passage, the first work published with Smashwords, appeared exactly two months ago on July 11 of this year.

We celebrated by awarding ourselves the cute little 500 badge you see on the left.

While we have no doubt that other Smashwords authors/publishers have achieved much more significant accomplishments in the first two months of their association with this e-book publisher, we still feel pretty dang good about it all.

Thanks very much to everyone out there for your support! Stay tuned, there's lots more to come.

"The Ambition of William Chow" Republished on Smashwords

Boy, talk about walking a fine line.

The Plaid Raccoon Press today uploaded a replacement version of the vignette "The Ambition of William Chow,"  the second installment in the collection STORIES, from the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series. This piece is available free of charge at It was originally published through Smashwords on August 15, 2011. The only difference between that edition and this one is the Publisher’s Afterword included at the end of this edition of the story.

One of the realities of Smashwords is that it doesn't really generate a great many sales. It's a terrific place to publish e-books and to distribute them to major vendors such as Barnes & Noble (Nook), Chapters/Indigo (Kobo), Sony (Reader), Apple (iPad, iPod, iPhone) and Diesel (various). It's also a terrific place to distribute free samples of my work in order to reach new readers and familiarize them with Donaghue and Stainer. However, it's not a great place to generate a lot of sales and reviews. So far my free offerings have attracted a horde of folks looking for free downloads (which is great, that's the idea!) but only a few so far willing to buy Blood Passage and only one review, of the aforementioned "William Chow."

It's that review, by someone looking for a free download ... and the fine line one has to walk.

L.L. Clark, the other partner at The Plaid Raccoon Press, has appended a Publisher's Afterword to this version of "William Chow" explaining the purpose of the story. It serves as a bridge between "Tom Donaghue," the first story in the collection, and "Knock and Talk," the third story. It also develops the reluctant relationship Hank Donaghue has with the local brotherhood of the Triad organized crime group and provides insight into his character. Finally, "William Chow" is described as a vignette, which Wikipedia defines as "a short impressionistic scene that focuses on one moment or gives a trenchant impression about a character, an idea, or a setting." As such, it doesn't have the beginning, middle and ending one might expect from artistic works that adhere more closely to the Aristotelian ideal.

All hoping to address the concerns raised by that person looking for a free download. Hoping to change their mind about boycotting my work for having left them hanging and wasting their time over a question of form.

I leave the final judgment up to you, because that's how it works. I just hope the Raccoon and I have successfully walked that fine line and kept things professional, while trying to explain the objective of these short pieces.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Ottawa Poster Collar Campaign: Phase Two

Phase Two of the Ottawa poster collar campaign took place today as I drove downtown, jack sack loaded, and tackled Ottawa's telephone poles with a fresh set of posters.

This time I forgot to take my camera with me, so the best I can do is include thumbs of the two posters I papered the town with today. One, as you can see, was aimed at promotion of the upcoming book signing at the Chapters - Pinecrest book store, while the other stayed with the cryptic teaser approach to promote The Plaid Raccoon Press. Puzzle them, and they will come.

I've always believed it's very important to be a lifetime learner. I've always said there's stuff you can learn from every situation you encounter in life, and this particular endeavor was no exception. During my previous poster plastering trip, I happened to come along just after the powers that be had cleared most of the poster collars of the old material that had been hanging around for god knows how long. So there was some bare space on the collars here and there where I could mount my poster. I carefully positioned each one so I wasn't obscuring anyone else's poster. After all, there must be some kind of poster ethics, right? Don't cover the other guy's ad? Help him out with a little bit of extra tape if his poster's corner has worked free, next to yours?

I'm so naive.

I visited each of the poles I'd visited last week because the plan was to follow up the first cryptic teaser poster with the book signing promo poster. Just put the new one right on top of the old one. Passersby would be used to looking at the cryptic one, and now there'd be the very specific one. "Aha!! That's what the 'fresh new voice in crime fiction' stuff was all about!!" I've seen bus ad campaigns like that which worked well.

I'm so naive.

I was dismayed to find that on every pole my first poster was completely buried beneath several layers of paper. In particular those @#&$^es slapping up big honking posters for concerts just papered the entire collar, completely disregarding everyone else's efforts, in clear violation of the city regulations, which I happened to have read beforehand, not only with respect to size of poster but also the limit of one poster per collar.

Is there no decency in poster plastering? Are there no ethics anymore?

It didn't take me long to adapt. By the third or fourth pole I was taping my l'il ole 8.5 x 11 on top of whatever the hell I felt like putting it on top of. Tough cheese, fella. Eat tape.

But it was a beautiful day today in downtown Ottawa and I really enjoyed it. It was busy in the Byward Market and I took my time at each pole. I chatted with another guy who was putting up a poster on the other side of the pole from me next to the Beaver Tails vendor on George Street just down from the television station. I watched a busker entertain a big crowd, and put up a poster on the pole right next to them.

Now the plan is for tonight's crowd going down to the Market for dinner and drinks will see the posters before they get plastered over by the next round of concert promos in a day or two. One learns to adjust one's expectations, doesn't one?

And the best part? I discovered that parking in Ottawa is free on Saturdays, so this time I didn't get a ticket!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Blood Passage Featured in Kindle In The Wind

Blood Passage is being featured in today's post on the book blog Kindle in the Wind. See the feature here:

This blog covers indie publications for the Kindle e-book reader. It also features e-books of the week, e-books of the month and has launched an Indie Author Book Group that picks an indie book for discussion in a forum at

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Blood Passage Featured in The Frugal eReader

Today Blood Passage was featured in the online book blog The Frugal eReader, edited by Elizabeth Brown. Find the feature here:

The Frugal eReader spotlights e-books available through Amazon for the Kindle reader at affordable prices. Elizabeth is a senior marketing planner for a leading retailer of home furnishings in California. She keeps her blog fresh and up-to-date, and it's a great place to browse for Kindle reads!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Ottawa Poster Collar Campaign Begins

Today marks the first day of the Ottawa poster collar marketing campaign for Blood Passage. I spent the afternoon walking around downtown Ottawa taping posters on designated telephone poles like the one pictured on the left in the Market.

This poster will stay up for a week, then people in Ottawa can watch for a new one to replace it, all leading up to the book signing scheduled in Chapters Pinecrest in Ottawa on September 17.

This was an interesting experience, to say the least. I parked my car close to Bank Street and worked my way north on Bank to Sparks Street, then headed through the mall, on over to the Market, then up Elgin to Lisgar and back to my car. It took me about two hours to walk this route, papering telephone pole collars as I went. At first I felt quite self-conscious about defacing public property, despite having studied the regulations carefully beforehand. I felt as though someone would demand to know what the heck I was doing, but after a few collars were under my belt I slipped into a routine. Actually, no one paid me the slightest attention. In fact, I tried to give out a few free book marks and was firmly rebuffed. People didn't want anything to do with me, whatsoever! Perhaps they thought I was a half-cracked conspiracy theorist trying to cramp their day....

Hopefully a few of you folks in Ottawa will see the posters and check out the website. If it ends up selling a few books that would be great, because when I finally got back to my car I discovered I'd been hit by a $60 parking ticket. Ouch. And only seven minutes too late! Better sell a bunch of books if I'm going to break even on this one!