Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Dec 11-17, 2016

If your brain’s already gone on holiday, have some thoughty fun with these offerings 🙂

Saw last week that Alan Thicke has passed away, too. It’s been such a sad year for performers and artists 😦 And political unrest. And Syria . . . Take heart. Here are 99 reasons 2016 was a great year. Medium

Christopher Dickey shares the tale of angels of the resistance (and one serial killer) in Nazi-occupied Paris. The Daily Beast

UN Women takes a stand against gender-based violence.

 

Eugene Soltes explores the psychology of white-collar criminals. The Atlantic

Matt Blitz tells the real story behind the myth of Area 51. Popular Mechanics

Annalee Newitz investigates the lost city of Cahokia under the St. Louis suburbs. Ars Technica

Amanda Gefter interviews Donald D. Hoffman: the case against reality. One of my favourite bits: “… we have evolution itself to thank for this magnificent illusion …” The Atlantic

Peter Dockrill: cellular reprogramming has been used to reverse the aging process in animals. Science Alert

Simon Oxenham explains why bees could be the secret to superhuman intelligence. BBC

Peter Brannen examines a possible break in one of evolution’s biggest mysteries. The Atlantic

Chris Jones reports on Sara Seager, the woman who might find us another Earth. The New York Times Magazine

Watch this cool BBC video about how one woman with Parkinson’s regained the ability to write and draw.

 

Robby Berman reports on filmmaker Adam Rosenberg’s hilarious video in which he shares some of his nocturnal musings. It’s called Somniloquist and you have to watch it. Nearly peed myself laughing. Slate

Olga Khazan explains how magic mushrooms help patients with severe anxiety and depression. The Atlantic

Lauren Vinopal lists the 18 best houseplants for cleaning the air, according to NASA. Fatherly

Julia Shaw: I’m a scientist, and I don’t believe in facts. Scientific American

George Dvorsky reports on what the brightest supernova ever seen really was. Gizmodo

Natalie Wolchover: quantum gravity research could reveal the true nature of time. Wired

‘Tis the season, so here’s sommat from Grimfrost on Vikings, Santa, and Christmas 🙂

 

Honest to Paws introduces us to the Akhal-Teke, the most beautiful horse in the world.

Hope your mental corn’s a-poppin’ fit to see you through the holiday frenzy 🙂

Have a good one, everyone!

thoughtythursday2016

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Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Dec 20-26, 2015

Here’s to having a Thoughty New Year!

Cameron Diaz sums up the meaning of happiness. The Huffington Post.

Lauren Alix Brown: In your 30s, you’ll discover that happiness is just persistence and sheer will. Quartz.

Yvette Cooper says that online sexism is so out of control we can no longer control it. The Guardian.

It was the winter solstice last week, and Newgrange is one of the most magical places in the world to experience it. Irish Central.

Phil Plait got in on the solstice action, too. Slate.

Is your brain a computer, or is it a quantum orchestra, tuned to the universe? Interalia Magazine

So, Space-X launched its latest Falcon 9 rocket last Sunday night. And guess what? They stuck the landing 🙂 Both events were reported by Phil Plait, Bad Astronomer, for Slate.

No, this asteroid that passed by Earth on Christmas Eve did not cause earthquakes . . . Slate.

Pluto’s moon in near-perfect alignment. Space.com.

These are cool: sky wolves. I don’t care if they’re Photoshopped. They’re awesome. The White Wolf Pack.

Take a visual tour of New York’s most beautiful subway station, abandoned since 1945. Hyperallergic.

China’s ghost cities: the largest urbanization movement in the world. CBC’s The Current.

This 800 year old Icelandic hymn is pretty damned special. Pulptastic.

I haz a want. Samurai hoodies 🙂 Rocket News 24.

More evidence of the cleverness of crows from Phys.org.

So they built this hotel over an elephant migration route . . . Mental Floss.

David Wong shares the real meaning of Christmas that everyone forgets. Cracked.

Have a great time tonight and celebrate with the ones you love.

The future is yours to make. Make the most of it!

Thoughty Thursday

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, December 13-19, 2015

And here we are on Christmas Eve. Got some presies for ya 🙂

Try vayaan mudra to empower your nervous system. Yoganonymous.

Last week, I shared spoken word poet’s take on depression. This week, Upworthy shares another great spoken word poet who uses a haunted house as a metaphor for her anxiety.

Here’s an important message from the universal daughter. #deardaddy

 

What happened when the UN sent three foreign women to assess gender equality in the United States. The Huffington Post.

Dave Sandford wades into Lake Eerie to take these amazing pictures. Buzzfeed.

Watch the northern lights over Murmansk, Russia.

 

A drone captures images of underwater petroglyphs in Lake St. Nelson, BC (I’ve been told it’s a fair distance from Vancouver). Ancient Colony.

Science Alert reports that this stem cell treatment halts MS progression in 91% of patients.

Week before last, I transcribed my notes of Nina Munteanu’s workshop on ecology and story, including extremophiles and quasi-extremophiles like tardigrades. So when I came across this Buzzfeed post, I thought: Strange, but totally amusing. The Disney Princesses as tardigrades.

It’s official! Voyager I is now in interstellar space. Universe Today.

Phil Plait shares a gorgeous photo of Earthrise. Slate.

How December 25th became the day we celebrate Christmas. Bible History Daily.

Have a happy holiday, whatever you celebrate.

Peace and love unto you and yours.

Thoughty Thursday

Solstice and other things that happen around this time of year

Today was, in case you didn’t notice (you could be forgiven for missing it), the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice. It’s also the first day of winter, though you wouldn’t know it up here in the Sudz. It’s been snowing and cold since mid-November. It usually is, this time of year, but that doesn’t mean I can’t complain about it.

Now we face the longest night, but you know what? Things get better from here on out.

You’ll notice that the days start getting longer again and we start that long stretch to spring.

Christmas is coming, and with it the latest Doctor Who special 🙂

New Year’s is coming, with all its promise for another fresh start.

We actually have a chance to appreciate the people we’ve taken for granted all year, or the activities we’ve cut back on so that we could work/get the promotion/pursue various important things.

We can put things in perspective.

We just went out to celebrate my mom’s birthday. It was yesterday, but we celebrated tonight because everyone’s off. I was a terrible kid and forgot to wish Mom happy birthday yesterday. I took her shopping this afternoon. I don’t think it really made up for the lapse.

The 20th of December was also the day, twenty years ago, that Phil asked me to marry him.

We were getting ready to take my mom out, and I’d just gotten off work. I was a life guard back then, and I was rushing to get changed. I noticed that every time I turned around, Phil was there, but I whirling-dervished around him until I turned and nearly tripped over him.

Phil was kneeling. I was stunned until I realized what was going on. Then, I was all *amazeface*! He asked my parents’ permission and everything.

I’m always rushing at this time of year, and I have to remember to slow down and appreciate the people in my life.

Slow. Down. Appreciate. People.

Don’t be a dervish douche. Don’t forget your mom’s birthday. Trust me. It sucks.

Other reasons I like the solstice

It’s scientific.

Winter solstice

Winter solstice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Because of the tilt of the earth’s axis and the way we orbit the sun, we have seasons. The solstices and equinoxes delineate the divisions of the year.

It is a fact that the winter solstice is the occasion of the shortest day of the year and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere, anyway.

It’s pagan.

Well, neo-pagan, at least.

Seemingly on the opposite side of the spectrum, the solstices and equinoxes form some of the pagan holy days. In case you haven’t been following me for that long, my spiritual inclination is agnostic with pagan leanings.

Agnosticism, according to Richard Dawkins, is the worst form of self-delusion in that we aspire to atheism, but can’t quite commit because of the niggling doubt that maybe there is a God …

Well, Phil is atheist, and we’ve discussed religion at length. I think that the atheist position is very sensible. I also acknowledge that there is a lot that science hasn’t made clear for us yet, and while I think that the existence or non-existence of God is not one of the questions that science can answer for us, I think that there is enough mystery left in the universe that the answers science will provide us will be surprising.

I like to keep an open mind.

Besides which, I’m a fiction writer. A fantasy fiction writer at that. Gods, goddesses and magic are kind of what I’m all about.

I’ve studied shamanism in some depth (though not, I would say, comprehensively) and I’m fascinated by the ancient sites and their purported use in astronomy and astrology, time-keeping, the precession of the stars, and the observation of the sun.

I could geek out on ancient cosmology all day and all night.

English: Highworth cemetery at the winter sols...

English: Highworth cemetery at the winter solstice The shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere falls between the 20th and 23rd December depending on the year. In 2007 the solstice occurred on the 22nd with the period between sunrise and sunset being 7 hours 49 minutes and 40 seconds. The sun set in London at 15.54 today, 22 minutes after this picture was taken. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s quiet.

Because a lot of people travel to visit relatives at this time of year, the city (small, yes, but a city nonetheless) grows quiet. In the morning when I’m walking the dog, I can feel the increased stillness, the anticipation of a world holding its breath for the next sunrise.

It’s about light.

This is why we have so many festivals of lights at this time of year. We’re fighting back the darkness, recalling the light, celebrating with our wee candles in the night, shielded against the wind.

I prefer strings of LED lights on the stair rails outside my house, though. I plug ‘em in the night before solstice and don’t unplug ‘em until New Year’s Day.

I’d just like to wish everyone, regardless of your religious or spiritual convictions or devotions, the happiest of holiday (holy day) seasons.

And ‘cause I was raised Christian and still celebrate with my nearest and dearest: Merry Christmas!

Work madness

The Ren & Stimpy Show

The Ren & Stimpy Show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To really get the effect of the title of this post, allow me to coax you back to the classic Ren & Stimpy episode, Space Madness. If you’ve never seen it before, take a few minutes and watch.  I’ll wait.

Ok, now that you’ve had a taste, you have to say “work madness” the way Commander Hoek says “space madness” in the ep. Seriously. You have to say it the same way or this won’t work half as well.

I think the last time I blogged about work was at the beginning of October, when my self-funded leave started. Though a fifteen-month stint as a regional training coordinator (consultant) was, strictly speaking, the reason I needed that leave, I am grateful to my employer that such options are available.

When I feel the spectre of burnout or depression, I know I have the means to fend them off.

My leave was five weeks of heaven spent focusing on the art and craft of my writing. I attended the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, and participated in my first National Novel Writing Month, which I won 🙂

I returned to work November 19, which was a Tuesday, and before I’d even settled in, learned that I was to start delivering training the following Monday, training that I hadn’t delivered in about two and a half years (!) It was in Sudbury at least, so I wouldn’t have to travel.

I did spend the rest of the week prepping and revising the training material, though, and somewhere in there found the time to complete my travel request for something else coming up (more on that in a few paragraphs).

Say it with me now: work madness.

This was something that had come up in the five weeks I’d been off. Though I’d only heard the rumours before I left on my leave, I knew the powers that be were interested in “stabilizing” one of the processing positions. This meant hiring, and a lot of it.

The November 25th to December 3rd training was the result of hiring from an established internal pool of candidates.

After the training, the last two days of which I completed solo, I had to work some overtime to get the marking done and summary reports prepared. Four and a half hours added onto my seven and a half hour day. It was a loooong day. The rest of that week was devoted to further revisions—a lot of errors emerged during the delivery—and facilitating a conference call as a follow up to a self-study module.

While I was off, I was recruited to participate in a “training for trainers” session in team dynamics. The idea was to develop some regional expertise so that operational teams could assume delivery of the course. As only of a few certified trainers in the province, I was invited.

It’s nice to be needed.

This would be from December 9th to 13th in Toronto (yes, I know a couple of people who may be displeased to learn that I was in Toronto and didn’t tell them, but really, I was so busy, I wouldn’t have had time—still, my apologies).

Then the next sessions of stabilization training in Mississauga and London were to begin December 16th through to Christmas Eve. I was tentatively scheduled for London. These would all be new hires.

This training would require me cancelling some leave that had already been approved, and missing out on my family’s Christmas celebration, which we hold on Christmas Eve. Further, it would require the approval of some hefty overtime so that I could travel home on Christmas Day.

Work madness!

Still, I was prepared to do it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.

While I delivered training and stood on tenterhooks waiting for plans to solidify—they weren’t even finished with the hiring process yet!—another person was given the acting assignment so she could do the training.

Plus, there were so many people being given acting assignments to cover the training and monitoring for the fifty or so new hires coming into the organization, that I might have to resume my consulting duties as regional training coordinator.

This may require some ‘splaining.

My substantive, or permanent position, is with the operational training team for Ontario. We’d been told for years that our positions were “overstaffed.” This meant that as team members retired or moved into other positions, that there would be no back-filling of staff. We’d have to make do with less.

Prior to my joining the team in 2009, there had been fifteen or sixteen trainers. By the time I joined, we were twelve. Then ten. When I accepted the regional training coordinator position, there were eight trainers left. Then two more received assignments and another was affected by business transformation, leaving five.

Shortly after I returned to the team in September, another of our number received an acting assignment elsewhere. Now that I’m departing again, the number of permanent staff on the team is down to four. That’s to serve all of the training needs of staff in our business line in the whole province. Really?

Though being regional training coordinator wore me out, I was nonetheless disappointed when my assignment ended and I returned to the training team, especially when I learned that the reason I’d likely never get a consultant-level position again was geographic rather than merit-based.

Though the consultant pool I’m in has been extended through to December 31, 2013, this may be my only chance at a consultancy again, ever.

On the team that houses the regional training coordinators, there have been changes as well. The manager has received an acting position as a director and the person taking his place is also acting.

Two other team members have received assignments off the team, and now, due to the number of acting trainers and monitors in this stabilization exercise, another of them will become a second acting manager for the training team.

Though they too had been told that no positions would be back-filled, there won’t be anyone left on the team who’s done the regional training coordinator gig who doesn’t already have a full plate.

And so I’m heading back.

Altogether now: WORK MADNESS!

I’m going to adjust my expectations of the position.  I know now the kind of chaos I’m going to be parachuted into the middle of. And the planning process I worked at so dilligently last year? It hasn’t even started yet.

I think I’m going to start every day with the Serenity Prayer.

Are there other projects I’m going to be involved in, work-wise? Yes. I’m going to be observing and potentially delivering the Business Expertise Curriculum (though I never received the training myself—this may be my only opportunity to take it in) in January and (possibly) February.

I may be training the team dynamics workshop too, though there are currently no plans on the table for it. Things shouldn’t be as insane as they were last year, however. I’ve already been certified. I won’t be going back there again.

In other news, the training certification program has departed our internal college for another training provider. So, no next steps for Mellie.  No assessment, no mentoring, and no training. Unless I get some kind of in with that other training provider. I become eligible to apply to them in March. We’ll see how that works out…

So that’s my work madness.

What’s yours?

God bless us, every one!

Just a brief post today to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

Two of my favourite ecards:

I kind of love the interactive one and I just can’t resist the dog-y charm of the other 🙂

Tomorrow, I’m going to post on the Next Big Thing project which Kim Fahner has been so kind as to tag me into.

And of course, I’ll continue to post through the end of the year including a top ten kind of post and one about those deadly New Year’s resolutions.

For now, I hope you’re all having a peaceful holiday, full of love.

doctor who christmas special

doctor who christmas special (Photo credit: lism.)

I’m going to enjoy the Doctor Who marathon on Space, culminating in this year’s Christmas special 🙂

 

 

 

 

Have been watching my share of seasonal movies though, A Christmas Carol, Miracle of 34th Street, and the annual The Sound of Music.  The title of this post is taken from the Dickens’ classic.

Scrooge's third visitor, from Charles Dickens:...

Scrooge’s third visitor, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

‘Tis the season … of change

English: An artificial Christmas tree.

English: An artificial Christmas tree. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This Christmas been a little weird for me.  To give you all context, I’m going to have to give you a before and after perspective.

Before

In past years, my gifts consisted primarily of baked goods.  I’d start in November and bake one batch of cookies every weekend, usually Merry Fruit cookies, Christmas shortbread, and either Viennese crescents and thumbprint cookies, or something more earthy like gingerbread and chocolate chip.  My mom would also put together some Christmas treats: hello dollies, Skor bars, and sugar cookies.

Cookie box

Cookie box (Photo credit: mmatins)

I also made two kinds of dog biscuits for my friends who owned pets: peanut butter and cheese.

These would all be stored in the freezer until it was time to put together the parcels, usually a week or two before Christmas, and the I’d get the plates and tins put together, sign all the cards, and send everything off.

Phil would often make the deliveries for me.  One year, making my own, I surprised one of our friends in his pyjamas 😉

For a few years, I also participated in cookie exchanges and got a greater mix of treats that way.

Decorations would be up the first weekend of December and be taken down January 1st.

My office Christmas party, Phil’s, the office pot-luck, and usually one or two other seasonal events usually crowded into the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Last year, I didn’t bake.  Phil and Mom did, so I was still able to put together small gifts for a few friends. The family decided not to exchange gifts (we’re all adults here).  I didn’t go to either office party and did not participate in a cookie exchange.  Due to a rearrangement of our very small living room, we no longer had room for our Christmas tree.

It was a hint of things to come.

After

This year, I just haven’t caught the Christmas spirit.

With the new acting position and all the travel it’s required, I’ve just been exhausted.  I decided, for the second year in a row, that I would not bake.  This year, neither Phil nor Mom baked cookies either.  We don’t need all that sugar and fat anyway.

The decorations didn’t get put up the first weekend in December and when I got around to it the next weekend, only the garlands for the railings, ceramic tree (our substitute for the big one), and door decorations were hauled out.  No Christmas cups, no Christmas platter, no musical Christmas slippers, and no Christmas music (something I usually play while I’m decorating).

We went to Phil’s office party (left early), but not to mine, and I happened to be absent for the pot-luck, and the BEA (Business Expertise Advisor) hive’s dinner was cancelled due to poor weather.  I made it out to a friend’s house party last night (Christmas Merriment is always that at Shirley’s), but that’s pretty much it.

Christmas dinner is at Mom’s this year, and due to changing life circumstances, Phil and I won’t be having any visitors this year.

The immediate family is buying presents, but we’ve put a limit on it.

It’s a subdued season, but I’ve decided that suits me just fine.

Grinch or Curmudgeon?

Am I being a Grinch, or a curmudgeon because I’m not caught up (for once) in the holiday hype?

I don’t think so.

I’m still celebrating, just not as much as in past years.

What do you think?

Have your Christmas celebrations changed over the years?  Have they grown more elaborate or more sedate?

Do share 🙂

I woke up today = epic win :)

We’re all still here.  No zombies.  No rapture.  The apocalypse, it turns out, it just a calendar reset, very much like the solstice, or New Year’s Eve.

Then I got the G+ notification this morning that in the Julian calendar, it’s actually December 8 and that the end of the Mayan calendar  and Christmas are both days away yet.  Needless to say, my response to that particular bit of sharing cannot be repeated on Writerly Goodness.

Up here in the north, we got our first real snow storm of the year, right on time.  Five to six inches fell yesterday and last night, necessitating a one and a half hour snow-blowing odyssey for myself, and that after a kind neighbour cleared my mom’s side of the driveway.  Heck of a way to spend a day off 😦

Back to the matter at hand.

Maya Calendar

Maya Calendar (Photo credit: Xiaozhuli)

The Mayan calendar restarts at this point.  They may not get to celebrate this particular new beginning every year, but that’s what today represents for them: a new beginning.

Similarly, the solstice is the renewal of the sun in the northern hemisphere.  The shortest day and longest night passes, and from that point in the year, the days become increasingly longer and the nights increasingly shorter until the summer solstice flips the switch.  Here’s astronomer Phil Plait’s informative article on the event.

For those of you with paganish leanings, or the Celtophiles among you, here is a link to this year’s solstice ceremony at Newgrange.

English: Newgrange, Ireland.

English: Newgrange, Ireland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cultures throughout the world celebrate the solstice in one way or another.  Christmas celebrations (among others) can be traced back to, or related to the pagan solstice celebrations that predated them.

It is not only the beginning of a new season, but the beginning of a new year for some.  If you think about the 12 days of Christmas and start the count on the solstice, the final day of celebrations will be anywhere from January 1 to 3, depending on the year and the day the solstice actually falls on.

That’s why I think that we call it the Christmas season, or used to call it that before the political correctness police descended en masse and advised everyone that we had to say “Happy Holidays” and not “Merry Christmas.”

I get the inclusiveness of the message.  I’m not Christian myself, but I was raised in that tradition and I celebrate Christmas with my family and friends like most people of Anglo-European descent.  My paganish side honours the solstice and the season it starts for me, culminating in the New Year.

Like the Mayan calendar, and the solar/astronomical year, our calendar restarts at this point as well.  January 1st marks a new beginning for most of us, a time of putting up new calendars and taking down Christmas decorations.  The tree (a pagan tradition, by the way) is shipped to the curb for recycling, or repackaged back in its box until next year.

Resolutions are made and adhered to or abandoned as our nature demands.

So what do you think about renewals, the Christmas/holiday season, and what it represents for us?

Coming soon: I’ll be posting on Christmas Day, creating a “best of the year” post, and blogging about planning and resolutions with a writerly focus.

Sunrise over Stonehenge on the summer solstice...

Sunrise over Stonehenge on the summer solstice, 21 June 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For now, I’ll simply wish everyone a happy solstice.

A solstice soundtrack:

Write on, my friends!

 

LUminaries: The Power of Popular Fiction

On October 4, 2012, I attended the first of Laurentian University’s new season of the LUminaries readings series, held at the Living with Lakes Centre (LwLC).  The theme of the evening was the power of popular fiction, with authors John Forrest, Scott Overton, and Mark Leslie.

The first thing to note is that the LwLC is beautiful.  It was built with the landscape and the environment in mind, using a lot of natural or reclaimed materials, a green roof, and wonderful views of Ramsey Lake on the shores of which the centre stands.

The parking was a bit of an issue and I understand the reasons for this.  The builders wanted to encourage a more environmentally sustainable mode of travel, such as walking, cycling, or public transit.  Sadly, this would only work for individuals who work and/or live in the immediate university area.  The room in which the reading was held has a capacity of about 60 I believe.  There’s no way the cars of 60 attendees could fit into that wee parking lot.

This is unfortunate, because it makes the site unattractive for larger events where attendees from off-campus might want to participate in numbers.

This year’s LUminaries was co-sponsored by the English department, through Laurence Steven, the big squishy brain behind Your Scrivener Press, and by the English Arts Club, who are also behind the university’s new literary journal, Sulphur.   

The evening began with a meet and greet/author signing session out in the foyer of the centre.  I decided to hold off on picking up one of Scott’s books until his official launch this coming Thursday, October 11, 2012, at 8 pm (also at the LwLC).  I picked up Tesseracts 16, however, and Mark Leslie’s Haunted Hamilton.  I chatted up the authors, including John Forrest, but I must confess to selling Mr. Forrest short.  The books he had for sale were of Christmas stories and I wasn’t interested or yet in the mood for Christmas.

Laurence Steven began the reading more formally with a brief talk on popular fiction, its attraction, and its denigration in the literary/academic community.  Then he called John Forrest to the podium.

John was an educator and principal in his past career, but then turned his considerable talents to writing.  One of his claims to fame is that he’s had eleven stories published in various Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, three in the one about hockey.  That’s what he started with, his recounting of the ’72 Summit Series from the perspective of a young teacher working the sporting event into his teaching unit.

He then read part of a story from his story collection entitled Home for Christmas, about a WWII bomber tail gunner and his struggle to get home for Christmas.  Finally, he pulled out his first published short story, a humorous tale about purchasing condoms pending his vasectomy.

John’s first Christmas short story collection, published by YSP last year, has gone into three printings and was sold in Home Hardware stores as well as online and in book stores.  Home for Christmas has already sold out its first printing even though it hasn’t formally been launched yet!  John was dropping off boxes of his book to a couple of the local Home Hardware stores this week, so look for them in the Christmas home decor section.

Next, Scott Overton took the podium, and read three excerpts from his new novel Dead Air.  Without giving too much away, because I am going to blogging more about Scott in the next week or so, his novel is a thriller about a morning radio host in northern Ontario who has a strange dispute with a caller to his morning show and subsequently finds a hand-written threat on his desk.

Several possible love-interests, a snow mobile chase, and car trouble on a cold and stormy night are among the thrills in Dead Air.

Then Mark Leslie read a humorous horror story about what it might really be like to be Frosty the Snowman and some of his poetry from his collection One Hand Screaming.  He also spoke about his experience at editor for Tesseracts 16.  He’s never cracked the anthology as a writer, but lost his “Tesseracts” virginity at 16 🙂

As you can see from the picture, Mark is a very animated presenter and performer, changing his voice for the various characters in his stories.

At that point, there was an intermission after which there was to be a Q&A session.  Unfortunately, it was what I like to call a “school night” and I had to get home to complete my interview responses for Brian Braden and Underground Book Reviews and then get to bed so I would be marginally coherent at work on Friday.

I’m sure it was a fantastic second half and I’m sorry I had to leave.

If anyone who was there would care to fill in the blanks in the comment section, please do so!

Babes in Toyland

As a kid in grade school, I filled Hilroy exercise books with stories.  I had a fascination with new notebooks.  My parents couldn’t keep up with my penchant for paper, so eventually I started pilfering them from school.

The contents of these stolen treasures consisted mostly of horror stories: “The Spooky Hallowe’en Scream Party.”  Yeah, I wasn’t much for the titles back then.

I had one story I called “The Phantom Menace.”  Still have the exercise book and I swear the title was original Mellie.  The story was about a creepy thing that followed a young girl to school, but she escaped before it could catch her.  Wasn’t much for the plotting then either 🙂

When my fourth grade class was looking for something to do for the annual Christmas pageant, I decided that I wanted to write a play.  Based on Disney’s “Babes in Toyland,” it wasn’t original, but it was mine.

The whole situation was a bit fraught.  First, I didn’t take well to my first experience of being edited.  It was never explained to me that anything would have to be changed, or why.  The altered product was simply presented to the class and that was my first look at what my teacher had done to my play.  Understandably, I was upset.  It didn’t matter if the play was improved, I was nine years old.

I’d still like to know why I wasn’t consulted.  A courteous “heads up” might have been nice.  Perhaps the idea of dealing with a nine-year-old writing diva-in-development wasn’t my teacher’s idea of a good time.

It was also decided that I would not be allowed to participate in the play, being the author and all.  It wouldn’t be fair to everyone else.  Still, I was proud of what I’d created, and I believe the play was a success.  After introducing the play, I stood around in the darkened gymnasium with nothing to do.  That kinda sucked.

Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell

Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell

I’m a fan of Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, and its antecedent, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s with a Thousand Faces.  As creative people, we experience the hero’s journey in our lives.  Interpreting it through Campbell’s lens has allowed me to come to terms with some of my negative experiences.

That grade four play was my first experience with the guardian at the gate.  I learned that editors are not to be trusted, and that if given the chance, they will take your work away from you in all the ways that matter.

I know that this is not true, but to this day I cringe at the thought of giving my work into the hands of others, and when I do, I resist seeing the sense in the recommendations of well-meaning colleagues and mentors.  But I deal, and I return to my work fuelled by the need to improve.

Have you had any formative writing experiences where a “guardian” figure put obstacles in your way?  Have you read Campbell or Vogler, or both?  Is there value in their work for you?