Friday, 22 February 2013

Time in a Bottle

A recent news story about a message in a bottle has gathered international attention. If you haven't heard the story yet, it goes like this: a New Zealander, Geoff Flood, was walking along the beach last year when he discovered a bottle with a message inside. The message was dated March 17, 1936, and contained the sender's name and address in Australia. After doing much research, Flood discovered that the original sender of the message had died in the 1940s. However, Flood was able to locate the grandson and reunite him with this remembrance of his grandfather. To view the video, click here:

I'm not surprised this story has been so popular. It speaks to so many things that preoccupy us: the romanticism and vastness of open seas; the relentless passage of time; the need to be connected when faced with solitude; the importance of roots and family, among them. It brings to mind that wonderful Jim Croce song, Time in a Bottle, that turned out to be so sadly prophetic of his own early death at the age of 30.

Give a listen if you like:

Friday, 15 February 2013

The Ghost Man Revisited

The revised and updated edition of my first novel, The Ghost Man, is now available as an eBook, with the paperback edition to follow shortly. The novel is a supernatural thriller that I wrote for my son Tim. He grew up reading ghost stories and watching paranormal television shows. As well, he has an impressive collection of horror DVDs, both the campy kind and those that are downright scary. An accomplished illustrator in his own right, he provided ongoing feedback for the first edition of the book, which was published in 2008. If he liked a scene, he would say “that sounds pretty cool,” and it was sure to survive the cut.

The Ghost Man is set in eastern Ontario and is the story of Simon Guthrie, a chef de cuisineand the owner of a popular restaurant that bears his name. His life changes forever in a car accident that kills his wife and leaves him with a serious head injury. While recuperating in the hospital, he tries to make sense of a near-death experience in which he encounters a malevolent presence he cannot identify. Once he is discharged from the hospital, he  discovers that he has become a beacon for ghosts still trapped in this world. The novel is structured on eight days of his present life in which events come to a head, culminating in his showdown with the malevolent force that is controlling his destiny and that of his friends and neighbors.

In conjunction with the publication of the new edition of The Ghost Man, I've set up a horror blog to talk about horror writing, the themes and writers I admire, and stories of the supernatural culled from various sources that will appeal to lovers of the genre. If you're interested, please visit me at I'd enjoy hearing from you and would welcome any suggestions you have on subjects for this new blog.

Buy The Ghost Man from Kindle Select at

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Happy Valentine's Day, Mom

Last year I dedicated my Valentine's Day blog to my wife, so I'd like to devote this year's blog to my mother.

My maternal grandparents were born in England.  My grandfather was a British soldier who was one of the “Old Contemptibles” during World War I, and my grandmother worked as a housekeeper. My grandmother's sisters had settled in Canada and were encouraging my grandparents to follow. They decided to immigrate to Canada with their three children shortly after the war.

My grandparents had two more children once they moved to Canada. My mother, Janet Irene Brook (also affectionately known as Rene), was born in Peterborough, Ontario, in 1932.  She was the youngest of the five children.  Being the only daughter, she was always very close to her mother and learned the skills of housekeeping and baking from her.  Mom loved to tell us stories about her mother and all the things they used to do together: walking; gathering flowers and berries; cooking and cleaning.  My grandmother's early death from cancer had a profound and lingering effect on my mom, who misses her to this day.

My mom and dad were great parents who helped foster my curiosity and love of books.  They taught me, by example, the importance of family, and on top of that, they were fun to be with! 

I have an old photo album.  You know the kind.  It has black construction paper pages and is two-hole punched with a cord keeping the album together.  The pictures are held in place with beveled corners that were licked and stuck on the page.  One of my favorite pictures in this album is of me and my mom on Christmas morning more than fifty years ago.  It was the Christmas I got my new hockey equipment (most of which I slept in that night).  In this old black and white photo, my mom is wearing her housecoat and slippers, and a toque I also got from Santa.  She's concentrating intently on her stickhandling skills as we played a quick game of hockey in our dining room.

Who knows where the time goes?

I love you, Mom. 

Happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Let's Talk About Mental Illness

Photo © 2013 Tim D. McCann
One in five Canadians will suffer some form of mental illness during their lifetime. Nevertheless, fighting the stigma of mental illness is an ongoing battle in which victory is long overdue.  Research shows that:
  • over 50% of people living with mental disorders said they were embarrassed by their health problems and had experienced discrimination;
  • almost 50% of Canadians thought mental health was an excuse for poor behavior;
  • less than one-third of Canadians would continue to be friends with someone with an alcohol-use problem;
  • less than one-quarter of Canadians would continue to be friends with someone with a drug-use problem.
 (Statistics from the Canadian Mental Health Association Fact Sheet at

We can help those affected by mental illness simply by debunking the myths associated with it. For example, many adolescents (and adults) think that depression is just part of “growing up” and will disappear on its own, but we need to appreciate instead that depression may be a life-long challenge. The Kids Help Phone has published a fact sheet with tips for youths who are suffering from depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and other mental health issues, and advice on how to separate the myths from reality. This fact sheet is available at  The telephone number for the helpline in Canada is 1-800-668-6868. 

One of the underlying causes of depression and suicide in adolescents is bullying.  This topic is finally receiving national attention, and there are numerous resources available.  The Kids Help Phone website at
has extensive information on this subject and also has a bullying forum where teens can post questions.  In addition, many websites now provide resources to combat bullying, including incident reporting for schools.  See, for example,

On February 12, 2013, Bell Canada is sponsoring its third annual “Let's Talk” Day. The four pillars of the Let's Talk initiative are: workplace mental health; research; community care and access; and anti-stigma.  To download a complete copy of the Let's Talk toolkit, please visit

In Canada, there are also numerous other Internet and local resources for those of all ages seeking help. 
For further information, visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website at

Mental health is a global concern.  Please check your Internet and local resources if you live outside Canada.  One of the most alarming statistics I encountered when I began  my research was the following: around the world, someone commits suicide every 40 seconds (Source:

Let's help put a human face on this suffering and end the silence.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Dan Brown's Next Bestseller

I recently received a promo on my e-reader for Dan Brown's new novel Inferno, which is to be released on May 13.  His latest offering will once again feature the protagonist Robert Langdon, popularized by Tom Hanks in the movie adaptations of Brown's novels.  It is anticipated that Inferno will become a massive bestseller as did its predecessors, The Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol

A recent Globe and Mail article at presents a very different perspective.  The article points out that in the current publishing environment, The Da Vinci Code, which was Brown's fourth novel and has sold over 80 million copies worldwide, would probably never have seen the light of day.  The reason?  Publishers can now access an author's book sales on such services as Nielsen Bookscan in the US and BookNet Canada. Publishers are sticking with proven best-selling authors.  Brown's first three novels, Digital Fortress, Angels & Demons, and Deception Point, sold less than 10,000 copies each in their first printing.  (These books, of course, have been reissued after the success of The Da Vinci Code, and Brown's novel sales top 200 million worldwide.)  This means that in today's environment, publishers probably wouldn't have taken a chance in publishing The Da Vinci Code

What does all of this mean for mid-list authors?  According to the article, many of them are being squeezed out as the foreign-owned multinational publishers merge and pare their lists.  The result is that mid-list authors are being forced to list with small publishers with limited marketing ability. 

What do you think?  Will the current climate in the publishing industry mean that only “bestsellers” published by instantly-recognizable names such as Dan Brown, regardless of their literary merit, will now see the light of day? Or is there still room for mid-list and beginner writers to make their mark either through e-publishing or small-press publications?  I'd be very interested in hearing your feedback.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Twenty Years of Michael Connelly

If you're a Michael Connelly fan, you may have noticed the symmetry in his latest novel, The Black Box.  The novel is based on the re-investigation of a twenty-year-old cold case: it has been twenty years since Connelly first introduced Harry Bosch in The Black Echo.  As Connelly noted in an interview in the Huffington Press, Bosch appeals to us as a character because"[h]e's a good guy trying to do a good job under very difficult circumstances. And isn't that what we all do in our lives? He doesn't suffer fools lightly. He has a distrust of authority and these are things that I think most of us have."

In his distrust of authority he may remind us of Lee Child's protagonist Jack Reacher, but that's where the similarity ends.  Reacher is not known for his introspection or self-doubt, but rather for his body count.  However, both authors share a straightforward, engaging style of writing that continues the hard-boiled detective tradition of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Ross McDonald, whom Connelly cites as his main influences.

Connelly has written twenty-five novels in total, of which the majority feature Bosch as the protagonist.  He  has also developed other protagonists, including a reporter (Jack McEvoy), an FBI agent (Terry McCaleb), and attorney Mickey Haller, who was successfully played by Matthew McConaughey in the film version of The Lincoln Lawyer.

The Huffington article mentions that a television series may be in the works featuring Harry Bosch.  Please refer to the original article at for Connelly's thoughts on who could best portray Bosch.  (And thankfully it's not Tom Cruise.)

For a review of The Black Box and an interview with Connelly, check out the Globe and Mail at  You can also watch Connelly's interview with Travis Smiley on PBS at