Best advice ever!

In my second year of university I decided to write a full-length novel. Until then I had only managed a novella. I went out and purchased a 400-page booklet. I only had a rough idea of what the story would be but I began nonetheless.

I wrote in that booklet everywhere I could. I wrote in between classes, on the bus and on subway. I wrote in the library. I wrote in the morning and at night. I even refused to take a trip with my family in order to write.

By the start of my third year I had finished the manuscript. It was close to 250-pages, a decent size for a novel. I then spent the remainder of the year transposing the handwritten manuscript on to the computer. I did my best editing the manuscript and when my fourth and final year started I had, at least I believed at the time, a publishable novel.

I then began sending it out to publishers and agents (this experience will be left for another blog post). As expected I was rejected and rejected and rejected some more. Almost a year went by and after dozens of rejections I still had not found a publisher.

One day while reading book reviews in a magazine I spotted a book whose premise sounded somewhat similar to mine. I quickly went out and procured a copy. I proceeded to read the book in a matter of days.

To my dismay this book had many similar elements to mine. I wrote them down and found there were over 15 similar themes and concepts. I was shocked and disappointed! I had spent the last three years pouring my heart and soul into my book and here it was published by this other author.

I was angry!

In my query letters I had provided a synopsis of my book and during this time I may have provided it to some devious agent who in turn had provided the framework of my book to this said author.

He was a thief!

I sat down and wrote a nasty and scathing e-mail to him. But before I could send it my brother convinced me against it. So I wrote another e-mail outlining the 15 similarities and ended it by asking the author what I should do next.

I received a response not long after and it was only two words. While my e-mail was both long and emotional the author’s reply was short and felt somewhat cold. At the time I didn’t understand how important his advice would be. I only cared about the book I had labored over for years, which I felt, I could no longer publish.

In hindsight, I will say the book I had written and the one by this author were not all that similar (there were some general themes) but overall they were nothing alike. But try telling that to a 22-year-old at that time who thought he had written the next greatest novel.

To cut a long story short, I took the writer’s advice and have now written many more novels, and some are much better than my first novel.

I’ve purposely not mentioned the author’s name or the book’s title simply because I’m not interested in stirring up anything. But I assure you this event did happen and the author is well known and highly successful. But I do remember his two-word advice. It is the best advice ever for any writer. And they were:

Keep writing.

Whatever happens in life, no matter how many hurdles you have to go through, if you are passionate then you should keep writing.

The Batmobile aka the Tumbler

If anyone has read my blog ‘I’m Batman’ they can easily tell that I am a HUGE Batman fan.  With the anticipation of the third and final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy (THE DARK KNIGHT RISES) only weeks away I am posting a few photos of the Batmobile aka the Tumbler when it visited Toronto.





me & the Tumbler

“Has anyone seen my keys?”

Hey look he’s also Canadian!

As a Canadian I figured why not mention some books written by Canadian authors that I’ve enjoyed reading.  Let me first lay it out that we, Canadians, have a complex.  This complex can be identified as ‘hey-look-he’s-also-Canadian’.  Being in a country that is second in land mass (after Russia) but with a population slightly over 30 million, we can’t help be proud of our fellow comrades…um…er…citizens.

I’m not going to mention books by Canadian greats, such as Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Mordecai Richler, or even Michael Ondaatje. Even though their books are exceptional they need no praising by me.

I’m going to mention the relative unknowns or those whose books have surprised and entertained me.

Brad Smith – One Eyed Jacks – I can’t remember how I stumbled upon this book; maybe it was the names of the characters. With names like Tommy, T-Bone, Fat Ollie, how can you go wrong? Plus, it was set in Toronto in the 1950’s.  It had the noir style of the tough guy novels I’d enjoyed reading when I was a kid, but with a slight Canadian flavour.

Brad Smith’s other two novels are also enjoyable reads: All Hat and Busted Flush. If I had to describe his novels it would be ‘heavies with heart’ or ‘likeable tough guys.’

I met Brad Smith at one of his readings and he does look like the author who writes these types of books.  He wore a tight T-shirt, which revealed his big muscles, his head was completely shaved and he had a French beard (hey, he could be a character in RACE!).  He looked more like a bouncer than a writer.  He was pleasant and he did sign my copy of One Eyed Jacks.

Yann Martel – Life of Pi – The only reason I read this book was because it had won the Man Booker Prize and guess what, Hey-look-he’s-also-Canadian! I started reading this with much hesitation, hoping I wouldn’t like it and would go on to something else.  But, there was something about it. It was the voice of the main character Pi Patel. There was so much innocence in it, like an eager-eyed kid who wants to learn and know everything about the world.

Pi goes through a tough ordeal. He is stranded in the ocean on a boat with an orangutan, zebra, hyena, and a tiger.  If that doesn’t get you excited about reading it then nothing will.

Rob Payne – Working Class Zero – Hilarious and downright funny is how I’d describe this book.  I read it prior to being exposed to the TV series The Office, so it was new and refreshing. The protagonist lands a job as a team leader at a call centre full of temps.  There are all sort of weird and wacky characters.  Those who have worked in a call centre or in an office environment will totally relate to it.

I also read How to be a Hero on Earth 5 and I wish I had written it.  It reminded me of my trip to England (the real England and not the Earth 5 England in the book). It was so interesting to hear the British accent and see the places I had visited. The novel is more geared toward the YA reader but I think even adults will find it just as fun and entertaining.

And if you are interested in reading more books by Canadians then might I recommend some books by…me!

Fantasy Casting Call

To have a movie made from a book is every author’s dream come true.  To have that movie garner rave reviews, receive prestigious awards, and make a heck-of-a-lot of money is heaven.

Every writer knows a good/great movie = a bestseller.

Those who enjoyed the movie may in turn seek out the original source material.  This is a win-win situation for the author.  Not only does he get to see his work on the big screen he also gets to sell many more copies.

With that in mind, I will indulge myself by picking the actors that I would enjoy seeing play my characters on the big screen.

A series of brutal murders lead Chicago Homicide Detective Karl Whaler on the strangest and most dangerous investigation of his career.

How could the death of a promising young man be related to a tragic event during the Vietnam War decades earlier? And why do a plumber, an electrician, a caretaker, a locksmith and a butcher meet secretly in a downtown room?

Karl Whaler (Detective)

I would love for Brendan Gleeson to play him.  Gleeson was excellent in the movie In Bruges.  Whaler is quiet, soft-spoken, and shy, this would fit Gleeson perfectly.  Plus, Gleeson has Whaler’s body-type.

Michael Lantern (Plumber)

When I was writing the book years ago I actually had Clint Eastwood in mind but he would be too old now—the character in the book is in his early fifties.  Lantern is a man of few words and he is very reserved.  I think Liam Neeson would capture who he is.

Barry Tarkovsky (Butcher)

This one, without a doubt, should be played by Alfred Molina.  I actually had Molina in mind while writing the book.  I loved Molina in the movie The Man Who Knew Too Little with Bill Murray.  Tarkovsky is physically strong but has a soft heart.

Vince Crouch (Electrician)

This part should be played by Chris Cooper.  Crouch is angry, hot-headed, and stubborn.  Cooper looks like he is filled with p*ss and vineger, perfect for playing Crouch.

Sam Patroni (Locksmith)

I think George Clooney should be Patroni.  Patroni is handsome, charming and funny.  Even at his age Patroni is capable of attracting beautiful women. Clooney has no problem in that category.

Al Shorley (Caretaker)

I think Kevin Spacey would be the right person to play Shorley.  Shorley is introverted, quiet, and physically weak.  I loved Spacey in the movie The Usual Suspects.

For further indulgence I would love for Ridley Scott (American Gangster, Body of Lies) to direct it.  Ridley Scott is one of the finest directors around.  I’m a huge fan of his and have seen all his movies.

Like many authors I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the movie version.  Who knows, maybe one day that dream may turn into reality.


Along with being a writer I’m also a huge movie fan.  Most of my blogs in one way or another have some connection to movies.  So I figured why not write about book-to-film adaptations.

Now, there are hundreds, heck, thousands of books that have been turned into films.  In most cases the books were better than the movies.  I have always wondered why that is.  Books have the capacity to evoke emotion, make us feel like we are right in the action, and even scare the daylights out of us.  So they would easily translate into movies, right? Wrong.

There are many factors at play.  When an author writes a book it is solely his/her vision.  They are, in essence, the actors, the directors, the scriptwriters; they are everything they need to be to tell a story.  What they are not are producers, this title will be placed on the publishers.  On the other hand, in a movie there are actual actors, a director, one or several scriptwriters, and producers.  What happens is that when a book is adapted an author’s story is then passed through several people: the scriptwriters, the actors, the director, and even the producers.  That one person’s vision gets filtered through that many people and becomes something else entirely.

There are also other reasons why a great novel turns into a terrible movie: the scriptwriters may not understand the novel, the actors may not be suited for the parts, the director may be inept, and the producers may only be concerned with the budget.  This process can be very frustrating for the authors.  For this reason authors rarely are hired to write the screenplay of their works.

Writing a book is like giving birth, it’s a long and painful process, but in the end the results are often beautiful.  So to go back and change your ‘baby’ is something that most cannot do.  It is better to write your book and then let someone else make their movie.

There is a great quote from Ernest Hemingway about Hollywood: “Let me tell you about writing for films. You finish your book. Now, you know where the California state line is? Well, you drive right up to that line, take your manuscript and pitch it across. No, on second thought, don’t pitch it across. First. Let them toss the money over. Then you throw it over, pick up the money, and get the hell out of there.”

There are many books I’ve enjoyed reading but loathed the movie versions. My favourite author, Michael Crichton, his books never turned into good or great movies.  While the movies based on his books were successful (see Jurassic Park) they never came close to what the books were.  Whenever I read a Crichton book I always felt like I was watching a movie in my head, but unfortunately, what was written on the page never converted well onto the screen (see Congo, Timeline, Rising Sun).

Below are five titles (in no particular order) that I have enjoyed both the novels and their respective movies.


Deckard, a blade runner, has to track down an d terminate 4 replicants who hijacked a ship in space and have returned to earth seeking their maker. (courtesy of IMDB)


A young FBI cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims. (courtesy of IMDB)


In 1984, the USSR’s best submarine captain in their newest sub violates orders and heads for the USA. Is he trying to defect, or to start a war? (courtesy of IMDB)


The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son. (courtesy of IMDB)


An office employee and a soap salesman build a global organization to help vent male aggression. (courtesy of IMDB)

LOTR & the Troll

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a fan of fantasy books.  I just don’t understand them.  I do have great respect and admiration for those who write them, though.  It takes great skills and imagination to create entire planets and characters that are not from our world.

But like millions I do know about the Lord of the Rings books by J. R. R. Tolkien.

But let me go back a bit.  The year was 2001 and it was the year the LOTR – Fellowship of the Ring movie was going to be released in theatres.

For the release of FOTR there was going to be an exhibit of the costumes and props from the movie at Casa Loma (a castle-like-house built in the early 19th century) in Toronto.

It was also the year I turned 23 (not a big milestone, I’ll admit) and it was on my birthday that my brother decided to take me to the exhibit.

My brother, his friend, and I took the subway on a Sunday morning to Casa Loma.  We were all excited. My brother and his friend were more so than I was.  They were both huge LOTR fans while I, being a history enthusiast, was happy just to see the castle.

We slowly made our way through the castle.  The props, sets, costumes, etc from the movie were scattered throughout the building.  We saw Bilbo Baggin’s home, the ring, the hobbit costumes, Gandalf’s hat, Legolas’s bow, and many more items that to name them would take too much space.

As we moved along I wanted to stop and admire the structure and history of Casa Loma but my brother advised me that we would do that after we had seen the LOTR exhibits.  This way we would have the rest of the day to do so.

The final exhibit was at the far end of the building, dubbed the stables, where, well, the horses used to be kept.

We moved through a narrow tunnel and made it to the end.  From there two short stairs zigzagged up.  We went up and began admiring the various props.  My brother’s friend began taking photos, which we had been doing throughout.  The camera belonged to my brother’s co-worker and it was an expensive model at that time.

Halfway through we were approached by a short, heavyset, miserable looking security guard who advised us not to take photos.  My brother and his friend protested that everyone else was taking photos too.  Why wasn’t he stopping them? But he wouldn’t listen and told us not to.

Seeing the injustice, my brother and his friend decided to continue on.  My brother and I were the lookout while my brother’s friend took the photos.  We made all effort to keep an eye on the security guard but it wouldn’t be. He caught us again.  My brother and his friend protested like before.  But he warned us, sternly.  If he caught us taking photos again he would confiscate our camera.

I said to my brother that we had seen the exhibit, and had taken enough photos so we should listen to the security guard. But my brother and his friend wanted to do no such thing.  They felt the security guard was picking on them because they looked like students.  They felt ‘the troll’ was out to get them.  They forged ahead.

I wanted no part of it.  Remember, it was my birthday and I didn’t want any trouble.  My brother told me to wait downstairs, which I did.

Half an hour went by and no sign of either my brother or his friend.  I went back up the two sets of stairs and found them.  They had taken all the photos and still had the camera!  Now we could go and see Casa Loma, I thought.  But no.  My brother and his friend had other plans.

I begged them not to but they wouldn’t budge.

Again I went downstairs and waited for them.  I found a chair and sat facing the stairs.

Not five minutes had gone by when, from the second floor, my brother’s friend leaped over the railings and bounced to the first set of stairs.  He quickly disappeared down the narrow tunnel.

I jumped up, startled. My brother came rushing down the stairs and said, “Run!”

We bolted through the tunnel, pushing and shoving passed visitors.

We exited the entrance of Casa Loma, not before hearing another security guard’s radio crackle.

When we were a good distance away I finally asked what had happened.

After taking all the photos, my brother and his friend decided to take a photo of ‘the troll’.  They watched and followed him until he went and sat down on a chair in the corner.  That’s when my brother’s friend jumped in front him, aimed the camera and snapped his photo.

Naturally, the security guard went after them.

Outside, my brother and his friend celebrated.  They climbed the walls of Casa Loma and posed while I took their photo.  They had defeated the evil troll and were victorious.

I, on the other hand, did not celebrate. I never got the chance to see the castle like I had wanted to.

I still have the photos from that day when I turned 23; of the shields, swords, axes, etc from the movie.  I also have the photo taken by my brother’s friend, before he leaped from the second floor balcony.

The photo only shows the feet of the security guard.

Apparently, when my brother’s friend jumped in front of the security guard and pressed the button the camera did not work.  By the time the camera flashed the security guard was up already.

Yes, I may not have seen Casa Loma entirely but I have seen the boots of ‘the troll’ of Casa Loma.

Avoid Parking Tickets by Jon Rupret

(ten humorous ways to save money by the hero of RACE)

  1. Don’t block driveways. (Unless it’s your neighbour who refuses to return your lawn mover, hairdryer, rake, paper clips and other essentials in life)
  2. Keep your distance from fire hydrants. (Permitted only if you are a dog)
  3. Watch for signs on the street. (They are pictures on poles that tell you what you are supposed to be doing. They are also for people who are dyslexic)
  4. Park safely at schools. (No road rage allowed in this area, some of these kids know karate)
  5. Don’t leave your car idling. (Major cause of death for cyclists is second-hand exhaust smoke)
  6. Don’t park in the disabled zone. (Seriously, that is a crime, punishable by hanging)
  7. Stay away from corners. (Going around them at high speeds can make you dizzy)
  8. Check the meters. (Park on those that still have money left in them and when they expire go to the next one. Not only will it save you money but it is fun)
  9. Parking at bus stops is not allowed. (Remember, you are driving a tiny Japanese model while the bus driver is on a ten-ton Godzilla. Chances of being crushed is probable)
  10. Read RACE. (It’s funny but showing a copy to the parking officer will only get you a larger fine)

Why writers love serial killers

What is it about serial killers that we find so fascinating? Could it be that it is horrifying enough that someone would kill another human being, and then do it again, and again, and again? Could it also be that when they do commit these heinous crimes they get away with it—repeatedly?

This makes us question those who are bestowed with the responsibility to stop them: the police. Had they caught the killer the first time they wouldn’t become a serial…anything. The pressure is on them to solve the case quickly before there are any more innocent victims, which there almost always are.

The question that should be asked is why do writers of novels prefer serial killers? I can’t speak for every writer out there (that would be impossible) but I may have some answers.

In general, characters are difficult to create so if you have one character whom you can use to do those evil deeds over and over again then it makes your job that much easier. You can use his or her crimes to fill more pages (an entire novel, in fact).

Writing is an escape—an escape to become someone else. Now what would be more thrilling and utterly scary then to imagine yourself becoming a serial killer. To get into the mindset of someone who kills without remorse and does it so well, can be a challenge, but all writers (of fiction) know it is not real but something conjured up in the back of their minds. They know no real persons were harmed in the making of this book.

This knowledge allows them the freedom to transform into something vile, hideous and utterly despicable. They are able to tap into a dark part of their soul, one that should (and hopefully never does) become real.

There have been many serial killers: the Son of Sam, the Zodiac Killer, the Yorkshire Ripper, the Monster of Florence, and so on. Books have been written about them, and in some cases, with movies following after.

The most popular fictional serial killer would have to be Dr. Hannibal ‘the Cannibal’ Lecter by author Thomas Harris. Here is a meek doctor who not only kills but eats his victims as well. The character has been so popular that four books have been written (so far) with him in them, with subsequent movies made, of which The Silence of the Lambs went on to win several Academy Awards.

But not all serial killers are evil or just plain bad. Jeff Lindsay’s likeable serial killer Dexter Morgan is a blood splatter expert for the Miami Police Department, who happens to kill those who he deems have escaped justice. Yes, he is a psychopath but one with a moral code. The character has been in five books (and counting) and has been turned into a hugely popular television series.

Whoever said serial killers couldn’t be lucrative?

The Good, the Bad, and the Writer

If you type “How to write” in Google you will get almost 600 million results. If you narrow it to “How to write a book” the results go down to 194 million. Now if you narrow further to, say, “How to write a bestselling book” it goes down to 462,000 results. (These numbers are surely to increase in the future)

What’s so interesting is after narrowing it down there are still half a million sites that purport to teach you how to write that bestseller.

I find this both fascinating and depressing. Fascinating because there are so many individuals and companies out there who are in the business of teaching other writers how to write that book that’ll make the writer rich and famous. Depressing because there are so many writers who believe that if they read these ‘secrets’ they’ll achieve that fame and fortune. Now what these writers don’t understand is if these people did know how to write that bestseller they would be writing them instead of talking about how to write them.

There may be a book with the title “How to write a book that sells a million copies” and that writer of this book may have actually sold a million copies, but you wanna guess to who? Those would-be writers who want to write a book that sells a million copies.

Yes, there are those that have gotten lucky. They wrote that one book that caught fire and sold a gazillion copies, but this is rare. You have a better chance of winning the lottery.

My high school economics teacher always used to say: there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone is paying for what you got for free, and they want something back in return. The advice you think you are getting for a small price (perhaps the cover price of the book) so that you can achieve that literary stardom, well, let me tell you, if they really knew they wouldn’t tell you and not for that price.

Now, I’m not a bestselling author, far from it, but if you look at the New York Times Bestseller list or any other list you won’t find those writers with books on how to write bestselling books. Instead, they are plugging away—day in and day out, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad—on their craft. Their only objective is to tell a good story.

Hopefully the really good ones achieve mass success but really bad ones have achieved it too. There is no one way of achieving it. I have read great books by unknown writers and really bad books by famous writers. You can call it luck or you can call it something else.

I am not going to give any advice—I wouldn’t know where to begin. I do know, though, that writing is hard—it is almost always a labour of love. But there is nothing more satisfying than finally finishing something that you have spent countless days, months, even years working on. If there is one thing I can leave with it would be this: writers write, plain and simple.

This reminds me of a scene from the movie, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Tuco Ramirez (The Ugly) is taking a bubble bath when a One Armed Man enters the room and aims his gun at him.

The One Armed Man says, “I’ve been looking for you for 8 months. Whenever I should have had a gun in my right hand, I thought of you. Now I find you in exactly the position that suits me. I had lots of time to learn to shoot with my left.”

Tuco kills him with the gun he has hidden in the foam.

Tuco then gets up and says, “When you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk.”

I say, “If you’re going to write, write, don’t read about it.”

Jason Bourne vs. James Bond

It’s interesting to see the debate of who would win if Jason Bourne ever met James Bond.

These two literary constructions would be fascinating if ever they were on the same page. Mind you, as far as what they are in on the actual page, by Robert Ludlum (Bourne) and Ian Fleming (Bond) they are entirely different on the big screen. I will not focus on the literary creations but on the ones on the silver screen. I think this would be more fun.


Jason Bourne: Rugged, gritty, and unrefined. Habitually monogamous. Casually dressed. Relies heavily on intelligence and quick-thinking.

James Bond: Suave, debonair, and sophisticated. A habitual womanizer. Impeccably dressed. Relies heavily on his charm and fancy gadgets.

Who am I?

Bourne suffers from amnesia and he spends the trilogy (Bourne Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum) piecing together his history. Along the way we learn his real name (I won’t mention it for those who haven’t watched the trilogy yet—what are you waiting for people?).

Bond…James Bond

Bond doesn’t have the same problem as Bourne. Or maybe he does and in order to remember his name he repeats it. What’s interesting is he’s a spy with no need of introductions but he still does it, twice!

Stylistic differences

Bourne blows up things only when it is absolutely necessary, whereas Bond will detonate a building because, well, he’s James Bond, and he can.

Bourne will avoid killing someone, instead will either knock them out, shoot them in the leg, or just break a bone or two (but nothing fatal), whereas, Bond will shoot to kill, his favourite: the hard-working employees of the super-villains (those poor souls who show up with machine guns but never once manage to hit Bond).

Bourne will do anything to avoid bringing any attention to him. He wants to be left alone. In Bourne Supremacy he hid in Goa, India and preferred a good run on the beach. Bond on the other hand wants to be the center of attention, everything he does says ‘I’m James Bond and you’re not.’

The big question is who would win if they were to go head to head? If I were a betting man I would say Jason Bourne, hands down. Here would be the scenario.

Bond enters the room, dressed in a tuxedo, and announces he is James Bond, twice.

He gets himself a drink, Martini, shaken not stirred.

He spots a beautiful woman and charms her.

As he’s heading back to his room, unknown to him, a man has broken into the building through a window on another floor. He procures a ball point pen, which he’ll easily be able to pass through security (if the building had one).

As an inebriated Bond gets to his bedroom door a man swiftly moves past him, and with the ball point pen, stabs him in the thigh and neck, and disappears, perhaps, scaling down the outside wall of the building.

With his major arteries severed Bond is rendered incapacitated.

Now this may seem like a diss to James Bond, but believe me, it is not, James Bond is the epitome of longevity—a character who has endured decades of change. Now why is that? The simple answer is: James Bond is a male fantasy. The common man wants to be James Bond. He dresses well, he beds beautiful women, he kills with no repercussions, and he has all the fancy toys anyone could ever want.

Who do I prefer? I will have to say Jason Bourne. Bourne feels real, there is something relatable about him. He could be a spy in today’s fast-paced, complex and paranoid world. He would survive any situation thrown at him.

So James Bond can have all the clothes, women, and toys, I would not be envy of him, Jason Bourne doesn’t need them and he manages quite fine. Well, maybe there is one thing I wouldn’t mind having. James Bond’s,

Aston Martin