Author Archives: harrisrh

Quote of the Day

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“Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything.” 

 Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich

To be honest, before this morning I’d never heard of Napoleon Hill (1883–1970). Perhaps that’s because I’m a dullard and an ignoramus, or maybe it’s because I don’t read self-help books. Either way, apparently Mr. Bonaparte Dynamite Hill was a big deal back in his day because Think and Grow Rich is still one of the top 10 best-selling self-help books of all time (and #1,305 on Amazon’s Best Seller Rank nearly 50  years after his death!).

I probably wouldn’t have heard of Napoleon Hill this morning if not for  Benjamin P. Hardy (@BenjaminPHardy) and his piece entitled “2 Quotes That Will Reshape Your Approach To Life.” Aside from being an interesting carpe diem-driven piece on, well, seizing the day, it also yielded today’s Quote of the Day and a belief I believe in with unbelievable passion.

In my current novel, The Redemption of Guilt, I try and flip on its head the age-old notion that guilt is an albatross and instead look at its redemptive power through the travails of the story’s characters. In a similar way, I think Napoleon Hill was not talking about desire in the same way that some of the more austere would have considered the word at the turn of the 20th century. Desire, like passion, is a good thing – when used for constructive purposes such as bettering our lives, for example.

What I like about today’s quote is that he uses the word “transcends.” In fact, you could almost replace the word “greed” in the now-(in)famous Gordon Gekko speech Michael Douglas delivered in Wall Street with the word “desire” and see the good in it all.

“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that desire — for lack of a better word — is good. Desire is right. Desire works. Desire clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Desire, in all its forms — desire for life, for money, for love, for knowledge — has marked the upward surge of mankind.”

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Publicist Job Offer in Toronto

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Think you’re the right person to be a publicist at the University of Toronto Press? Here’s the (very) skinny on the position:

Position:          Publicist – 1 year contract

Reports To:     Sales & Marketing Manager

Division:          Book Publishing

Location:          Yonge and Bloor area, Toronto

Please send your resume with a covering letter by July 21, 2017, to:

Please indicate Publicist, in the subject line and your salary expectations in the covering letter.

Click here to learn more about the job opening.


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Memory, C-beams & The Fragility of the Human Condition

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99 percent of every person is the memory of what he or she knows. What you remember about your life is what makes you you, and me me. Take away my memories, and what is left? My nose. My glasses. Even my jokes will not be the same if I don’t have a memory.” — Stepan Pachikov

Ever since watching Blade Runner* as a kid – and subsequently reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick – I knew I wasn’t alone in a near-obsession-like fascination with memory. Silicon Valley pioneer, visionary, and Evernote founder Stepan Pachikov shares this same trait. Only, he has done, is doing, and will continue to do something about it.

Senior copywriter for @Evernote Pamela Rosen (@Pambieworld) wrote a moving, compelling and stop-drinking-your-coffee-right-freaking-now-and-finish-this-damn piece on Mr. Pachikov entitled “On Preserving Human Memory: Evernote Founder’s Impossible Mission.”

Per the blog post by Ms. Rosen, who actually works at Evernote and knows Mr. Pachikov, “As the inventor and founder of Evernote, Pachikov’s life work has been the human memory, untangling personal thoughts from the greater narrative of history, and then putting the particles back together again for future generations. It’s an obsession that goes back to his youth, before the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

Mr. Pachikov takes this one step further and opines philosophically, “When we decide about good and evil, it’s really about memory. Civilizations are so easy to destroy. It’s our mission, our goal, to protect life, and all we have is memories, so we have to protect them.”

While Stepan Pachikov and Evernote will relentlessly move forward on the tech side to preserve human memory, the more literary-inclined will continue to cherish great books that make us think more profoundly about this critical issue. If you’re looking for a list of works on the subject, check out a piece from The Guardian in which author Charles Fernyhough put together his “Top 10 books on memory” a few years ago. I know that I, for one, am intrigued at the selections on this list.


* You know a film – a specific scene or line, in fact – has moved you when, decades later, you can still recite it from memory. Rutger Hauer’s final moment onscreen – what the Welsh writer and philosopher Mark Rowlands once called “perhaps the most moving death soliloquy in cinematic history” – is one such example, a passage Hauer himself wrote and delivered with universe-shaking conviction, the “Tears in Rain” monologue:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”



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Quote of the Day

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“Why seek to cure evil by evil? Mercy, remember, is by many set above justice…Power is a slippery thing – it has many suitors.”

Lycophron of Corinth’s Sister

So, to begin, a few disclaimers. (1) The above bust is of Periander, the father of Lycophron. I assume they looked relatively alike (and busts from back then are hard to come by), so it’ll have to do; (2) I don’t know what the sister’s name is because she’s called “Lycophron’s sister” in The Histories; (3) The above quote comes from Herodotus, whom many consider to be “The Father of History,” so I’m not sure if we can verify with any certainty the exact words the sister used 2,600 years ago; (4) “the results of the enquiry carried out by Herodotus of Halicarnassus” (aka The Histories) was one of the subtlest – but most romantic/intriguing – elements to the relationship between Count Almásy and Katharine Clifton in Ondaatje’s The English Patient.

But back to the Quote of the Day!

Somewhere in the ballpark of two and a half millennia ago, Lycophron’s sister is said to have uttered these words about mercy. I’m not sure if she was referring to one person or event in particular, but it’s quite possible she was thinking about her father, otherwise known as the Second Tyrant of the Cypselid dynasty that ruled over Corinth. However, this same tyrant was also considered one of the Seven Sages of Greece, so perhaps he wasn’t all bad and his daughter was just waxing poetic for no special reason.

Either way,  I’m not sure what it was about the Ancient Greeks, but it seems as if they all nailed their aphorisms effortlessly. Like the following conversation, which very well could have been an everyday moment shared between two Greeks:

“Hey, Plasticoratorus, are you going to apply for that job you mentioned?” 

“I haven’t made up my mind yet. Neverthless, let us spare no pains; for nothing comes without trouble; but all that men acquire is got by painstaking. What about you, Socratotalitis? Any plans to do anything but drink wine and carry on with your symposiums?”

“Ha ha, Plasticoratorus. I can sense the irony and envy in your voice. Remember, when men counsel reaosnably, reasonable success ensues; but when in their counsels they reject reason, God does not choose to follow the wanderings of human folies.”

“Well done, Socratotalitis. Your pithy pithism Trumped my circuitous mental aberration.”

In the case of today’s Quote of the Day, Lycophron’s sister was clearly a visionary ahead of her time. Even today in what are arguably the two world’s most powrful countires (America and China) not only is captial punishment still practiced, but these respective governments seem to imprison people with impunity.

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HCC’s First Look Offer: Local Girl Missing

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Do you like reading? Do you like free stuff? Are you Canadian? If you replied yes to all three of these questions, then you should check out @HarperCollinsCa because they have a program called First Look (#HCCFirstLook) in which they periodically give people to an opportunity to read an advance copy of a book.

There are currently 10 copies up for grabs of Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas (@Dougieclaire), author of the award-winning The Sisters. Per the HarperCollins website, here’s a brief summary of the novel:

When Sophie begins to date Leon, Frankie warns her not to be lured in by his sensitivity and startling blue eyes. Frankie sees a dark side to him, but Sophie is smitten. Soon after this romance begins, twenty-one-year-old Sophie vanishes, last seen at the town’s old Victorian pier.

Twenty years later, Frankie receives a call from Sophie’s brother, Daniel, informing her that remains have been found near the old pier. Frankie wonders if it could be Sophie and returns to her hometown to try to finally find closure. But when she arrives, Frankie thinks she sees a woman on the pier late at night, a woman who looks just like Sophie. Could she be seeing her friend’s ghost? Does someone else know what happened those many years ago?

Click on the above First Look link to put your literary hat in the ring for a chance to be one of those 10 lucky Canuck recipients.

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Canada Council Job Openings

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A couple of great job opportunities at the Canada Council for the Arts.

This first one is for the position of Director General, Arts Granting Programs and this second one is for Program Officer, Digital Strategy Fund.

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Dennis Rodman, North Korea & A Fun History Test!

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(Left, Kim thinking, 와~ Mr. 데니즈 is so much tall! Right, Rodman thinking, This is badass Roman! A tiger fighting a lion in front of 100,000 spectators!)

Writing for the @Washington Post, Anna Fifield (@annafifield) had an interesting piece on Dennis Rodman’s recent visit to North Korea, that pernicious, electricity-less, “shrimp stuck between the whales” whose leader seems bent on following his father and grandfather’s trip along North Korea’s very own Highway of Tears (see B.C.’s Highway 16), otherwise known as the One-Way Climb up Mount Purgatory, right past floors one through nine: stubbornness, repentance, pride, envy, wrath, sloth, avariciousness, gluttony and lust.

In an article titled “Dennis Rodman just gave Kim Jong Un ‘The Art of the Deal.’ And it may be a genius move.,” Ms. Fifield, the Post’s Tokyo bureau chief, with a focus on Japan and the two Koreas, concludes her piece by writing, “In fact, thinking about this, maybe it was a genius move for Rodman to give Kim a copy of the president’s book. They might just realize they can get along.”

It’s possible Ms. Fifield is right, but let’s call a spade a spade here. Pretty much every person Donald Trump has hired, appointed or tapped for one purpose or another since entering the Oval Office last January, including (but not limited to) Dennis Rodman, Sean Spicer, Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner and Betsy DeVos, is a combined wreck of trains. Or, to quote a colleague from Ms. Fifield’s own newspaper on January 19, 2017: “Donald Trump has assembled the worst Cabinet in American history.”

Yikes! Them there be fightin’ words.

But I’ll let you, the reader, come to your own conclusion with a FUN! history test. Of the following events in world history, rank them in order of brilliance, from 1 to 5, with 5 being “Thomas Edison having a light bulb moment” and 1 being “Ben Franklin flying a kite with one hand during a thunderstorm, his other hand plunged deep into a toaster (that is miraculously plugged in) and his bare feet in a pool of water.”

a) Dennis Rodman conducting any sort of business on behalf of the U.S., official or not.

b) Napoleon invading Russia in winter.

c) Hitler invading Russia in winter.

d) Neville Chamberlain signing the Munich Agreement in 1938.

e) Electing a president who “does not need to read extensively because he reaches the right decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words ‘common sense,’ because I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability.””

Essentially, I think Ms. Fifield was correct in her estimation that Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un are cut from the same cloth; neither man, for example, would have ever passed Dante’s first rung up Mt. P.

In the end, all megalomaniac ignoramuses will be dangerous toolboxes when allowed out of their toolsheds unfettered. And that’s the part that scares me most.

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Launching a Successful Book Launch

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Launching a launch. Ha ha ha. That’s funny. (NOTE: Sedaris, you got nuttin’ on me! Oh, and I’ll be here all weekend…maybe longer.)

Seriously, though, a book launch is no laughing matter, doubly so if you’re handling it all on your own. If you’re going to do it right, it takes a lot of planning, hard work and – sadly – some dinero. I wrote a bit about the whole thing in a post (YOLO: You Only Launch Once) and more generally through a page on the self-publishing process.

However, Cecilia Lewis (@ceciliaedits) over at Lewis Editorial: Bringing Stories to Life also has some useful advice for indie authors, especially those about to go to their first rodeo, in a post called “7 Tips for a Successful Book Launch.”

I concur with everything Ms. Lewis has to say and would add one thing to No. 7: Celebrate. I’ve done five book launches/signings in two countries and in two languages and I can tell you this: The more formal and structured and icky you make it, the less enjoyable it is for everyone. I think book launches should be run like a good book club; people need to want to be there, not because of the moral imperative (“Come on, Mom! It’s one afternoon away from your underwater crochet class!”; “Bro, like, I’ll buy you that custom back waxing that can skip over your BackAc if you come for at least, like, five minutes.”; “Norma Ray, you’re my best friend in the whole wide world and I promise to teach you how to talk pretty one day just like DSed.”), but because it’s going to be a good time (i.e. free booze), they can meet other interesting human beings (no doucheags in fancy suits or ascots), and if they’re a writer/artist themselves, they can network without looking desperate (sort of an oxymoron, sort of not).

To all those out there about to embark on their first book launch, I wish you all the best. One last piece of advice: Practice signing your name a bunch of times in a row and try not to make it look like chicken scratch the 10th time around (cough), because readers like to show off their signed copies with something legible (cough cough) that does not resemble Chinese characters that got caught in the washing machine on the perma-spin cycle (cough cough cough).

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The O. Henry Prize Stories

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The O. Henry Prize Stories for 2017 have officially been announced. For those who enjoy the art form of the short story, you’re sure to find something you’ll like from this year’s list by clicking here. 

Per Wiki:

“The O. Henry Award is an annual American award given to short stories of exceptional merit. The award is named after the American short story writer, O. Henry. The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories is an annual collection of the year’s twenty best stories published in U.S. and Canadian magazines, written in English.”

Born William Sydney Porter (1862-1910), but better known by his most famous pen name, O. Henry, Porter wrote a boatload of short stories in his day. Among his most well-known works are “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Caballero’s Way.”

While writers like Anton Chekhov and Alice Munro are probably more respected as geniuses of the genre, O. Henry certainly earned his own place in the pantheon of short story authors.

If you want to read some of O. Henry’s goldenest golden nuggets, check out Project Gutenberg, where you can download 19 of his stories for free.

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Barack Obama, Telomeres & Ageless Skin

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In the raging-like-a-bad-case-of-herpes shitstorm that is the hallmark of politics in Washington D.C. right now, it’s comforting to know that the former president has it all figured out: Don’t give a flying **** what the hell is happening out there in the world; undo the top button on your dress shirt; make time to see JT when up in the Great White North; hang with Sir Dick Branson when you feel like it’s “better to be a Virgin member”; and wear cool shades at all times, even at night when you’re secretly pretending to be Corey Hart.

But there’s actually more to looking 50+ Fab if you’re Barack Obama: There are telomeres at play. A lot of telomeres. I’ll let Drake Baer (@drake_baer) explain this in more detail through his post “A Scientific Explanation For Why Barack Obama Looks So Damn Good,” but needless to say President Obama wasn’t just in your class 20 years ago – he was your teacher! (Shout-out to Oil of Olay and the faux Maverick and Charlie on this one.)

All jokes aside, it’s comforting to know that the previous Commander-in-Chief not only has his sanity in tact after eight tough years in office, but that he is enjoying his newfound “retirement” – and looking pretty damn good doing it.

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