Pride Must Be A Place – Rise Up

As novel titles go, I kind of like it. Pride Must Be a Place. I thought it spoke to the struggle my latest main character, Ezra Caine, dealt with in his journey to coming out and being out in his high school. Ezra, along with a couple old friends and some new ones, starts a gay-straight alliance club in his high school. Why? Because he’s had enough of the bullshit. Will Severe has attacked Ezra’s friend Alex Mills one too many times. Sometimes, the only way to have things around you change for the better is to create the platform and environment from which that change can eventually happen.

I think there are some fantastic LGBTQ young adult books in the marketplace today. Quite a few of them are amazing. But…there’s not enough. I think there’s room for more LGBTQ young adult novels. The issues facing young people, both in their high schools and at home, are perhaps better than they were twenty years ago…but they’re not good enough. There is still bullying. There is still homophobia. There is still suffering.

I think a great place to begin a dialogue that will hopefully bring about change in the landscape of the future is through literature. We, as humans, have been doing this for millennia. I have been dealing with YA issues for a few books, now…I thought it was time I tackled this particular issue. Like Ezra, I feel that it’s time for a change.

I wrote about half of Pride Must Be a Place at last month’s Muskoka Novel Marathon. It was my eighth such novel writing marathon. I went in with the hopes of some grand story wherein Lorraine Segato of Parachute Club makes a cameo at the end. I was even able to secure her blessing…not to mention the fact that she gave me some great ideas about what her ‘character’ would potentially do.

But then the inciting incident which would have opened the door for that ending wasn’t as big as it had to be in order to make that happen. As is often the case, the story got away from the idea and it went off on a tangent and changed wildly from the original vision. I had to admit to myself that the place where I brought the story to did not allow for Lorraine’s cameo. And it was going to be a legen–wait for it–dary cameo.

BUT! I did keep to the original vision that had my main character, Ezra Caine, obsessed with the 1983 hit RISE UP. That hit was an anthem for so many groups. It was Pride, though, that latched onto it in a big way. Ezra was called to action mostly because of the hassle his friend Alex was receiving at the hands of the bully, but also because of the power of the lyrics of his favourite song.

I finished the novel at the end of July. I’m excited about it…I haven’t yet had the time to worry over its scars and blemishes. It was one of the easier novels I ever wrote…the message was an easy one to write about. But I did face the most difficult challenge the YA author has when dealing with YA-issue story-lines. What’s that? Writing a novel with a message without beating the reader over the head with the message. People want to be entertained. Nobody wants to pleasure read only to find that they are being lectured to. It’s such a thin line to skate…harder when you’re close to the issue you are writing about.

It’s in the vault now…only time will tell if I treated it correctly.

For now, it’s on to the completion of other projects. I’ve had a lazy year and a half-ish. It’s time to finish the three or four other novels on the table waiting for my attention. With the success of getting this out of my system, I think I’ll be good to go on the next, and the next, and the next. To think…two short months ago I was considering the fact that I might be finished as a writer.

But I still have a few stories left to tell. Pride Must Be a Place is only one of them…

Rise Up – Parachute Club


Goodreads Giveaway for BURN BABY BURN BABY, and MNM Stuff!

Before I give you the information for the Burn Baby Burn Baby paperback giveaway…MNM2015! Yes! It’s almost here, and I cannot wait!

I will never forget my first Muskoka Novel Marathon back in 2007. It seriously sealed my fate as a one-sitting writer. And not just for novels. It’s also how I’ve come to write my plays, and I suppose everything else I pen. Come to think of it, it’s kind of how I live my life.

And before you get on a high horse and begin to tell me nothing that takes a megalithic effort, such as a novel, should be written in one sitting…hear me out. YES…I do make mistakes writing this way. I make huge ugly stupid mistakes. I make mistakes writing a novel in one sitting and I make mistakes running through life at top speed in my live-life-in-one-sitting method too. With life, maybe it’s not so easy to correct the mistakes. Let’s face it, when all is said and done and you’re gasping for your last breath…you probably don’t get to do it all over again and correct the imbalances. BUT…with writing a novel in one sitting YOU DO…YOU DO GET TO FIX IT.

That’s what the rest of the year is for. For anyone who thinks we Muskoka Novel Marathoners write our novels in one weekend and raise to get them up on Amazon, Kobo, and all the other insta-book selling sites, you’re wrong. I spend at least a year kneading the dough of the novel I write during this marathon weekend. I nurture it into shape through careful reading and re-reading. I remove the string of LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLs that accidentally appear on page 182 because it was 3am on Sunday night of the marathon and I fell asleep at the keyboard. I remove the random words that my sleep addled brain accidentally dumped into my manuscript with no rhyme or reason. I edit. I edit. I edit.

I also–truth be told–become acquainted with my manuscript. THIS is the most exciting part. When I do my first read-through of my Muskoka Novel Marathon manuscript, I feel like I’m reading my story for the first time. No…like I’m reading someone else’s words. That’s both a great thing and a bad thing. It’s actually the thing I struggle with the most with this method of novel writing. I don’t feel connected to my work. Not at first. I read it and I keep reading to find out what happens next. Somewhere along the 72 hours that it took me to write it, WILD MIND took over. We do become machines of sorts at the MNM. It’s inevitable. It’s magical, it’s great and it’s disconcerting. We become automatons.

au·tom·a·ton
ôˈtämədən,ôˈtäməˌtän/
noun
plural noun: automatons
  1. a moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being.

Yep. That’s what happens. It’s kind of an out-of-body experience. And when you come back in, after typing all those words on autopilot, you need to reacquaint yourself with the work you created. Or, rather, acquaint yourself.

You could see why this would be both a good and a bad thing. The author needs to be the orchestrator of the story. But you also need to trust your instincts and leave yourself at the starting line. Once story takes over, you should allow it to do so. This is never truer than when you’re writing a novel in a marathon. Instinct is king. Thinking too much is the killer of this method of novel writing. Thankfully, I am a master at the art of disconnection (<< also not entirely a good thing).

Anyway, I just wanted to write a bit on the Muskoka Novel Marathon and the process involved in writing during this monolithic writing weekend in Huntsville, Ontario. I’m getting excited. The mayhem begins in three days!

Again, I will remind my readers that this is in fact a fundraising event. As epic as it is as a retreat for writers, we do actually do this for a worthy cause. 40 writers. 72 hours. 40 novels. Bam! And each of those 40 writers collects donations for the YMCA Simcoe/Muskoka literacy programs. We have collected over $100,000.00 thus far for the literacy cause. No small feat. But the funds are sorely needed…as literacy programs, sadly, are underfunded. So, if you are feeling charitable…and you would like to help writers help readers, please feel free to click on the pic below and jump over to my Canada Helps Giving Page and make a donation. Any amount helps. Together, we can make a difference in the life of a reader:

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Click this pic to be taken to my Giving Page to make your donation. Thank you in advance!

NOW…

The Giveaway!

Burn Baby Burn Baby has been getting amazing reviews. Here’s the synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Francis Fripp’s confidence is practically non-existent since his abusive father drenched him in accelerant and threw a match at him eight years ago.

Now badly scarred, Francis relies on his best friend Trig to protect him from the constant bullying doled out at the hands of his nemesis, Brandon Hayley—the unrelenting boy who gave him the dreaded nickname of Burn Baby.

The new girl at school, Rachel Higgins, is the first to see past Francis’s pariah-inducing scars.

If Brandon’s bullying doesn’t destroy him, Francis might experience life as a normal teenager for the first time in his life. He just has to avoid Brandon and convince himself he’s worthy of Rachel’s attentions.

Sounds easy enough, but Francis himself has a hard time seeing past his scars. And Brandon is getting violently frustrated, as his attempts to bully Francis are constantly thwarted.

Francis is in turmoil as he simultaneously rushes toward his first kiss and a possible violent end.

And some praise for Burn Baby Burn Baby:

I’m putting this book right up there alongside Laurie Halse Anderson’s, TWISTED, and John Green’s, LOOKING FOR ALASKA. Not to be missed. Highly recommended!

I could not put it down. I loved everything about it.

Nice way to start the 2015 reading year :)

What an emotional book. When you read a book like Burn Baby,Burn you can’t help but cry and be grateful if you have never been in that situation. I loved this book…

Burn Baby Burn Baby is a great story about bullying, love and friendship. Definitely one to add to your wishlist.

BURN BABY, BURN BABY pulls you in from the opening pages and doesn’t let go.

This book blew me away. Blew. Me. Away.

Kevin Craig knows how to write teenage boys.

This book is such a gem that I think adults and teens will both love it.

I am so surprised that this book isn’t getting more attention… It is definitely along the lines of The Fault in Our Stars and those other YA books we all love.

To enter to win a paperback copy of BURN BABY BURN BABY, click on the pic below and jump over to GOODREADS and click the ENTER GIVEAWAY BUTTON!

goodreadsGood luck! Contest open to USA and CANADIAN residents. Burn Baby Burn Baby is available wherever books are sold. (-:


We Need to Talk About Finch – ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES (This is NOT a book review)

READ THIS BOOK!

READ THIS BOOK!

Literature, no matter the genre or market, more often than not lifts us…and causes us to think. I never felt this more viscerally than when I read ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven. In my review I think I even mentioned that it’s a wonderful book that could serve to open a much needed dialogue on mental illness and how it pertains to teens.

But I didn’t myself begin that dialogue. That was a bit of a fail on my part.

I’m not one to come at things intellectually, so I won’t do an info dump with lots of percentages and facts. I wander through life heart-first. I can address how All The Bright Places made me feel, and how I related to it. Although the circumstances which brought me there are different, I suppose, than those of Finch’s, I too rode the edge of dying/not dying as a teenager. I too woke up every morning and asked myself, “Is today a good day to die?” This is the first line in the book ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES. And it is literally what I used to think to myself every day. I knew I had to read on. Jennifer Niven captured the ache and turmoil of my youth in that opening line. Verbatim.

Like Finch, the first of the two main character POVs in the book, I struggled. I was actually diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder at one point. But I now believe that diagnosis to be inaccurate. Sometimes we run off the rails because of outside circumstances, not chemical imbalances in the brain. And chemical imbalances come about as a result of the depression we sink into because of these outward negative experiences in our lives. So, though the Bi-Polar diagnosis has never been overturned…it is not something I relate to or accept as my personal truth. When I finally disclosed my childhood trauma and began to work on the PTSD that it caused in me, I realized that it was at the root of everything else. The steps a survivor of childhood sexual abuse takes in order to survive are cataclysmic and scatological at best. They are bad choices made in a fitful panic in order to step forward through the game of life to the next tile. We don’t think long-term. There is no long term. We don’t plan the future, because we cannot imagine one. We just work our way through the maze. One step at a time. We wake up every day and we ask ourselves that important question, “Is today a good day to die?”

We try not to look in the mirror when we brush our teeth and we say, “Is today the day? And if not today–when?”

Finch’s story had me riveted from word one. Niven had somehow captured the life of a teenage boy in turmoil so succinctly that I began to think she might, in some otherworldly way unbeknownst to me, be my biographer. I mean, that’s how creeped out I became while reading this story. I kept thinking, “Oh my god. I’m Finch.” (and it got even worse when friends asked me if I had read the book and THEY said, YOU’RE FINCH!) I knew instinctively that Niven had personally experienced a loss of a teenage boy in turmoil in her past. I was not at all surprised to learn later, after having read the book, that this was indeed the case…that Finch’s character was an homage to a lost boy. She captured it too impeccably not to have first experienced it in real life.

In the end, my story turned out differently than Finch’s. I muddled through somehow. Every time I answered that morning question with, “No, not today,” I lived to see another morning. And on the mornings when I woke up and asked myself that question and responded to myself in the affirmative something always happened to either prevent me from taking my life that day or saving me from the attempt to take it. When you’re living in the trenches, you don’t realize that making it through another day is a good thing. You regret not leaving. Every day, you grow more angry with having to ask yourself that stupid question again… “Is today a good day to die?” Because you’re bitter for not having had the courage to have responded in the affirmative the morning before and actually ended your suffering already. The pain is too much. The segregation from the rest of the world is too much. The hell that you are locked in is a never-ending purgatory of fear and self-loathing.

I picked up ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES to read again because of the Muskoka Novel Marathon I’ll be doing in two weeks. I want to write a book with that much visceral emotion in it. I want to learn more as a writer by reading it one last time before I go in to the belly of the beast for the writing marathon.

But in reading it, I’m realizing it’s not enough to just say, “Oh, this book would be great to open the dialogue for a mental illness struggles in teens discussion.” We should actually discuss it. Every single day, teens are dragging themselves out of bed with that question in their heads and on their tongues. Every day. Everywhere. They might not have had a ghastly childhood trauma such as sexual abuse or physical abuse. They might be dealing with a bully, or bullies, or sexuality issues or gender confusion, or weight issues, or acne, or self-righteous indignation…does it matter? Whatever issue they are dealing with, it is real to them. It is weighing them down and making them feel LESS THAN.

If you have a teen in your life, ask them. Be on point and just ask them how they are feeling. In the middle of the storm of depression, it is extremely hard to hear outside noise. The screams in your mind are enough to block out most other things. What occasionally turns those screams off, or at least adjusts the volume to a liveable level, is concern. Let them know you care. And don’t just do it once. Be insistent and persistent. Love doesn’t always win. But sometimes it does.

Teens are dying. It really is time to open up a dialogue of prevention. One suicide is one too many. When I think of the amount of times I almost didn’t make it, it’s sobering and staggering. So much of the things that now cause extreme joy in my life would have been missed. IT GETS BETTER is a tangible phrase that brings with it a punch. Because if you allow yourself to struggle through the darkness, it well and truly does get better. It’s when we wake up and ask ourselves, “Is today a good day to die?” and there is nobody there to say, “NO!” that we all fail.

Know the signs:

Signs and symptoms of depression in teens can include the following:

  • A sense of hopelessness or sadness
  • Fidgety agitation and restless discomfort
  • Short fuse with anger, irritability
  • Loss of interest in things they were once passionate about
  • A change to the way they eat and/or sleep
  • Change in the way they interact with friends and family members
  • Loss of concentration–which can present as slipping grades
  • Signs that they’ve been crying or appear tearful
  • Showing a general self-worthlessness attitude or extreme unexplainable guilt
  • Lack of joie de vivre—no enthusiasm, motivation, drive
  • Showing signs of unexplained exhaustion…lack of energy. ennui.
  • THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE OR DEATH…ideation around these concepts, possibly even to the point of obsession.

I’m writing this for all the Finch teens out there now. And I’m writing this for the Finch I once was. And I’m writing this for all the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and boyfriends and girlfriends and grandparents and friends of Finch. Don’t let the world take away your Finch. We are all bright lights and we are all bright places. We need to know this. Talk to your loved ones. Don’t allow them to lose sight of their own bright places. Life is beautiful.

“In the end the love you take is equal to the love you make”


NET GALLEY – Download Half Dead & Fully Broken NOW! Trafalgar Approaches!

My publisher, Curiosity Quills Press, has uploaded HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN to Net Galley. Now that Burn Baby Burn Baby has been archived and is no longer available to reviewers on Net Galley, CQ has offered up Half Dead & Fully Broken on the review site for consideration.

cover2500I still love the cover for this one. My favourite colour is orange. (-: And the focus is on the title. Not the first cover rendered, but definitely my favourite. It’s a creation of Eugene Teplitsky’s. He’s not only an amazing cover designer (he is also responsible for the gorgeous Burn Baby Burn Baby cover), but he is also Managing Partner and CTO of Curiosity Quills Press. I have definitely been spoiled!

Here’s the cover blurb for HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN:

Carter Colby is the most unpopular teen at Jefferson High. This would be easier to deal with if his identical twin brother, Marcus, weren’t the hottest, most popular boy in school.

When Marcus is killed in a motorcycle accident, Carter discovers the one thing more painful than trying to compete with Mr. Wonderful: wearing his dead brother’s face. He felt invisible before the accident, but with Marcus dead, everybody turns away from him in mourning. How can he blame them? He can’t bear to look in the mirror.

When Carter begins to see Marcus’ ghost, Mr. Wonderful’s quest to save the world and spread happiness may not be over after all, even in death. Marcus knows that Justin Dewar, the boy who drove the truck that crashed into his motorbike, is struggling with the guilt of taking a life. Melanie, Marcus’ mourning girlfriend, was also hit hard by the tragedy. Marcus wants to make things right before it’s too late.

With Marcus’ help, Carter experiences love and friendship for the first time in his life. But is Mr. Wonderful’s helping hand enough for Carter, Melanie, and Justin – three kids fully broken by the tragedy – to save one another?

For those who take CQ up on their offer, please note that I am currently working on a Book #2 to the CARTER COLBY story. ALIVE & KICKING is almost completed. (-:

Click on the picture below to go directly to NET GALLEY to download the title. That’s correct…no need to click a REQUEST button this time around. You can DOWNLOAD this one right away:

Click this picture to be taken to Net Galley to download a review copy of HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN...

Click this picture to be taken to Net Galley to download a review copy of HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN…

Here’s HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN ON GOODREADS

Here’s HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN ON AMAZON

Half Dead is available wherever paperback or ebooks are sold!


While I have your attention, I wanted to make one more quick mention of TRAFALGAR 24…on this, my last full day of freedom prior to being locked inside the castle!

One of the beautiful sights the castle has to offer to a wandering playwright in the middle of the night...

One of the beautiful sights the castle has to offer to a wandering playwright in the middle of the night…

Tomorrow night will be a sleepless one for me. But being locked inside Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario, has its perks. It’s a beautiful thought-provoking space in which to pen a 10-minute play. I am filled with fear, doubt, anxiety, excitement, joy, wonder, intrigue…you name it. That time before heading to the castle is electric with possibility. I get to SPEND THE NIGHT in the castle. I get to manically write a play that will be performed less than 24 hours after the words are out. It’s such an amazing time…my favourite writing event of the year.

Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, as the sun comes up on a previous Trafalgar 24 all-night playwriting event! The playwrights, like elves, leave the castle at 6am...to make way for the actors and directors...

Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, as the sun comes up on a previous Trafalgar 24 all-night playwriting event! The playwrights, like elves, leave the castle at 6am…to make way for the actors and directors…

If you’re in the market for a fabulous Friday night, you should check out the ticket situation. But be quick…this event sells out every year. Click on the picture below to be taken to the Driftwood Theatre website to buy tickets:

Trafalgar-24-header-2015-wide-fb-759x280Enjoy HALF DEAD!


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