A Short Excerpt from Summer on Fire – A YA Novel

I thought I would post a short bit of the excerpt from Summer on Fire that is up on my publisher’s website. I don’t think I shared one here, yet.

“I just need your help, Sherry. I need to talk some things through and I can’t do it with anybody else. I know I can trust you. You may be an ass sometimes, but I know I can trust you.”

“If that’s not an underhanded compliment, I don’t know what is.”

“It’s all I got,” I said. I got up and headed for the door, knowing she would follow me.

“What’s Jeff up to now?” she asked as we made our way across the parking lot.

I grabbed her hand, stopping her in her tracks.

“This isn’t really everything, but someone was following Jeff and me earlier and we split up and ran through some backyards by his place and I lost him. So now I don’t know where he is.”

“What do you mean, following you? You mean, like—”

“I mean, like in a car. An unmarked police car moving slowly down the street behind us.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“I wish I was. We took off and, well, he’s way faster than me. He was gone and I couldn’t keep up with him.”

“Let’s walk home,” she said, grabbing me and pointing me in the right direction. “There’s no way we can find them just wandering around.”

“Wait. No. I have to make one stop first. You can come with me.”

“Where?”

“I have to go to Arnie’s place, Sherry. I have to see him for a second.”

“Okay, whatever. Let’s just walk.”

“Thanks.”

“You said that wasn’t everything. What else is there?”

“Marty.”

“Damn, Zach. You guys aren’t helping him, are you? Look at me.” She grabbed my collar and shook. “You can’t screw around with him. You know the cops are looking for him. Do you want a record too? Because you know damn well he’s gonna have one as long as his arm before he’s twenty. Stick around him and you’ll have one to match.”

I shook myself free of her weak hold.

“I’m not an idiot, Sherry. We’re careful. He’s turning himself in. He was going to do it last night, but he chickened out.”

“Trust me, Zach. He has no intention of doing the right thing. Ever. I don’t know if you ever noticed, but the guy’s pretty much without a conscience.”

“Well,” I said. “I used to think so too. But he really convinced me last night. I thought for sure he was going to do it. He just needs one more push.”

“Off a cliff, if you ask me.”

To continue reading this excerpt, you can head on over to my page at MuseItUp Publishing. You can purchase a print copy of Summer on Fire at the link, and receive the ebook for free.

You can also purchase Summer on Fire at Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo or Amazon, to name a few places.

Here’s my Summer on Fire Reader Response page, where I’ve collected a lot of the reviews that have come in for the book. If you would like to add a review, or comments, to the page…just let me know.

As I move closer to the release of Sebastian’s Poet, I just thought I would share this info on my first novel. (-:

Summer on Fire can also be found on GOODREADS!

Sebastian’s Poet – Release Details, Excerpt, Synopsis – Save the Date!

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It’s time to start talking about the imminent release of my second novel, SEBASTIAN’S POET. (-: I had a cover reveal a month or so ago. All the edits are complete. The release date has been set! Please SAVE THE DATE!

Here’s the cover blurb for Sebastian’s Poet:

Sebastian Nelson is a boy in search of a family. Abandoned by his mother, Sebastian is left with a broken father who doesn’t even seem present when he does show up. Forced to be the main caregiver of his younger brother, Renee, and lost in a sea of indifference, Sebastian only wants to experience the love a real, stable family could afford him.

One morning he discovers the famous folksinger, Teal Landen, asleep on the sofa. Teal’s nurturing nature brings an immediate sense of security into Sebastian’s tumultuous life. But a dark secret looms between Teal and Sebastian’s father of a hidden past. Sebastian is driven to discover their secret, but also he’s aware of how tenuous their hold on Teal really is. He doesn’t want to lose the feeling of home Teal’s presence has brought him.

If Sebastian pushes too hard, he could lose Teal forever. He could be destined to raise his younger brother alone, while witnessing the total decline of his emotionally devastated father. If Sebastian is abandoned by the only healthy influence in his otherwise shaky existence, he will also be forever in the dark about the secret that will reveal so much about his fractured family.

And, I would like to share a short excerpt here. This excerpt is the one that will be available on my publisher’s website:

Once we were upstairs, away from the glaring eyes of my father, I tried my luck again. “What were you arguing about, Teal?”

“None of your business, my man,” he replied. “Don’t go asking something I already shut you down on. It’s impolite. I wasn’t just appeasing your old man down there, Buddy. I was telling you our business was not your business then and that’s what I’m telling you now. I’ve already had enough dead-end conversations with stubborn Nelsons for one night. Just let the dead rest, Sebby, will ya?”

He left no room for argument. Teal was like that, very determined to have things his way. The discussion was over. We walked Renee to his room and Teal tucked him in while I stood in the doorway, watching and yawning.

“You know,” Teal said, as he picked me up in his arms and carried me to my own bed. He smelled of smoke and beer, and maybe just a lingering hint of women’s perfume. I nuzzled into him; allowed myself to be carried. “Your Dad’s not as bad as you make him out to be. You should give him a break. There’s only one thing worse in the world than a struggling musician and that’s a struggling father. I was a struggling musician for many years. I know about that part. Don’t you think it’s hard for him to find jobs outside music, to put in days doing shit he doesn’t like? Not to mention the other part; raising two kids on his own. I can’t even begin to imagine that part.”

Like usual, I was too young to respond intelligently to his comments. So I didn’t reply. I didn’t believe in what he was saying, but I kept quiet.

“Just be nice, Sebby. He’s like a child around you. I swear you cut him open when you ignore him the way you did tonight. He’s doing the best he can.”

I shrugged into his shoulder, unwilling to concede the ugly truth. Disdain was what he deserved from me. Teal felt the shrug and pulled me into the air away from him, so he could look me in the eye.

“Seb. Your father is broken. He’s had a few too many knocks. It’s hard to get up off the ground when you’ve been thrown to it too many times. You, on the other hand, are a strong boy. I saw that the day I met you. I think that’s why I’m still here. I need you to give him more of what he needs. You have love and heart in spades. Wouldn’t kill you to share some of it with your father.”

These words scared me. They rekindled pangs of loss and anxiety that were festering deep inside of me. I suddenly had the feeling of having failed my mother—of not being enough for her—and now Teal said the same thing might be happening with my father. Then who would I have left?

Sebastian’s Poet was originally written over a 48 hour period, for the 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon. After the marathon, I submitted it to a panel of marathon judges. They gave it the BEST ADULT NOVEL AWARD for the 2007 marathon. Musa Publishing is my publisher. Please note that this novel will only be available as an ebook. If you do not have a Kindle, Kobo, Nook, or ereader of some kind…most have free apps you can download to read ebooks.

If there are ever any giveaway contests or promotions for Sebastian’s Poet, I’ll announce them here. Please SAVE THE DATE! I’m SO looking forward to this one. It’s been an amazing ride bringing Sebastian and his family to life…I can’t wait to share them all with you!

 

In Honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is Thursday April 19, 2012 — Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The following poem was originally published in the print version of Swords for Plowshares, put out by the Phil Berrigan Institute for Nonviolence. It was written in June 2009, shortly after the tragic shooting at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. The poem was simultaneously published electronically on the Institute’s Swords for Plowshares website.

Gunfire at the Holocaust Museum

The tower of faces
still is not enough
to muffle disbelief
and silence
disconnect.
The world must know.
The whispered breath
of what is left of Anne
still is not enough
to stop the spokes
from turning round
and grinding to the ground.
The world must know.
The crematoria doors
kept open just a crack,
the ghetto bridge
spanning distance measured
in silent hollow misery,
these still are not enough.
A list of names rings out,
two on two on twenty-two,
and twenty-two and twenty-two
and on and on,
and still it’s not enough.
A shot rings out
to wipe away
the tortured

used to be
and bring it
slowly creepi
ng back
to live in here and now.

 

Muskoka Novel Marathon – Strategy Schmrategy

There are several gauntlets being thrown down here in Ontario (and maybe even the odd one in Quebec *plunk!* ). Can you hear them? The bravado across the interwebs is building. I’m not above adding my own brouhaha to the mix. It’s all in good fun, right?

In July I head up to Huntsville for my 5th Muskoka Novel Marathon. SO hard to believe I lived through 4 already. This year, the pre-marathon hype seems unusually high. This makes me happy. 30 writers getting together for a long weekend of writing! There’s nothing cooler. What we do it for is EVEN cooler (Ignore that I JUST said there’s nothing cooler in the previous sentence!). Together, we collect sponsorships for our novel marathoning. This year, our goal is to raise $10,000.00 to use in the fight against illiteracy.

Amid the excited scrambling to sign up for the marathon this year, some of the writers have been blogging about the experience. Like Susan Blakeney, who was my ‘coach’ last year—I was unfit for marathoning in 2011, but Susan helped to keep me going (every single time I wanted to throw in the towel and admit defeat!). She went all Mickey (Rocky’s Coach) on me and kept me going when all I wanted to do was sleep.

Sometimes writers need motivation too. Especially when they are writing non-stop for 72 hours. And extra-especially when they came to the marathon completely unprepared and in the middle of their worst bout of insomnia ever.

This year, I will sit near Susan again…if I can. I should keep it on the down-low how awesome she is as a motivational speaker. The competition is crazy this year. Three months before the marathon and all the spaces are already booked.

As a four-time winner of the Best novel Award you would think I would have advice or a strategy of some kind.

You would, in fact, be wrong if you thought so, though.

Here’s a quick list of the strategy I have used thus far.

1. Do NOT prepare.

2. Wander lots. Try not to focus. Sleep on your keyboard.

3. Be annoying. Be a chatty Cathy (with the capability of pulling your own cord—which is difficult to do when the cord is positioned square in the middle of your back!)

4. Wander away from the venue several times–for Nutty Chocolatier visits, Ice Cream Parlour visits, coffee breaks, jay-walking, etc.

5. Eat. Eat. Eat.

6. Listen to music to the point of distraction.

I think that’s about it. Yep…those are the ingredients to a successful novel marathon. Works for me. (-;

My strategy is to have no strategy.

This image clearly outlines my novel marathon strategy. Visualize the horsey as The Nutty Chocolatier and the black pawn as Pat Flewwelling. (-;

Pat Flewwelling’s NINE DAY WONDER site (because it’s not fair that I single her out without also promoting her blog!).

This year, the marathon organizers set fundraising up a little differently. We can still collect donations in meatspace, but there are also online options that each marathoner can set up. Here is a link to my online donation page:

Muskoka Novel Marathon – Writers Helping Readers – Kevin Craig’s Donation Page

(In all seriousness, please consider making a donation to the literacy cause that the novel marathoners are backing. Any size counts. We’re all in this together–All the competition and fun-poking is our silly way of having a good time with this. We are supporting each other through these marathons and we are, more importantly, supporting non-readers…by attempting to take away at least one of the barriers–the financial barrier–that stands between them and literacy. Thank you in advance for your support!)

For those interested, my 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon novel, SEBASTIAN’S POET, which won the Best Adult Novel Award for that year, will be released this coming June by Musa Publishing!

 

Fall & In Here – Poems for Poetry Month

FALL

I taught you the street,
fought you tongue in cheek
for the benefit of movement,
the latitude of kites.

We were a parade
in the cold, a place to go to
when 2am was all the world
could offer. A fight not real,
your twisted steel resolve
how it carried you forward,
made you more
than the street from which you lifted.

I raised you unequivocal,
meant for your feet to dance
onward into night unseen.

your trip was too contagious,
I contemplated melting
at your side,
into sugared winter streets–
The way you made it all romantic,
the dive, the swoon,
your lead balloon.

But I was more than tragic,
I was more than soaring loss
could ever be,
I taught you tongue and cheek,
but forgot to teach you sleek
and beauty,
the latitude you held inside,
of gentle winds and lifting kites,
the beauty of the night.

 

 

In Here

so hushed in here,
the echo of your laugh
will die in here,
even with your wide-eyed
cathedral stare
pumping blood
from my splintered limbs
to my mitted throb,
i cannot hear
your slinking tongue
in here.
enwrapped in your flesh,
a shroud of pink embers
stretched to smother
the cruel intent
of my animal ways,
even so entranced
by these layers inside me,
i cannot hear
your whispered song,
i think i’ll die in here.

Ask Not What the Writing Community Can Do for You

“No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” ~John Donne (1572-1631)

What was true in the 1600s is still true today. If you’re a writer, do your best to get out of the vacuum. They say writing is a solitary act, but ‘they’ didn’t break it down enough. The ‘creation’ stage of writing definitely is a solitary act, unless of course you are co-writing. See—as with everything, there are no absolutes in writing. Once we move away from the act of creation, writing becomes a partnership. With beta readers, with editors, with publishers, with agents, with readers. You are best to start out on your writing path thinking of writing as a community effort. And, yes, I suggest you even include the reader within that vast community. Without a reader, there would be no need to write.

I try to maintain my involvement in both the writing and the reading community. Both online and offline. I have always found that getting involved in my local writing community—by volunteering, participating in smaller writing circles, going to open mic nights, helping other writers by editing or beta-ing their work, etc—has been just as beneficial to me as it is to them. More so. I always feel like I’m growing as a writer if I’m helping another writer.

Writing is a field in which its participants can share in celebrating each others’ accomplishments. It doesn’t have to be a competition. Making something a competition is essentially cutting yourself off from the rest of your peers. Because we know some parts of writing are lonely, we should make that extra effort to get out of our boxes—outside of self—and raise our voices in celebration when our friends and colleagues succeed. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

For me, being a part of a writing community is such a supportive leg-up I feel I’m constantly indebted to the community. I was offered so much advice along the way, mentored freely with no expectation of reciprocal action. Because of this, I am always eager to help someone new. It’s a scary thing to approach a community and ask for permission to enter. Especially if you’re under the misguided assumption the members of that community are islands onto themselves.

Remember this: NO WRITER IS ANISLAND. Nor do writers want to be islands. The next time you’re taking part in a workshop or a writers’ meeting, conference, open mic night, etc…remember you are part of a community that encourages its members to succeed. Network. Your opportunity to talk about writing is right in front of you when you’re in such company. Who else will understand you more than your fellow writers? Remember the time you spend at home, in front of your monitor…all alone with your thoughts and your muse. When you’re in the company of other writers, it’s time to let your hair down. Dig in and do what you can for that community. A few kind words to a shy stranger dipping their toes in the water for the first time might be all that is needed to form a mutually beneficial bond with a fellow writer.

Remember the first time you decided to participate in your local writing community? Were you scared? Nervous? Terrified? I bet someone stepped up and welcomed you in. Now it’s your turn to do the same…