Categories
Camino de Santiago Duet Books Interlude Press The Camino Club Tiny Book Fest

The Tiny Book Fest by Interlude Press and Duet Books! I’m on the LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION Panel!

I’m so excited about this! Interlude Press and Duet Books are having an online BOOK FEST! And I get to participate!

THE TINY BOOK FEST BY INTERLUDE PRESS AND DUET BOOKS is coming! Visit INTERLUDE PRESS BY CLICKING ON THE IMAGE BELOW:

IP/Duet Tiny Book Fest Coming to a Computer Near You April 19 & 26

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Sunday, April 19th and Sunday, April 26th!

I think you’ll find there’s something for everyone. Here’s the schedule from the Interlude Press website:

 

SCHEDULE

SUNDAY, APRIL 19

10 am PT /1 pm ET

FLUFF YEAH!

The authors of the upcoming SHORT STUFF YA anthology talk about the role of feel-good fiction in difficult times.

Moderator: Alysia Constantine, Short Stuff editor
Panel:
Julia Ember, The Seafarer’s Kiss; The Navigator’s Touch
Kate Fierro, Love Starved
Jude Sierra, A Tiny Piece of Something Greater; Idlewild; What It Takes
Tom Wilinsky and Jen Sternick, Snowsisters


11:45 am PT / 2:45 pm ET

JULIAN WINTERS IN CONVERSATION WITH DAHLIA ADLER (LGBTQ READS; His Hideous Heart)


12:45 am PT / 3:45 pm ET

BEHIND THE SCENES: Q&A WITH IP/DUET

Want to know what’s next? How to submit a manuscript? How we’re riding out the current storm? We’re here to share and answer your questions about where we’ve been, where we hope to go, and how we’re going to get there.


1:30 pm PT / 4:30 pm ET

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Every once in a while, you’ll read a book where the setting feels almost like another character in the book. Authors with setting-inspired fiction discuss how the location can set the tone and influence storytelling.

Moderator: Sarah Penna, Co-founder of Frolic Media
Panel:
Kevin Craig, The Camino Club (Duet, October 2020)
Laury A. Egan, The Ungodly Hour
Lilah Suzanne, Tack & Jibe; Jilted
Julian Winters, The Summer of Everything (Duet, September 2020)


SUNDAY, APRIL 26

9 am PT / Noon ET

TURN BACK THE CLOCK: WRITING ACCURATE HISTORICAL FICTION

Whether your novel is set in Ancient Rome or the height of the disco era at Studio 54, writing historical fiction requires detailed research to get the setting right.

Moderator: TBA
Panel:  

Alysia Constantine, LuckMonkey (January 2021)
Carrie Pack, Grrrls on the Side
Amy Stilgenbauer, Sideshow
Laura Stone, Bitter Springs


10:30 am PT/ 2:30 pm ET

CLAIRE RUDY FOSTER, Q&A and READING, SHINE OF THE EVER

A literary mixtape of life, love and queer community in Portland, Oregon, Claire Rudy Foster’s Shine of the Ever was singled out by O Magazine as “Best LGBTQ Books That’ll Change the Literary Landscape in 2019.” Join Foster as they read from this acclaimed short story collection.


12:15 PT/ 3:15 pm ET

C.B. LEE IN CONVERSATION WITH BOOKTUBER MALLORY COHEN (“Mallorayofsunshine”)

1:30 pm PT / 4:30 pm ET

THE COVER UP: THE STORYTELLING ART OF COVER ILLUSTRATION

Award-winning IP Art Director C.B. Messer in conversation with author Julian Winters


3pm PT/ 6pm ET

YA IN SPAAAAAAACE!!: THE MANY WORLDS SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY YA

Space operas! Urban fantasies! Reimagined fairy tales! Science fiction and fantasy are a staple of Young Adult fiction, as well as some of the most popular queer YA reads. Our panel talks about the broad range of SFF- YA, and their places in it.

Moderator: Alex Brown, Tor.com
Panel:
Julia Ember, The Seafarer’s Kiss; The Navigator’s Touch
Kate Hazel Hall, From Darkness (November 2020)
C.B. Lee, The Sidekick Squad Series; Seven Tears at High Tide
F.T. Lukens, The Broken Moon Series; The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic; Monster of the Week

 

I will be participating in the LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION panel, where the authors talk about settings and locations and how they influence story. My upcoming book with DUET BOOKS is THE CAMINO CLUB, which is set on the CAMINO DE SANTIAGO pilgrimage route in SPAIN. The Camino is definitely one of the characters in my novel.

Mark your calendars! Two consecutive Sundays in April.

Go to my NOVELS page to learn more about pre-ordering THE CAMINO CLUB. The paperback, by the way, is currently on sale at BARNES AND NOBLE.

Categories
NYC Midnight Paris Short Fiction Short Story

The Woman Downstairs – A Short Story

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Today, I’m going to share another short story. I wrote this one last year (2019) for the NYC MIDNIGHT SHORT STORY CONTEST. My heat in round one had 3 stipulations. The genre had to be DRAMA, it had to involve PET-SITTING in some form and one of the characters had to be a FIANCEE.

I decided to write a pastiche to Rear Window.

It WON 1st Place in my Round One heat!

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Here’s the feedback I received from one of the judges for THE WOMAN DOWNSTAIRS:

“The writing is top-notch, perfect for the setting. The POV character’s world of the dog and the window reminds me a bit of REAR WINDOW, and the dog is like the cast, keeping her from going out. The drama she watches and the drama she lives come together at the end.”

THEY GOT THE HOMAGE! Yay!!!

Without further ado, here is the story…

THE WOMAN DOWNSTAIRS

“Madame. Pas de cheins,” the waiter says as I sit down. He tsks and points to a sign in the window. It’s of a dog being crossed out by an angry red line. “Go, go. No dogs. S’il vous plait, laissez. Go.”

I thought I would be okay if I sat at the farthest table from the restaurant’s entrance and tied Chewy up to the outside of the fence separating the patio from the sidewalk. I quietly get up, untie Chewy’s leash and make my way along the sidewalk towards Notre-Dame.

I underestimated the strain house-sitting for Stacey would put on me. It sounded like a lovely idea at the time. How could a third-floor walk-up on Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île in Paris not be a dream come true? The apartment is mere steps from Notre-Dame Cathedral and walking distance to most other major sights. Even with her little Yorkie included in the deal, it seemed doable. The dog-sitting was incidental, really. Paris was mine.

Robert was supposed to join me on day three so we could spend the rest of the three weeks together. We needed the little vacation prior to the chaos of our impending wedding. Two and a half weeks in Paris together sounded like perfection, a way to get back on track after our disastrous year. I wanted to show Robert the city, have some fun, and put the past behind us.

Alas, he’d have to actually show up for that to happen.

I take Chewy to the little parkette behind the cathedral and sit down at one of its many benches. It’s a perfect place to feel sorry for myself, complete with gargoyles glaring down disapprovingly from above. With no breakfast in my belly and no Robert at my side, my misery is complete.

I pick Chewy up and smother him in kisses. He rubs his face against my cheek and I’m reminded I’ve gone another day without makeup. I never go anywhere without it. I blame Robert. It’s my eighth day in Paris and I’m still alone. It’s my favorite city in the world and because of him, I’m miserable. Every day brings another excuse, another delay in his arrival.

After festering in the shadows of the cathedral for a few minutes, I place Chewy on the ground and we head back to the apartment.

Once inside, I return to Stacey’s kitchen window. The only habit I’ve picked up since my arrival has nothing to do with the city sights. I’ve become fascinated with the woman downstairs, a strange once pretty woman who wears nothing but a graying white camisole that barely conceals her morbidly obese body. Thank God she never looks up. When I originally told Robert about Downstairs Lady, I gave her the name Fanny-Mae. I can be so cruel sometimes. Robert and I did that thing where we create fantasy worlds for the unsuspecting quirky characters we stumble upon. We give them names, spouses, children, problems and dreams. Backstory.

I played our little game over texts this time around. I couldn’t bring myself to send Robert a discreetly stolen snapshot like I usually do, though. Downstairs Lady is different. Taking her picture would somehow steal her soul, her inescapable beauty. I couldn’t insult her honor that way. When I tried to explain this to Robert, he asked if I was okay. “Are you taking your pills?” “You need to stop obsessing over this lady.”

I promised I was taking the pills I never once opened and he promised he’d soon join me in Paris. Our lies canceled each other out.

Stacey’s window looks into Downstairs Lady’s dining room window, where she’s trapped in an over-sized hospital bed in a room not designed for beds. Through her casement windows, which are left open day and night, I can make out the bottom of an ornate chandelier that hangs above her bed. Being in a circular courtyard, our windows are extremely close to each other. I can even catch whispers of conversation.

She eats relentlessly while watching black and white movies on a small TV. She leans up on one elbow and fills her face with the endless supply of food her gorgeous dark-skinned French lover brings to her bed. He’s always cooing sweet nothings in a sexy voice filled with longing. Mon petit ange, mon amour, mon tendre. I decided to call him Henri. I melt each time Henri enters the little vignette the window allows me, or opens his mouth to coo. What must it be like to have his kind of love? I adore how she owns it and how she unapologetically lounges about, erotically certain of her powers. She could lead a revolution. This is why I changed her name to Belle days ago.

I fill Robert in on Belle’s daily food consumption, while I myself forget to eat. I only break my vigil at the window long enough to drag Chewy throughout the streets of this little island. And I speak only when Chewy’s neighborhood fans stop us in the street to worship his undeniable cuteness.

Robert assesses me with each text I send, evaluates my mental state with each of our infrequent calls. I know I’m slipping, but can’t stop it. I struggle between over-exaggerating my fall and disguising its depths. Which side of the scale will bring him to me quicker and which will push him away?

The constant silence reminds me I’m shutting down. Robert calls this Phase One. “I know it’s bad when you stop talking.” I’ve been startled by the sound of my own voice lately, after going hours at a time without hearing it at all. He suggests bike rides and jogging as possible remedies, but this would be a moot point if he would simply join me in Paris. That would solve everything. I think.

***

“Hello?” I say into my cell as I struggle to gain my bearings. My screen reads five-thirty a.m.? He’s done it again. My twelfth day in Paris and he still can’t get the time zones right. “Robert? It’s not that difficult. You’re six hours behind.”

“Emma, I’m sorry,” he says. He sounds overly animated, like he’s been drinking. “I forgot.”

“Why are you awake? It’s…” I do the math. “It’s almost midnight there. You’re never up this late when you’re working.” There’s a din of muffled voices and laughter about him, accompanied by the pounding bass of dance music. “Where are you?”

“Sorry, baby,” he slurs. “I miss you.”

“Robert, hang up. That’s so rude,” says an unfamiliar woman’s voice in the background. There’s a rustle as his phone is jostled.

“Robert,” I say, now fully awake and sitting up. Chewy eyes me with suspicion from the foot of the bed. “Who’s there? Where are you?”

“Just out for drinks with a few guys from the office, Em. Crazy day. We needed a reprieve.”

“Robbie, come back to the party. I’ll smash that phone if you don’t hang—”

The ambient noise cuts off, along with my connection to Robert. I place my cell back on its charger and try not to think about what just happened, try not to think about his cheating or how it led me to my last breakdown.

My head drops onto my pillow and I turn away from the glaring moonlight streaming in through the un-curtained windows. I need more sleep but within minutes Chewy is in my face, licking and whining. He’s been awakened too early and won’t be appeased until he does his business.

Once dressed, I carry Chewy down the spiral staircase to the ground floor. I forego the inner courtyard for an opportunity to explore the awakening city. We make our way through the alleyway that leads to the narrow street and I wrestle with the large creaky door that separates the two worlds.

Finally, something I can love the way Henri obviously loves Belle. Paris. In my gloom, I’ve forgotten how enchanting Rue Saint-Louis can be, and how it comes slowly to life in the mornings. The street cleaners make their way up the sidewalks, spraying down everything in their wake to wash away yesterday’s layers of grime. Tiny delivery trucks crawl up the roadway, dropping off goods to the local stores before the impossibly narrow street becomes too congested for them. Shop doors open and entryways are swept clean.

Chewy offers a few reticent yelps to the street’s interlopers while I attempt to push Robert’s phone call from my mind. His past cheating fills my head and my heart begins to race with the panic of a new certainty. He’s doing it again.

We walk towards the cathedral and make a left at the next footbridge in order to head down for a walk along the Seine. The sky plums above us and I decide we should see the sunrise, now that we’re out in its beginnings. My beautiful Paris.

As I descend the stairs to the path along the river, my cell goes off again. I look at the display. Round Two.

“I’m sorry,” Robert says. “I know how that probably sounded. I’m home now and ready for bed. I don’t want you to think—”

“What am I supposed to think, Robert?” I try to sound level, but it’s impossible. “That history doesn’t have a way of repeating itself?”

“It’s not what you think,” he says, panic slipping into his voice. Panic, with a side of irritation. “You have to trust me. This isn’t fair.”

Come, goddammit,” I say. “If you want to prove something to me, put me first. Put everything else aside and join me in Paris like we planned.”

“I can’t, Emma,” he says. “It’s not that easy. It’s such a bad time here. We can’t seem to get ahead of—”

“Liar. It didn’t sound like you were having a bad time when you woke me up earlier. Were you at the Black Stallion again? Getting your fill?”

“Jesus, Em. Between your paranoia with my imaginary flings and this woman you’re obsessing over in the window, you have no room for anything else. You’re slipping again. Why would I want to go there just to hear more of this? We can trade insults over the phone.”

“Imaginary flings? Really?” I ask. I stop walking. Chewy glances up at me with what looks like concern. I take a seat at a nearby bench and Chewy settles in at my feet. “Cheryl was not a figment of my imagination, Robert. Why are you doing this? I’m your fiancée. We’re getting married in two months. Please put your ‘work’ aside for one hot minute and come? It’s Paris, for God’s sake. No one should need to be convinced to come to Paris.”

The inflection I place on the word work has the desired effect. He runs with it.

“Stop accusing me of cheating. It was one time. I’ve apologized. I can’t do anything else to prove my dedication to—”

I disconnect, put my phone on silent and slip it into my purse. The sun has somehow risen without me noticing. I get up and make my way back to the apartment with Chewy. It’s almost time for Belle to begin her day. I love the way Henri interacts with her. It reminds me that love and tenderness still exist in the world. Perhaps their intimacy had something to do with me renaming her Belle. She is loved and beautiful to him.

This woman won’t leave my head. I can’t believe Stacey never mentioned her. There’s heartache and happiness happening right outside her window and she’s never once mentioned it to me. Perhaps she hoards it as her own little secret proof that beauty exists.

***

Chewy stirs me from my sleep with a low grade constant growl, a sound I haven’t heard in all of our two weeks together. There’s a ruckus in the courtyard below my open window and it’s lit like a fairground down there, enough to fill my room with a soft glow.

I scoop Chewy up and move to the window. The courtyard is filled with firemen, police, and EMTs. They make frantic gestures and speak in super-fast French I wouldn’t even be able to comprehend if I had polished up on my high school French prior to coming to France. The scene is chaotic and their conversation is in a state of escalation. I think of Belle and bring my gaze back up to her window.

More EMTs and firemen. My heart sinks. This can’t be. She’s hidden behind the swarm squeezed about her inside the tiny room. Some work on her as others look around the room and out the window to the crowd of first responders gathered below. They all appear helpless, lost.

Henri storms into the room, desperate, hands flailing. I can hear snips and bits of his words. Enough to feel his love on fire. Through tears, he tells them she is beautiful, asks them to be gentle and tells them she is loved. This much French I can piece together from the little I know.

Chewy’s urgent barks cause all heads to turn in my direction and I’m finally discovered. I scurry away from the window, humiliated, and prepare to take Chewy outside. Making my way through the commotion of the courtyard, I have to walk past the first responders who only moments ago caught me ogling. The sting of my humiliation heats my cheeks. I’m relieved to escape to the street, even though I’m terrified for Belle and desperately want to know what’s happened.

I walk for hours, barely able to keep myself together. Chewy steals glances my way, silently pleading with me to end our walk and take him home. But I can’t go back. I don’t want to know.

My cell rings. Despite seeing Robert’s name on my screen, I answer it.

“Emma?”

“I can’t do this, Robert.”

“I’m at the airport, Em. I came. I’m in Paris. I just landed.”

Now he comes?

“I think she might be dead,” I say, ignoring his statement.

He sighs and I know Henri would never be this exasperated with Belle. He’d have endless patience. “I’m on my way. Okay?”

“I can’t go back there. I can’t see that bed empty.” My words stop me in my tracks and niggle at my mind. They ignite something inside me, but I can’t quite grasp what it is. I bend to pick up Chewy and realize how spent he is. His panting fuels my guilt.

Frozen amid the busy sidewalk, I cuddle Chewy for dear life as the true meaning of my words sharpens into focus. Robert is the there I can’t go back to. Our empty bed is the one I can’t bear to see again. Our time apart has clarified what I knew all along.

“Tell me where you are. I’ll find you.”

“No,” I say. “I’m in Paris. You can’t have it. Paris is mine.” He groans in palpable frustration. But I finally realize it’s too late for us. “Goodbye, Robert.”

I shut down my phone to remove his ability to argue. With Chewy in my arms, I run all the way back to Rue Saint-Louis. I need to know.

THE END

Categories
Duet Books Interlude Press LGBT Teen Fiction LGBTQ LGBTQ Fiction The Camino Club

The Camino Club Cover and Buy Links

The cover of THE CAMINO CLUB was revealed earlier this week and I am 100% in love with it. Not only did CB Messer capture the beauty of the Milky Way in this cover, but they also nailed the Camino vibe with stamps, arrows, shells, backpacks, and footprints. This cover IS the Camino de Santiago! I could not possibly be happier!

You can head over to CB MESSER to see other gorgeous CB Messer covers and illustrations.

See the cover reveal at LGBTQ READS. There’s an excerpt from The Camino Club at the link as well: THE CAMINO CLUB COVER REVEAL AND EXCERPT AT LGBTQ READS!

Before I drop all the purchase links for places you can go to pre-order The Camino Club, I just wanted to add that the stamps in the background of this cover are the actual stamps Michael and I collected on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain last September when we walked the route to Santiago de Compostela. One of the things pilgrims do is carry a stamp book with them on their journey. They get stamps at churches, restaurants, hotels, hostels, albergues, etc…to prove that they have made the journey. Once they get to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, their stamp books are verified prior to them receiving the compostela (certificate) which states that they have walked the pilgrim’s path. MY STAMPS ARE LITERALLY ON THE COVER!!

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Here’s where you can pick up your pre-ordered copy of THE CAMINO CLUB:

THE CAMINO CLUB – After getting in trouble with the law, six wayward teens are given an ultimatum: serve time in juvenile detention for their crimes, or walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route across Spain over the summer holidays with a pair of court-appointed counselor guides. When it becomes clear the long walk isn’t really all that much of an option, they set out on a journey that will either make or break who they are and who they are to become.

USA PRE-ORDER LINK: THE CAMINO CLUB

CANADA PRE-ORDER LINK: THE CAMINO CLUB

INDIEBOUND BOOKS PRE-ORDER LINK: THE CAMINO CLUB

BARNES & NOBLE PRE-ORDER LINK: THE CAMINO CLUB

BOOKSHOP PRE-ORDER LINK: THE CAMINO CLUB

BOOK DEPOSITORY PRE-ORDER LINK: THE CAMINO CLUB

PRE-ORDER DIRECT FROM INTERLUDE PRESS (In this link, find out how you can pre-order the paperback and get the ebook package for free: THE CAMINO CLUB

I made a playlist for this novel. Songs I listened to while I wrote it. It’s on SPOTIFY.

Listen to THE CAMINO CLUB playlist on SPOTIFY!

Categories
Camino de Santiago On Writing The Camino Club

Writing With a Goal But Not A Plan – The Camino Club

I don’t know if this happens with all writers or not, but I’m not all writers. I firmly believe we each have to find our own way. There is no one path. There are, in fact, as many paths as there are people who write. The trick is to NOT fall into the belief that you must choose a path in order to write. Writing is meandering.

When I set out to write my upcoming release THE CAMINO CLUB, I did so with a goal. I also set out without a single solitary plan to help me achieve that final goal. I find that if I plan things, they basically don’t come to fruition. I get trapped in the details of the plan and my feet remain firmly in place, trapped in the quagmire of my own little labyrinth of ideas.

I need a leap of faith.

To say I didn’t plan the novel is not to say I didn’t put obstacles in my path to help me achieve the final goal. Of course I did. I threw myself into the original kernel of an idea, hoping (knowing) that it would eventually bear fruit.

I boarded a plane and I went to Spain.

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I made things a bit of a fairy tale. I romanticized the idea and kept my eye on the prize. I sang little snippets of Elton John in my head while I watched reruns of Will & Grace on the little in-flight screen on the seat-back in front of me while we cruised over the Atlantic Ocean.

Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane
I can see the red tail lights heading for Spain
Oh and I can see Daniel waving goodbye
God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes
They say Spain is pretty, though I’ve never been
Well Daniel says it’s the best place that he’s ever seen
Oh and he should know, he’s been there enough
Lord I miss Daniel, oh I miss him so much
It was a long flight. And, hey…I was heading for Spain. I visualized the tail lights getting smaller and smaller in the distance and eventually fading away. But, hey! I was Daniel. I was heading to Spain with one goal. Walk across the country and see what happens, see if inspiration hit.
Although The Breakfast Club is now in a clump of 80s teen movies that are atrociously problematic, it’s also a movie from my teen years. We watched all the Brat Pack movies. We saw ourselves in some of the characters. We felt their angst.
I wanted to honor the good idea of The Breakfast Club, but supplant it into NOW. I wanted the bad kids to get together for more than a Saturday in a school library. I wanted them trapped with each other for a longer period of time, in a setting that was new and scary and, yes, even undesirable to most of them. I wanted them to be forced into depending on one another, actually getting to know one another. I envisioned The Breakfast Club where they don’t become shitty to each other the following Monday when they see each other in the school halls again and ignore each other or continue to bully each other and look down on each other.
I wanted to shake up the boundaries. The lesson of The Breakfast Club, at its heart, was a good one. Here’s Exhibit A:
letter
The lesson is that we are not just one identifier. We can all be all the things. Not only do people sometimes only see us as one element of our own selves…our lowest common denominator, but sometimes that’s even how we see ourselves. But when we break the barriers and work together, we can find that we have more in common than we thought we did. It’s a struggle to pinpoint what qualifier you identify with when you only get to choose one. We are all a myriad of things, and we are always changing.
I wanted to put six teens into an inescapable situation where it was even a little bit possible that they would grow from the experience, walk away with meaningful memories and friendships.
But I didn’t know how to write the story. I only knew what I wanted it to look like when it was finished.
When I started my own Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, the path to the end of the novel sort of opened up to me while my feet moved steadily in the direction of Santiago de Compostela and the church at the end of the long walk across Spain.
Different people came into my life each day. They each had different lessons for me, different insights. I paid attention. Although I had planned on writing things down along the way–maybe even starting the novel–I didn’t. Something else began to happen. I became more and more immersed in a special culture that happens out there on the path to Santiago. I opened up. I blossomed. And all those around me began to open up also. Just as the fields of poppies exploded into an undulating sea of red, our hearts began to open and magic began to happen.
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I met people on the Camino who made their way into my narrative. And I met people who magically had insights for the direction of my novel without having known my intentions to write it. Like the two sisters from the UK who had planned to take their two daughters on the Camino for a summer vacation. But they were walking with three teens, not just two. Obviously, I was a bit puzzled.
The women finally opened up to me about how they didn’t tell the one woman’s son he was going on the pilgrimage until he was at the airport. He had, in fact, envisioned a summer in his dark basement playing video games all day long…thrilled to be free of his mother and sister for a few weeks.
The two women laughed when they told this story, but in a conspiratorial guilty way. They explained how fit-to-be-tied the boy was when he discovered their evil plan. I couldn’t believe anyone would actually do something like that. The boy–who was practically skipping in the dirt up ahead of us as we walked and talked–had vowed to make the trip a living hell of misery for all four of the other pilgrims. And for a day he did just that. He made them regret life itself.
THIS is how I envisioned my juvenile delinquents. They would HATE the idea and they would kick and scream all the way to Spain. The women were telling me a story that was helping to fuel my vision. And what really played into my novel’s idea was what the women told me next…about what happened after that first miserable day of living on the road with a hostile teen-aged boy’s anger.
By day two the biggest fan of the Camino de Santiago in that whole group of five was the boy. He had forgotten about video games and the horrible ruse his mother and aunt had played on him. He had immersed himself fully into walking. He had begun to change and blossom. My idea was at least beginning to resemble actual real-life experience.
Then I met a man from France who turned out to be a surprise element in the story I would later tell. The man could hold court wherever he went. He was sort of like a pied piper on the Camino. When he spoke, other pilgrims gathered round, listened in, became a part of the conversation. At first, I didn’t immediately recognize that I needed someone like him in my story. HOW THE HELL could I justify having an old man in a young adult novel?! It would never work.
Then I thought about the Camino vibe. The whole THE CAMINO PROVIDES chant. You look for something, and the Camino delivers it to you. It happened all along the path. Everyone had a story about how they would think on something and somewhere along their day’s walking they would come up with an answer, a gift, a bit of wisdom. The Camino is a long chain that stretches across an entire country…and it’s a radio frequency. Once you’re on it, you’re tuned in. The camaraderie is strong, palpable. The Camino offered up this incredibly charismatic man named Claude to me. It was a gift. It was as though the Camino itself had whispered in my ear, “Here is one of your characters!”
My first reaction was, “YOU’RE CRAZY!” Until it made sense.
Just because Mr. Vernon was a steaming pile of shit who lost all respect, goodwill and kindness for the teenagers in his life, it didn’t mean all the adults in the world were like him. Some adults can be role models. And some can even learn from the teens in their lives. Claude was my Camino gift…one of many.
I came home from Spain with a full novel, unwritten. It would take me almost two years to even write the first word. But those two years were spent watching the movie of the novel form in my mind’s eye. It played out in a few different ways before I finally committed myself to set it in stone on paper. I hope I did a good job. I went in with the best of intentions and a whole lot of the Camino Spirit that I had come home with at the end of my own pilgrimage.
You can find out what happened to the 6 teens in my story on October 6th!
Diego
Shania
Troy
Manny
Claire
Greg
They all committed crimes. They all were given the choice of incarceration or the Get Out Of Jail Free card of participating in THE WALK program. They all either chose to walk the Camino, or were forced into this option by their parents. For the most part they went to Spain with bees in their bonnets, unhappy about losing a portion of their summer vacation to a stupid court appointment walk across a frigging county. I mean, yeah…Troy was happy about seeing a new country. But the rest were pretty much hostile.
THE CAMINO CLUB is told in three POVs, with alternating chapters. Diego, Shania, and Troy tell the story. But it’s all of their stories. Whether or not they ALL make it to the church in Santiago de Compostela remains to be seen. But they’re all in for the adventure of their lives.
This book came to me in a dream, the loveliest dream I ever had. In it, I walked across an entire country and I met the most beautiful of souls. My hope is that the story I created with the Camino backdrop strikes a chord with readers.
It worked this time around. I had a goal in mind and ZERO plan for how I would make it happen. I took a leap…a really big one. Writers…we need to have a lot of faith, don’t we? Sometimes we even need to take REALLY LONG walks before the story comes to us. I took a walk…and I hope you’ll take one with me…
THE CAMINO CLUB IS ALREADY AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER. The cover reveal is coming very soon! I can’t wait for you all to see it.
Categories
On Writing Paris

Paris – ‘Research’ in the Wandering City of Light

Someone asked me recently if I did research, and if so…how much and in what way. Like a lying liar I said, “Nah…I just make shit up.”

It was only after I gave that off the cuff reply that I realized I do research every single time I go away. I research places…I find new settings. Travel is my research.

I first met Paris in the Springtime. Oh, what a beautiful time of the year to see such a gorgeous city come alive.

There’s something about beginning a slow wander from the courtyard of the Louvre, taking the Tuileries through to the base of Champs-Élysées, and wandering all the way up the boulevard to the Arc de Triomphe.

And climbing that spiral staircase and stepping outside at the top of the Arc. (YES…the last time I climbed this staircase, it was a mere couple weeks after my first Camino pilgrimage and I did see a seashell formation when I looked down the staircase from above! It all relates…)

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Oh, to see the streets breaking away in an almost wheel from the spoke of the Arc. The lush spring greenery! The buzz of the traffic and the crowds below marching up and down the Champs. It’s just…it’s a place in my heart, that wander.

And it’s such a small portion of the city, really. A couple kilometres at most. And so lovely that one can see the Eiffel Tower in the near distance, like a gift ready to be opened, like a sentinel watching over the city…and the trees crowding the thoroughfares, nesting it all in a quaint little aura of hushed tones.

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The Eiffel Tower, as seen from the top of the Arc de Triomphe (May 2014)

We’re returning to the city of lights and love. Paris in September, I am sure, will have such a different but equally magical vibe. I tend to think of it as a city of wandering. What city is better to walk in, explore, get lost in? It’s like it was made for lazy afternoon strolls and meanderings.

There is the slightly crippled cathedral, and the pretty walkabouts of the Seine. Shakespeare and Company in the shadow of Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris…just waiting to be explored…the smell of old books and older legends wafting through the air like a literary elixir summoning all those wanderers who love the written word.

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And I can’t forget Montmartre the village in the heart of the city. A day trip for sure! For the views of the city from Sacré-Cœur alone, it is worth the trip!

Also, I have such fond memories of writing with my fellow LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT participants in Luxembourg Gardens in the shadow of the Luxembourg Palace! I will have to revisit!

We’ll be heading to some of the sights I didn’t quite make it to on my first visit. Like Père Lachaise Cemetery and the Catacombes de Paris. And hopefully Monet’s Garden and even Palace of Versailles for a day trip. We shall see.

This will be a walking holiday…a wandering meandering outdoor adventure. THIS WILL ALSO VERY MUCH BE A RESEARCH TRIP. I plan on keeping a journal. I have set so many short stories in Paris, but never a novel. It is something I wish to do…though I don’t feel quite familiar enough with the landscape to tackle it as of yet. After this trip, I hope to attempt it. I already feel like Paris is MY city. I imagine most who visit Paris have that feeling of belonging that I experienced the moment I first set foot in Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île. I knew right away it had my heart.

Do I research? Nah. I just make shit up. But in the near future, I hope to have a novel where all the made up shit takes place in Paris.

See you in September my dear city…

Categories
Book Giveaway Pride Must Be A Place

#IReadCanadian – A Giveaway!

Today (Wednesday February 19th, 2020) is #IReadCanadian Day!

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To explain the idea behind I READ CANADIAN, here’s a screenshot from the I READ CANADIAN WEBSITE:

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I have lived in and around Toronto, Ontario for all of my 53 years. I checked with the judges, and apparently this makes me CANADIAN. I also happen to be an author. ERGO…if you read MY books, you are in fact READING CANADIAN.

I thought I would give a quick description of TWO of my books with links so you can check them out. You can read the synopses in the links, so I’ll just give a quick picture for each here.

Two of my books are with a small publisher in Montreal, Quebec called MuseItUp:

IMG_20151118_144656SUMMER ON FIRE: This is the story of three friends who do something very idiotic. The thing they do–accidentally set fire to a barn–sets off a chain reaction that includes broken limbs, bodies, lies, the testing of friendships and the complicated relationships of siblings that don’t like each other but still feel the bonds and pulls of loyalty.

SUMMER ON FIRE is currently on sale for around $1.

SUMMER ON FIRE USA AMAZON

SUMMER ON FIRE CANADA AMAZON

 

IMG_eq0dsbPRIDE MUST BE A PLACE – Ezra is extremely pissed that homophobia still exists in his school, especially since his best friend Alex always finds himself the target of it. The two, along with Ezra’s other BFF Netty, form a Gay Straight Alliance. But this story is also about the complicated relationships that occur when you become close with someone just because they’re the same as you. Ezra and Alex formed their friendship around their sexuality…not because they shared the same values.

PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE USA AMAZON

PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE CANADA AMAZON

My other novels were with publishers who have since closed their doors. They are still available and you can find them on Amazon. HERE IS MY AUTHOR PAGE ON AMAZON

sebastians-poetBefore the details of the giveaway, I wanted to point out that SEBASTIAN’S POET is definitely the most CANADIAN of all my books. It takes place in Toronto’s Beaches District in the 1970s. It focuses on Sebastian, a young boy who is mostly neglected by his father and abandoned by his mother. A folksinger comes into his life and changes it forever. The folksinger is based on LEONARD COHEN. There’s a cameo appearance by Gordon Lightfoot. It’s set in Canada and it is ALL Canada. It’s my homage to Cohen and to the Beaches.

SEBASTIAN’S POET USA AMAZON

SEBASTIAN’S POET CANADA AMAZON

 

The Giveaway. It’s over on TWITTER so you’ll have to go find MY PROFILE over there (Hint—the words MY PROFILE in that sentence are linked to my profile. Just click the link).

Just FOLLOW and RETWEET the tweet about the giveaway. That’s the whole thing…all you have to do to enter. The PRIZE? One paperback copy of PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE…delivered to anywhere in North America. (-:

 

Categories
Camino de Santiago On Writing Writers Writing Life Writing Program Writing Retreat

Author Life Month – Dream Retreat – Camino de Santiago

If you’re an author/writer and you’re over on Instagram, you may be familiar with #AuthorLifeMonth This is a one-month prompt based daily photo challenge for writers, created by @missdahlelama

Yesterday’s challenge (Day 17) was DREAM EVENT OR RETREAT. Though I didn’t focus on the one I’ve been imagining for the past 5 years, I was surprised to see that one of the other writers DID.

The idea that has been brewing in my head ever since the spring of 2014 is something I didn’t realize others would be considering. But then, I can also imagine every writer who ever walked the Camino de Santiago imagining taking part in a WALKING WRITING RETREAT on the Camino. It just makes sense. So, I was shocked, but not shocked to see it come up in the DREAM EVENT OR RETREAT day on Instagram.

It’s. The. Perfect. Marriage. I. Swear. To. God.

What I have been envisioning is a pilgrimage slash writing retreat that begins in PONFERRADA. Because writers would SUPER dig waking up on their first morning on the Camino with a view to Castillo de los Templarios (a literal castle of the Templars). I mean, come on!

This castle is the thing that dreams are made of. To start at the castle, with a group of 8 to 10 writers…it would be magical.

So, I would suggest a two week pilgrimage…but over an amount of land that would normally take a few days less. Because every day we would meander, walk a shorter distance than is normally walked by pilgrims. We would stop to write in open fields and on mountaintops, have picnic lunches in pastures, with food bought in little shops from small villages we stopped in along the way. We would eat our meals together, talk shop as much as possible…and enshroud the whole Camino experience into the writing prompts and exercises.

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With Connie. Camino de Santiago, Spain. 2014. A picnic along The Way…

I guess I’m not surprised by the fact that another writer has the same dream as me. I have always seen WALKING and WRITING as perfect compliments to each other. Walking embraces creativity in ways that standing still cannot. We think when we walk, we parse, we ponder, we roam in our own headspace. For writers, that’s such a luxury. I work out so many things in my writing projects while walking. To come up with an idea that incorporates both writing and walking is really a no-brainer. If a writer walks the Camino, they probably come up with this idea as a matter of course.

After coming home from my first Camino, I wrote a novel set on the ancient pilgrimage route. It’s now up for PREORDER on AMAZON. The Camino is fuel for creativity. There’s no denying it. I think other writers would experience the same phenomenon. It fuels your writing life!

WALK & WRITE ALONG THE WAY – A WRITING RETREAT ON THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO

-14 days in Spain on the Camino de Santiago

-From Ponferrada to Santiago de Compostela

-Days of walking and writing filled with prompts and exercises to enliven the imagination

-beautiful landscapes, incredible meals, the camaraderie of fellow creatives

-walk into Santiago de Compostela with notebooks filled with new words you wrote along the way

-Fiction, non-fiction, memoir—it works for any type of writing you’d like to explore

This idea literally sells itself.

Who’s with me?!

Categories
Gay YA On Writing Young Adult Fiction

Non-Binary in YA Fiction? Okay, But Only to a Point Please…

With all my Camino de Santiago talk, I’m afraid readers of this blog may begin to suspect that I’m a little bit obsessed. That’s okay. I actually am. And even more obsessed now that my novel, THE CAMINO CLUB, which is set on the Camino de Santiago, has a release date and is currently up for pre-order on Amazon. Obsessed and excited.

But if you think I can’t talk about–or write about–anything else, you’d be mistaken. 🙂

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PLEASE FORGIVE THIS DIGRESSION—>The bookmark above was given to the participants of the 2019 Muskoka Novel Marathon. The back was left blank. My friend and fellow MNM participant, Colum, took my bookmark down into town and got it engraved with my WIP novel’s title, NO VISIBLE DAMAGE. I LOVE that Colum did this for me! The working title was THE ÉPOQUE OF ETHAN…named after the title of one of the character’s blog. But I had an aha moment while at the marathon. One of the characters did, actually. They dropped their laptop and looked at it and said something like, “No visible damage. Hey, that would be a great name for a band.” I was relating that story to Colum. His immediate reaction, based on what he knew about my novel, was, “THAT WOULD BE AN AWESOME TITLE FOR THE BOOK.” And so the title switch was born. He sealed the deal with the lovely gesture above.

/digression

Today, I’m at the point with my next novel where I begin to question EVERYTHING about it. I’ve shared portions of it with various beta readers, friends, fellow writers, etc. I’m at the point where it seems I need to pick my battles and find a hill to either die on or abandon. I’m at a crossroads. I’m confused. I’m uncertain. And I feel like I’m fighting for my non-binary character. And others like them.

The push-back on this novel has been strong. Don’t get me wrong…everyone was fully supportive. To a one, every reader thought it was a great idea to have a non-binary character. They all agreed that representation mattered…that having a non-binary character in a YA would be good. They envisioned potential young readers finding themselves in the story. It was celebrated with each reader.

For the most part, however, there was an issue with the non-binary narrator’s refusal to use gendered pronouns. It was mostly a consensus. It was too confusing with the using of plural for singular, etc. The people the non-binary character were referring to while using non-gendered pronouns identified as gendered…so why should the narrator refer to them with non-gendered pronouns and muck up the flow of the narrative with the confusion when they themselves were perfectly fine with the use of gendered pronouns? Etc, etc, etc.

I appreciate feedback. I love it! I make SO MANY CHANGES in my manuscripts based on the feedback I receive from my many helpful and generous first readers. But the more I think about it, I feel the more I should fight for this narrator. I just have a gut feeling that this should be a hill I die on. Who knows…it may not matter. The manuscript may never get finished. The pitches may never get requests. It may die before it sees the light of day.

The narrator for half the book (alternating chapters) is Cooper Mason. They have decided not to accept gendered pronouns. This is a character trait. They are going to keep this trait. If it kills any hopes for this book’s publication, I suppose SO BE IT. I have to think about Cooper and others like them. The reader will have to either throw the manuscript/book across the room OR get used to reading a narrative where he/she him/her are NOT used. I’ve decided. I will die on this hill, despite all encouragement and suggestions to the contrary. Cooper’s voice depends on this. They made this decision. Slight adaptations are the little nuggets that open the door to acceptance…to change…to normativity. We shall see what happens.

Now that I have made this decision, I’m hoping I can move forward in completing this novel. I feel like this sticking point is a little bit about what was causing my reluctance to dive in and finish the last 30 or so pages.

If you’ll excuse me, I have a hill to die on. I’m sure Cooper Mason is already up on that hill, showing their fierceness in that magical Cooper-ish way they have of demanding things be precisely the way they wish them to be.

Categories
Camino de Santiago Play List Pride Must Be A Place Sebastian's Poet The Camino Club

A Playlist for The Camino Club

So many authors create playlists for their novels. I never quite got it until now. You see, I usually pick ONE song and play it on a loop while I’m working on a novel. It just plays over and over and over and the vibe I get from that particular song sort of infuses with the words.

For Sebastian’s Poet, the ONE song was ANTHEM by my glorious Leonard Cohen. The story took place in Toronto’s Beaches District in the 1970s and the main character was a folksinger named Teal Landen, who had the nickname of The Poet. The young narrator, Sebastian Nelson, woke up one morning to find Teal sleeping on his couch. In the absence of Sebastian’s parental influences, the two form a relationship that–in the end–helps to save Sebastian. I wrote that novel over a 48hr period during my very first Muskoka Novel Marathon. 48 hours listening to the same song on repeat. It’s pretty powerful. I’ll just say right now that Teal Landen is my interpretation of Leonard Cohen himself.

For Pride Must Be A Place, the ONE song was RISE UP by The Parachute Club. I reached out by email to Lorraine Segato (the lead singer of The Parachute Club) for this one. I originally envisioned using Ms. Segato as a character in the novel, so I wanted to run it past her. Also, I wanted to infuse the story with RISE UP. I was going to write Pride at another Muskoka Novel Marathon over the course of a 72hr weekend (I did!). What I didn’t expect was receiving a phone call from Ms. Segato while I was driving up north to Huntsville, Ontario to participate in that marathon. I quickly pulled off the road and had a conversation with Ms. Segato that lead to me making some really big changes to the Pride idea. For those who read the book, spoiler alert…Ms. Segato does not appear in its pages. She did, however, give me the permissions to use lyrics from the song…and some direction in the story. I’ll be forever thankful. The playlist for that novel? RISE UP. In case you’re wondering…YES!!!! It is totally empowering and uplifting to listen to RISE UP on repeat for 72 hours. I was literally ready to TAKE ON THE UNIVERSE! To this end, the endless supply of coffee and Skittles did not hinder a thing.

Did I do another digression? Maybe. I wanted to mention 2 of my favourite novel writing experiences prior to getting to THE CAMINO CLUB!

During the writing of this novel, I finally discovered the joy of creating an entire playlist!

I wrote The Camino Club over the course of a couple (maybe 3) weeks. It was a completely different experience from my usual tactic of getting the first draft down over the course of a weekend. I had more time to spend with it, so I flexed on the playlist. And I admittedly stole a whole bunch of the songs from the soundtrack for the movie THE WAY (With Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen).

So, without further ado, here is the playlist that I created for the novel of my heart and soul!

THE CAMINO CLUB PLAYLIST

  1. Nadal de Luintra by Berrogüetto
  2. Thank U by Alanis Morissette
  3. Pink Moon by Nick Drake
  4. Fusco by Berrogüetto
  5. Mykonos by Fleet Foxes
  6. Daniel by Tyler Bates
  7. Santiago de Compostela by Tyler Bates
  8. Muxia – A True Pilgrim by Tyler Bates
  9. Lost by Coldplay
  10. Daniel by Elton John
  11. Country Road by James Taylor
  12. My Oh My by David Gray
  13. Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads
  14. This is the Day by The The
  15. Living on the Ceiling by Blancmange
  16. Perfect Way by Scritti Politti
  17. Blister in the Sun by Violent Femmes
  18. I Try by Macy Gray
  19. Afternoons and Coffee Spoons by Crash Test Dummies
  20. And if Venice is Sinking by Spirit of the West
  21. Pull up to the Bumper by Grace Jones
  22. Sissy that Walk by Ru Paul
  23. Cover Girl by Ru Paul
  24. Late in the Evening by Paul Simon
  25. Kodachrome by Paul Simon

That’s it. I know…it’s long. But it is what it is. The songs that saw me through the writing of The Camino Club. ❤

HERE’S A SPOTIFY LINK TO THE FULL “THE CAMINO CLUB” PLAYLIST!

Did I mention it’s on PREORDER?!

The hashtag for this novel is pretty simple. If you ever want to tag it, it’s #TheCaminoClub

 

 

Categories
Camino de Santiago Duet Books Gay YA Interlude Press The Camino Club YA Fiction YA Lit

The Camino Club Releases in Exactly 8 Months! (Preorder Now!)

I have never been so excited about sharing my work as I am right now. My upcoming novel came from my heart and it is going to be live in the world in exactly 8 months from today! OCTOBER 6th, 2020! Wow! I still can’t believe it! It’s releasing from DUET BOOKS, the YA imprint of INTERLUDE PRESS and I’m SO thrilled that they’re taking a chance on this baby of mine!

I first walked the Camino in May of 2014 with a group of pilgrims from Canada. We were led by our fearless leader, Sue Kenney. I had just come off of a 3-year healing journey, working through issues I faced as a survivor…and I chose the Camino de Santiago adventure as the end-cap to that time in my life. I was ready to leave the past behind. But I also wanted to make it about my writing life. I went on the walk with the intention of writing during the evenings. I had the kernel of a story and I wanted to test it out. I saw a group of teenagers walking the Camino as penance for their crimes and misdemeanors.

Thing is, the Camino was so much more than I expected. It was overwhelming in the daytime, while we walked, and it was overwhelming in the evenings while we communed with people from all walks of life from all corners of the world. There was no time to write. There was only time to LIVE. To Breathe. To EXHALE. To WITNESS. To LOVE.

The writing could wait. The writing would come later.

And it did. Boy, did it! I wrote THE CAMINO CLUB in a blur…for the most part over the course of a couple of weeks. It had elements I originally envisioned, and it had so many surprise elements I could not have imagined. It was walking the Camino that inspired the TRUTHness of the final novel that emerged from the original kernel. It was the people I met along the path, the endless days of rain and resilience and love. The dancing, the magic, the mayhem. It all contributed to the story I eventually wrote…while back home in Toronto, thousands of miles away from the magical pilgrimage path that begins in France and ends in Spain…either at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, or at the ocean in Finisterre…also known as THE END OF THE WORLD to earlier pilgrims on the ancient path.

Anyway, I’m just excited. This book is COMING! I’ve seen the cover and it eclipsed ALL OF MY WILDEST DREAMS. It is THE cover! It’s so beautiful and I can’t wait for everyone to see it. Stay tuned, because sometime in the coming months there will be a reveal.

For now, I can only ask you (beg you) to be a part of this book’s long and heartfelt journey. Below, I’m linking the PREORDER PAGES ON AMAZON FOR BOTH CANADA AND USA. Please consider preordering THE CAMINO CLUB now…and it will drop into your Kindle on OCTOBER 6th, 2020…which happens to be 8 short months from this very moment!

Here’s the novel’s back cover blurb:

After getting in trouble with the law, six wayward teens are given an ultimatum: serve time in juvenile detention for their crimes, or walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route across Spain over the summer holidays with a pair of court-appointed counselor guides. When it becomes clear the long walk isn’t really all that much of an option, they set out on a journey that will either make or break who they are and who they are to become.

THE CAMINO CLUBAMAZON CANADA PREORDER LINK

THE CAMINO CLUBAMAZON USA PREORDER LINK

 

Add THE CAMINO CLUB to your GOODREADS SHELF!