The Things Writers Do To Themselves – Or, That Day I Didn’t Actually Finish My Manuscript

 

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A motley crew of rebel rousers also known as writers and their friends. Find us at a restaurant near you. But only if you want noisy atmosphere you cannot escape even if you try…

A 3-Day Diary of a Writer Once in Stasis

(Before I proceed, just so we’re all on the same page, the Merriam-Webster definition of stasis— “a state or condition in which things do not change, move, or progress“. So, that is where I stood as a writer prior to July and between July end and September end.)

Day 1 – Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

106 days after coming up with a shadowy wisp of an idea for my 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon novel, I typed the words THE END on the last page of the manuscript. Then I quietly celebrated the moment by being silent and allowing this icy cold feeling to course through me and send a chill or two up my spine. That feeling was the climbing-out-of-my-skin motion made by the make-believe souls of my characters leaving the body they had possessed while I wrote. And in their absence, as usual, I was left feeling glum. Not good enough. Lonely. Why did they leave me? I didn’t even think the story was finished yet. Even as Finn’s omniscient narrator wrapped up the telling of the story, I wanted to scream, “NO! NOT YET! THEY HAVEN’T DONE THIS! THEY HAVEN’T DONE THAT!” But once the wheels of the bus start to roll, there really is no controlling it. The trajectory is a surprise only the vast nothingness from which the story arrives knows. At least in my case, where I outline and plan exactly NOTHING. Sure, I will have discussions about what I think will happen next, or things that will take place in a vague as-yet-unwritten future of the story. But they don’t always take place. And then, when I type those solemn door-slamming words THE END at the bottom of the manuscript, I know the rest of the story that I envisioned will never take place. And that makes me even sadder than I was when I realized I had hit the end. After the words have been struck and they glow there like doombabies at the bottom of the screen, you know you can’t fight your way past them. But you also get to see the world of your characters stretch out beyond those words of death. THE END. It is never the end. The unwritten scenes that you toyed around with, spoke of, discussed…they’re still there. They are ghosts forever hanging off the precipice of those two little words. They are phantom limbs, unformed digits, un-lived dreams. It’s very painful to be finished your story and still have material leftover in the end that you thought you would use within the confines of the novel. That leftover material is one of the many things writers look at to cultivate their own self-doubt and self-loathing. That material is the vision not perfectly transformed from thought-scape to page. Those leftovers are the scream the writer lets out after the cold icy surge of release as they let their characters escape their bodies. Not good enough. Failed to reach the vision. THE END. I think of this every time I see the slit on the face of Mona Lisa. Her lips could have been raised in the corners ever so slightly to bring her face into a more beatific smile. But Leonardo da Vinci, in his infinite wisdom, had already announced to himself, ‘la fine‘. There was no going back. My THE END stands sentinel over the blank space below it that cannot be filled.

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Requisite selfie with Mel. Bad Hombres.

Day 2 – Monday, October 24, 2016

I know I didn’t finish the novel. I wrote THE END, but I didn’t finish it. But you can’t go back. Done bun can’t be undone, as Stephen King once said. C’est la vie. So it is written. I spend day hating self for putting those two words at the end of the manuscript. I print out my manuscript and I am in awe over how big it is as a chunk of printed papers. Like, wow. I did that. I overhear Aves streaming from the heavens…or at least from the mouths of crackpot waste-oids singing heavenly verses in dark alleys somewhere in my general vicinity. There is music…and it is celebrating the awesomeness of my thick pile of pages, written in a frenzy of desperation while hopelessly clinging to one unwritten sentence after the other and attempting to harness them down and get them onto paper before forgetting my train of thought. Bam. The rest of the day, after printing out the manuscript, is spent listening to the knitpicking voice in the back of my head whispering, “YOU’RE NOT DONE. YOU’RE NOT DONE!” I sigh. I hold up my impressively thick pile of paper. I say, “Oh yeah? What do you call this?!” I listen as the voice whispers, “A START.”

Day 3 – Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I woke up with a desperate need to delete those two words at the bottom of my manuscript. I had already sent it out to 3 very generous fellow Muskoka Novel Marathon writers. They are acting as beta readers for me…they will tell me what needs fixing under the hood of my novel prior to me releasing it to the critical eyes of editors/agents. I gave myself leeway for once. I purposefully set my cursor to the end of those two nasty words THE END and then I hit BACKSPACE seven times. That’s ALL IT TOOK. The two words vanished into the ether. It was like a Christmas miracle. And then I proceeded to rearrange a bit of my last chapter, to unclose it. To unend it. To youdidntquitegetthereyouhavetogobackinandfixthis. Then, I proceeded to write the last chapter. So my last chapter became my second last chapter and my chapter that wasn’t on the page but was in my brain became my last chapter. Cue the emergency email to my 3 generous beta readers. Plead forgiveness, explain my folly, send the new second last chapter that used to be my last chapter and the new last chapter. Then go out with said 3 beta readers and the rest of the writing posse I hang with from time to time and attempt to forget about the fact that my ugly baby is inthehandsofothers. Then I BEGIN working on the manuscript I put on hold while racing to finish the Muskoka Novel Marathon novel.

 

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Selfie at Mongolian Grill Restaurant in Whitby, Ontario. Future Canadian literati, and friends…

Lessons Learned?

  • The end doesn’t have to be the end. You can delete those two words and start over at the ending.
  • Clearly, Leonardo knew this. He wanted the smile we see to be the smile she was left with. Whatever, Leo.
  • Friends who will stop everything and beta read for you are amazing friends to have! Remember to return the favour once the opportunity arises.
  • Don’t settle.
  • The Backspace key is your friend. It’s a modern day eraser that allows you to unend things.
  • 300 pages of 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper, stacked one on top of each other, is a goddamned impressive pile of paper when it is filled with words.
  • Stasis does not need to happen. Get your bum in chair and shut the hell up.
  • Mongolian Grill is yummy.
  • Pepsi is better than Coke because it is sweeter. This is also the reason Coke preferrers prefer Coke, because Pepsi is too sweet.
  • Selfie-sticks are handy for capturing a moment, but only if you’re nimble enough not to piss everyone off by taking too much time to capture it spontaneously.
  • Writing makes me happy. And the person I write alongside of also makes me happy.
  • Don’t forget a hat when you’re walking in the October chill, because when you do you’re ears hurt like hell!
  • It’s only the end when you say it’s the end the last time that you say it. Not before.
  • Summer always ends! And it’s not up to us where THE END goes on that season. There are some ends we have no control over. Take advantage of the ones you do have control over. (I’m looking at you, LEO!)
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The weekend away was most productive. I wrote several chapters of my Best Novel Award winning novel I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. And this guy helped me at every step of the way. Even if he didn’t wait for me whenever I stopped to take a picture of the beautiful FALL colours.

 

In Which Way Shall I Procrastinate TODAY? Or, Finish the Damn Book!

I’m doing it again. I have a fantastic opportunity in front of me and I have one job to do prior to taking advantage of this opportunity, and I am doing everything in my power to avoid the job.

On September 23rd I discovered that my 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon novel I WILL TELL THE NIGHT took the Best Adult Novel Award at the Marathon Wrap Up Party. With the honour came a Muskoka chair (Adirondack chair, for my American friends), and an envelope filled with beautiful gushing feedback from the bevy of judges who read the manuscripts and chose mine as the winner.

From that date (Sept 23rd), I had six weeks in order to get the manuscript completed and edited into shape before submitting it to the MNM organization for agent feedback.

Then came a week in which ALL THE THINGS happened…all the things, that is, except the writing of the manuscript I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. You see, I was just too busy to write words. I was hanging with friends at their cottage, I was hanging with the old gang from the Ontario Writers’ Conference–including an entertaining drive from Toronto to Whitby and back with the incomparable Wayson Choy, in which we lambasted Trump as we listened to the candidates’ debate on the CBC, I was schmoozing with the contributors of the upcoming horror anthology Purgatorium, and then I was interviewing said contributors for this blog, and I was visiting my kids and grandkids, and we just HAD to go to the opening weekend of Miss Peregrine! There were a few other things in there, I’m certain. The week flew by and brought me to FIVE WEEKS remaining of the countdown to submission. I now find myself smack dab in the middle of this week and I’m not really motoring through the writing as I should be.

This is WEEK 2! I’m proud to have found yet another distraction!

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My latest obsession/distraction – HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE by Jennifer Niven, the lovely writer who also brought us ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES.

This book will be, perhaps, the death of me. Both Libby and Jack are fascinating characters and I am absolutely devouring their story. I never imagined loving a book as much as I loved ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES. Only Jennifer Niven could make me love something more than ATBP! And if this book doesn’t distract me enough to cause me to squander this opportunity, I’m almost certain something else will come up.

If you need me, I’m just going to be over here attempting to write slightly more than half a book in 4 1/2 weeks, while simultaneously editing said book. It’s a difficult task, but it is also one I should not be taking so lightly. Must. Finish. Writing. The. Damn. Book!

 

I Will Tell the Night – Muskoka Novel Marathon 2016 Best Adult Novel Award!

A writer is sometimes lost and sometimes found. And quite often it’s a monumental moment that causes the shift between those two delicately interconnected worlds to occur. This weekend, I had one of those moments. I am found.

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The Dock at Dale & Sue Long’s Haliburton cottage on Lake Kashagawigamog this past Saturday morning, prior to our Hunter’s Bay Radio stop along the way to the annual Muskoka Novel Marathon Wrap-Up Party!

I swear, sometimes it seems a writer’s life is made up of a series of gifts, miracles, and happenstances. Or so it very much seems to me. Every time I bring myself close to the edge of oblivion–to that place of writer/notwriter that I believe most writers go to–something or someone in my life brings me back to the heart.

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Writers! From left to right, Tobin Elliott, Christine Cowley, myself, and, Dale Long. Tobin and Dale were interviewed together for an episode of the show appearing later in October. And Tobin helped out with the narration of my play THE SPEECH, which I performed with Christine.

This past weekend, I began one of my many cycles of intense writerly related periods. They seem to come and go. Nothing happens for weeks or months at a time to even remotely suggest that you may in fact be living the life of a writer, and then suddenly you find yourself in a chaotic hotbed of WRITERLY stuff.

What started as a thrilling adventure at the local radio station in Huntsville, Ontario, this weekend, culminated in discovering that I had won a much coveted writing prize. Again.

I was invited by writer friend Christine Cowley to be interviewed on her radio program STORYLINES on Huntsville’s Hunter’s Bay Radio. But not only was I interviewed, which was a thrill in and of itself, but I also performed one of my Trafalgar 24 plays for the radio program…along with Christine herself playing the role of the lead in the short play, and my other writer friend Tobin Elliott stepping in as narrator. It was such a fun time! The episode of Storylines airs in early October and I can’t wait to see how the performance went. It will be interesting to see if it translates well as a radio play.

We stayed in Haliburton over the weekend, taking up residence in the cottage and bunky of writer friend Dale Long and his wife Sue. It was a thoroughly enjoyable stay, filled with great laughs, amazing food and good friends. Dale is something of a BBQ aficionado and what he can do with a grill, a cedar plank and a side of salmon is almost religious.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time with the Longs, the Elliotts, and the beauty of Haliburton.

After our stint as radio celebrities in the recording studios of Hunter’s Bay Radio Station, Dale, Tobin and I went to Kelsey’s in Huntsville with our significant others (Sue, Karen, and Michael) for a quick lunch prior to heading to the Muskoka Novel Marathon Wrap-Up Party. We were all excited to see who would take home the peer nominated awards and the Best Novel Awards this year. After the long summer that follows the July marathon, it’s always a special treat to head back to Huntsville and reunite with the other marathon writers…so the excitement we had felt at the radio station was only growing as the wrap up party approached.

The photo above-left shows the table full of awards handed out every year at the novel marathon wrap up party, from peer nominated awards to the judged Best Novel awards. On the right, Kate and Nancy from the YMCA revealed the total raised at this year’s Muskoka Novel Marathon—A whopping $36,000.00. Just see what 40 writers can do when they put their hearts to something. ALL FUNDS raised go directly to the literacy programs of YMCA Simcoe/Muskoka Counties.

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The Winners Take a Selfie! I was extremely thrilled to have been awarded the BEST ADULT NOVEL AWARD for the 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon for my novel I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. And just as thrilled for the lovely Lori Manson, who took home the coveted BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL AWARD for her novel NED AND NORA STONE.

I did not think I would ever win the Best Novel Award again. I counted my 4 previous wins among my greatest feats in my writing life. With the amount of struggling I have done in recent years, I can’t even begin to describe how much I needed this. It is the vote of confidence I needed to continue writing. It’s pure unadulterated validation.

I would like to thank Dale Long for two things. The first…over 24hrs into the marathon, I still did not have my novel started. I couldn’t connect. Dale told me to tell my story—just shake it up and make it fiction. Or something along those lines. So I said, “What have I got to lose…might as well do something!” He stirred my creativity and got me started. The second thing he did? I wrote my two title considerations down on a piece of paper, looked about the room until I saw Dale (who happened to win this year’s SPIRIT AWARD–for the 2nd year running) sitting and typing…then I approached him and asked him which he preferred. So, it is because of his choice that my novel is called I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. THANKS, DALE!

Here it is! My name on the Best Novel Award trophy again! VALIDATION!

A list of my Best Novel Award wins:

2007 – Best Adult Novel for SEBASTIAN’S POET

2008 – Best Adult Novel for THE REASONS

2010 – Best Young Adult Novel for HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN

2011 – Best Young Adult Novel for THAT’S ME IN THE CORNER

2016 – Best Adult Novel Award for I WILL TELL THE NIGHT

What an incredible weekend. Filled with affirmations, friends, laughter, food, love, light and life. I want to thank Tobin’s wife, Karen, for starting the snowball-rolling-down-a-hill conversation that culminated in the arrival of my new nickname, which I will expect to be addressed by from this day forth. I am LORD AWA (awa aka AWARD WINNING AUTHOR).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a manuscript to pound into shape! I am now tasked with the great burden and joy of completing and polishing my novel, I WILL TELL THE NIGHT, in preparation of submission. (-:

Stay tuned to this spot! My spate of WRITERLY related chaos is still ongoing this time around. Tonight and tomorrow night I have some exciting writerly events happening that I’m sure I will want to write about. Stay tuned!

The Reasons Now Available at Amazon for Kindle!

The Reasons is now available as a Kindle book at all Amazon locations.

If you have already read this book, please consider reviewing it at Amazon. If not, you can now pick it up with 1-Click for your Kindle or Kindle App.

AMAZON USA

AMAZON CANADA

AMAZON UK

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With a mostly absent father, a deceased older sister, a younger sister on the verge of invisibility, and a certifiably insane mother, Tobias Reason is forced to grow up quickly. Though he tries to be a surrogate parent to his sister, their broken mother, Maggie, takes up a lot of his time. Annabel falls to the wayside and becomes a ghost in their chaotic existence.

When Maggie flippantly hands her mother’s house over to Tobias, he sees an opportunity to learn how and why his family became so shattered. Be careful what you wish for. When his world begins to collapse from the weight of un-buried secrets, he focuses on a stranger from his parents’ past. Only by eliminating the past, he believes, can he make his family whole again.

The Reasons won the Muskoka Novel Marathon’s 2008 BEST ADULT NOVEL AWARD.

Note: This title is NOT young adult.

Get it now with 1-Click!

Sebastian’s Poet Now Available at AMAZON for KINDLE!

As of today, SEBASTIAN’S POET is NOW available on Amazon for Kindle!

If you have already read Sebastian’s Poet, and would like to share a review on Amazon, that would be wonderful. Otherwise, you can purchase it now for Kindle.

Read reviews at GOODREADS.

Please visit the appropriate country site listed below, to purchase:

AMAZON USA

AMAZON CANADA

AMAZON UK

Sebastian's Poet

Get it now with 1-Click on Amazon!

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.

Sebastian’s Poet Now Available on KOBO! (With Reader Praise and Link to Chapter One)

 

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Sebastian’s Poet is now available on KOBO!

Here’s what readers have said about the novel:

Sebastian’s Poet is a wonderful feel-good story that you must read!

Broken people, abandonment, longing, aching. This book drew me in with its beauty, and I shed a few tears. It was so well crafted –- a really well-written book — and I was so glad to read it. I loved this book.

Sebastian’s Poet is a wonderful contemporary work that deserves much more notoriety than it has received. More people need to know about this author. Please, please, trust me when I say that you will love every page of this fantastic story.

Oh Sebastian, your story made me smile, made me angry and made me cry. It’s not that often that a book rings this true to real life for me.
I found I couldn’t put it down.

This novel for me is a 5/5 for sure! I would suggest this for anyone who loves a novel that is going to make you feel (even if it is uncomfortable at times), and makes you think about what other people have gone through and why they may be the way that they are.

Sebastian’s Poet is a story full of heart and humanity. The characters are strong and believable and I rooted for them during their struggles, particularly the children: Sebastian and Renee. Their suffering and confusion is touchingly, achingly real. When I finished this story, on the bus on the way to work (of course) I had to struggle not to audibly sob in public.

Craig adeptly maneuvers the reader through the story that is one part a happy trip down memory lane interwoven with a heartbreaking tale of a family fractured, broken, and quite possibly beyond repair.

Beautifully written! I couldn’t put it down! Kevin is a wonderful writer – he gets you from the moment you turn the first page!

Months after reading SEBASTIAN’S POET, I’m still haunted by images of Sebby and his poet, Teal; I still smell the ashes in the ashtray; I still feel the awkwardness at the corner store.

Why don’t more people know about this author? About this book? Because they should. It’s a hidden gem.

I could not put this book down! I started it this morning and am already done reading it.

This is an excellent book about family, secrets, music, and the different kinds of love that we experience in our lives.

Kevin Craig does an excellent job of writing this beautiful, yet tragic tale through the eyes of a child caught in an unfortunate situation. The thoughts and feelings come through so well with Craig’s lyrical prose that you will instantly be drawn in and feel yourself experiencing the same emotions as the characters.

You can pick up your copy for your KOBO device or KOBO app today! For $3.75

VISIT SEBASTIAN’S POET AT KOBO.

You can read CHAPTER ONE of SEBASTIAN’S POET in its entirety at this link to an older blog post where I shared it here.

 

Sebastian’s Poet – Redo (Bringing Back the 70s)

The long journey to my second novel, Sebastian’s Poet, began in the 1970s. And it ended in a 48-hour maelstrom of a writing marathon. Sebastian has always been there. It wasn’t until I sat in front of my laptop at the 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon that his story bled from me. And boy did it bleed. In those 48 hours I was transported back to the 70s childhood I endured. And having always imagined Sebastian, the child of a down and out no-good and his hit-the-road wife, it was all I could do to keep up with the story as it came out during that marathon weekend.

I love a good story of loss and despair and, in the tiniest of ways, hope. Every good downtrodden story should offer the reader a glimmer of hope, even if it’s an infinitesimal glimmer.

And, having come to age inside a record store in the early 70s, I had to include the perennial bad-boy musician who kind of floats through the world in a cloud of smoke and philosophical optimism. Teal Landon is my favourite character…out of all the characters I have ever written. He is the kind of father figure all lost boys dream of having.

Sebastian’s Poet was originally published in 2012 by Musa Publishing in the United States. Sadly, Musa closed its doors a few months back. This made SP revert to a non-published novel. My favourite novel written by me and it disappeared. It’s very special to me…in that it came to life in a frenzy of emotion and drive and creativity. It’s not easy to write a novel in 48hrs. Until I tackled SP, I would have said it was impossible. But then I did it.

And at the time I desperately wanted to write CANADIANA. I wanted to capture Toronto, and the Canadian music scene, and what it was like to grow up Canadian in the 70s. I think I did that, though I can’t really be objective about it. What I do know is that Sebastian’s Poet won BEST ADULT NOVEL in the 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon. And I also know that it transformed me. I went away from that weekend with a feeling of euphoria. I knew I had found MY WRITING METHOD. Writing a novel in one sitting was the way for me, a flighty easily distracted person, to write a novel.

The pictures above are reflections from the 70s setting of the novel. GORDON LIGHTFOOT is actually a character in Sebastian’s Poet. He appears in the last chapter, as part of the denouement. And, if I’m being completely honest, the main character TEAL LANDON is based upon the incomparable LEONARD COHEN. I didn’t see a way to write a story based in the 70s without somehow including Carol Burnett. I loved making references to the things of my childhood…but make no mistake about it, this novel has nothing of me in it. It is not my Mary-Sue.

I don’t like SP not being out there in the world. It is, after all, my favourite. When I say my favourite, I’m talking feelings. I carry the memories of the experience of writing my novels as a way of judging which are my favourites. And the time I shared with these characters? That time is my Belle Époque as a writer. It was a moment of awakening for me. Or, should I say a 48hr period of awakening. My soul is in this book.

So I am releasing it on KOBO, for those interested in exploring the novel I wrote at my highest point as a writer. I don’t usually worry about how my works will be received. I put them out into the world and I shudder and cringe, knowing they will never be what I intended them to be…that they could have been so much more…that I fell short. I can’t expect the reader to love something I myself feel didn’t quite make the grade. Although this may sound like a bad thing, I do tend to think that it keeps me honest as a writer. If everything COULD be better, then I challenge myself always to attain BETTER.

But Sebastian’s Poet was the one novel I was SURE of…even in its rough finished draft at the end of that 48hr weekend, I knew. And here’s where it sounds like I am bragging, but I assure you I am not. It’s more the essence of the story and the feelings I had while writing it that make me feel like this about it…not the finished product itself.

SP will be available on KOBO in the next day or so. I hope you give it a go. In the meantime, here is the cover blurb:

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 you can also read the reviews at GOODREADS, from its original release life: GOODREADS SEBASTIAN’S POET

 

Here’s the cover of the re-release coming to KOBO soon…

Sebastian's Poet

The epigraph of this novel is “THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING…THAT’S HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN.” This is a line from Leonard Cohen’s ANTHEM. That song was the soundtrack of my 48hr weekend novel writing marathon. On repeat…it gave me what I needed to write Sebastian’s story…and the story of the folksinger known as The Poet. It was an amazing weekend…one I will never forget. If you want to take the trip, you’ll have to get the novel. (-:

Musa Publishing Closing Its Doors – Two of My Books UNPUBLISHED…

I received some sad news today. Musa Publishing is closing its doors. They published SEBASTIAN’S POET and THE REASONS. Both novels won Muskoka Novel Marathon‘s BEST ADULT NOVEL AWARD. Both are written from the POV of children growing up in chaos…my two titles that are NOT young adult, as some of the content is adult themed. I love these books. It’s with much sadness that I see them becoming UNPUBLISHED.

From MUSA:

We expect to conclude operation of our site, blog, and social media accounts by February 28, 2015.

I will become ‘THE AUTHOR OF THREE NOVELS’ overnight. Such a remarkably weird concept. From 5 to 3.

I think Sebastian’s Poet might be my favourite novel of mine. Maybe not because it’s the best, or for any other reason other than the experience I had of writing it. I wrote it in a whirlwind 48hr period. I listened to LEONARD COHEN’s ANTHEM on repeat for the entire period I wrote it. It was my first Muskoka Novel Marathon. It was just an absolute magical time in my life. Everything gelled for one weekend. Sebastian’s Poet was a movie in my head. I struggled to get it to paper as it played. It was an absolute joy to pen it. Those characters did ALL the work. Sincerely.

You have until the end of the month to get a copy of these two books before they’re gone, possibly forever. Hopefully, they find homes elsewhere…but the possibility of that happening is not vast.

YOU CAN FIND ALL MY WORKS AT THIS LINK TO AMAZON.COM

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Until the end of February, you can purchase both of these books wherever ebooks are sold– Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc. After that…they die. The rights revert to me, the covers do not. I HOPE they’ll find new homes, but the likelihood of this happening is not probable.

BOTH BOOKS HAVE RECEIVED REMARKABLE REVIEWS!

GOODREADS REVIEWS FOR SEBASTIAN’S POET – 40 Ratings with 4.6 overall rating.

GOODREADS REVIEWS FOR THE REASONS – 13 Ratings with 4.54 overall rating.

Tobias Reason, Maggie Reason, Sebastian Nelson, Teal Landen, Renee Nelson, Gordon Lightfoot…Love them all!

So long, dear friends. It’s been an absolute slice!

(My condolences and best wishes to all the authors in the Musa Publishing House. We lost dear friends in our works today. I hope you all find new homes for your babies. Best of luck to you all.)

(I’d like to add here… I had wonderful experiences with both books, through the editing process. Both times I felt the editors did great work. I wish those at the helm of MUSA best wishes and thank them for bringing both books to life. I’m sorry to see MUSA go.)

Another Goodreads Giveaway – Sebastian’s Poet – Growing Up in Toronto in the Beaches…

Sebastian’s Poet is a novel about a boy growing up in the Beaches district of Toronto in the 1970s. It follows a young Sebastian Nelson from the day he meets famous folksinger Teal Landen to the cusp of the 1980s. It’s the story of his struggles with a bohemian father and absent mother. And it’s the story of his tumultuous relationship with his younger brother, Renee, and the folksinger who blew into town one day and never left.

Goodreads is running a giveaway for a print copy of Sebastian’s Poet. You can enter by clicking on the book cover below:

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(CONTEST OPEN TO U.S.A. AND CANADA RESIDENTS)

I wrote SEBASTIAN’S POET over the course of 48hrs, during my very first Muskoka Novel Marathon in 2007. For the entire 48hrs, I listened to ANTHEM by Leonard Cohen. It greatly shaped the novel. Teal Landen IS Leonard Cohen…in many ways. I channeled Leonard to create Teal.

After the novel was completed, I contacted Leonard Cohen’s management to ask permission to use, “THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING, THAT’S HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN…” as the epigraph for the novel. I also got the line tattooed on my forearm. (-:

I also contacted Gordon Lightfoot’s management to request the use of Gordon’s character in my denouement in the final chapter of Sebastian’s Poet. His manager phoned me immediately and gave his permission…thrilled that Lightfoot could perhaps find new audiences through the book.

SEBASTIAN’S POET won BEST ADULT NOVEL AWARD in the 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon. (-:

So, there’s a bit of the history of Sebastian’s Poet. I also had a lot of fun injecting it with 70s references. (-:

HERE’S THE COVER BLURB:

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.

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Sebastian’s Poet – Chapter One

I’m sharing CHAPTER ONE of Sebastian’s Poet here. I hope you enjoy.

SEBASTIAN’S POET – Chapter One – The Poet

I first met the poet in 1973. I was a child, cleaning up after one of my father’s infamous parties. I can still recall that encounter. I found the poet passed out on our living room couch. He was sprawled in such a way I had to move his arms to clear the mess on the coffee table. His hand was resting inside the detritus of an overflowing ashtray. Putting my collection of beer bottles down on the table, I tried to move his hand without waking him.

His dark face was serene, almost angelic in sleep. It could have been chiseled out of stone. There was something achingly familiar about the poet. I found myself compelled to stop what I was doing and examine the landscape of this familiarity. I could not place it…but something drew me to him. I sat on the edge of the coffee table and stared into his sleeping face, mesmerized.

He had a large, aquiline nose and jet-black hair. His ample mouth was open while he slept, and a tiny trickle of drool ran down the side of his face.

I watched his breathing, listening to the in-out rhythm of his sleep song. Then I noticed the record album on the table beside me. The poet’s face looked back at me from the cover. A close-up of the same face that lay in slumber on my father’s tattered sofa — a sofa that had been temporary residence to many vagabonds and drunks in the past. On the album cover, however, his eyes were fully open — great dark orbs that pulled you so far in you were afraid you would never be released. And in his face, I also saw incredible sadness and vulnerability. Something I could immediately relate to.

The picture pulled me in with painful longing. I looked at a complete stranger and thought, I wish you were my father. The poet wasn’t the first one to be treated to this wish — I was constantly fantasizing about having any father other than the one I was stuck with — but he would be the last.

As I bounced back and forth between the picture and the man in repose on the couch, I went into one of my famous zoning out moments. I concentrated so hard on him that I lost touch with everything else around me. It took me a moment to realize he was actually awake and meeting my gaze. The picture had become the man.

I quickly turned back to the album cover and read his name in the bottom left corner. His photo was so large I had to squint to make out the name. Or maybe it was just his sense of presence? Maybe his face had a habit of overwhelming everything in its proximity?

“Why is your name Teal?” I asked, to bridge the space between us and break the morning-after silence of the sleeping house.

“Because Green would have been stupid,” he said in a deep and gravelly voice that made the air between us tremble. He took another glance at me before rolling onto his side and showing me the back of his head. But just before he turned away I saw a look on his face — like this was a comeback he used often, one that made everybody laugh.

I didn’t laugh. As much as I was drawn to the man, I had already learned by then to keep a comfortable distance between myself and the people who floated through the vast wreck that was my father’s life. To laugh too early would have been giving in too easily. They had to earn that kind of familiarity.

It took only a moment for him to roll back around and face me, expectantly too. Since he was a person whose face adorned album covers, I supposed he felt it my duty to at least chuckle at his attempt at humour. We stared at each other for a moment, gauging one another’s stubbornness.

“Hmph?” he said. “Who are you, anyway? Who is this baby with the wounded wings I see before me?” Not waiting for an answer, he slowly rose to a sitting position on the couch. “Teal Landen.”

He extended his hand, like I was a real person and not just some runnynosed kid. I was too surprised not to take it.

We shook. And we continued to shake.

“This is the part where you tell me your name,” he suggested. “So we can stop shaking each other silly.”

I tried to clear my head of fog. “Oh. Sorry. Sebastian. Sebastian Nelson.”

He released my hand from his monstrous grip. “Tom’s your old man? Wow. Nice to meet you, Sebby. How about you make me some coffee? Do you know how to do that?”

I tried my best to look offended at his suggestion I wouldn’t know how to do something so trivial, but I found his personality as infectious as his face.

“Black? Or cream and sugar?”

“How about black with sugar? Two,” he replied as his hand blindly searched the floor beside the couch for his abandoned t-shirt.

“I’ll be right back.”

“You do that. I’ll be right where I am now, holding down this here couch,” he said as he looked around at the dishevelled state of the living room and pulled the t-shirt over his head. Perhaps he was trying to remember how he had gotten there. Or more likely, just how many of the empty beer bottles in his periphery could be directly attributed to him.

As I walked into the kitchen, he let out a series of coughs that convinced me he was responsible for filling the ashtray his hand had earlier been resting in.

A few minutes later, with a hot cup of coffee in my hand, I returned to the living room to find Teal doing his best in his hung-over state to make things right. He had a neat pile of beer bottles on one corner of the coffee table. He gingerly attempted to balance three ashtrays in his shaking hands.

“I could really use that java.” He coughed. “This man is too old to play these silly games any longer. Remember when to quit the party, Seb. Bow out gracefully while you’re still young.”

I set the coffee on the end table and managed to take the pyramid of ashtrays from him before any real damage occurred. Instead of refusing my help, he reached for the coffee and allowed himself to fall back into the cushions of the couch.

“You shouldn’t be cleaning up after your old man’s messes,” he said with little to no conviction. “That’s not right. How old are you, Sebby? Seven?”

“I’ll be nine in December,” I said with enough force to push him further into the dilapidated cushions. “I know how to clean up a little mess. Besides, somebody has to do it. My brother is going to be coming down here any minute. He’d get into everything.”

“Two kids, eh?” he said. He groaned and let out a long sigh, clearly feeling gypped for choosing the wrong house to crash in the night before. “And how old is your little brother?”

“He’s four. But he’s not so little. Almost five.”

“This four-year-old — does he happen to do a lot of screaming early in the morning? Running around, bouncing off walls kind of thing?”

I headed toward the kitchen to empty the ashtrays. “Lots. My dad says he’s like an elephant on an airplane.” Teal closed his eyes and took a long pull from his steaming cup.

“Listen kid,” he said from the living room while I tried to make the kitchen look more or less like a kitchen. “Why don’t you just tell your old man I had to split? I got this session thing later today and I have to get some sleep or I’m gonna die. The last thing I need right now is a Mexican jumping bean almost-five-year-old going crazy in my space.

“Besides,” he continued, now standing in the kitchen doorway, coffee in one hand and an empty beer bottle on each of the four fingers of his other hand. “I’m not even sure if he knows I crashed. I don’t remember a thing after I got here.”

I stopped cleaning the counter for a moment. “My father’s not here. He left for work before I got up.”

“He leaves you here alone, man?” Teal said as he plopped the four beer bottles into the empty Molson Export case on the kitchen floor. “That’s not cool, Sebastian.”

“He does it all the time, Mr. — ”

“Hey. No. Not the mister thing, little man. I’m Teal. There’s no age constraints with this guy.” He pointed to his chest. “I don’t go by mister, so you can forget it. My daddy was the mister in my family. Now that he’s gone, there’re no misters left. Call me Teal. Your old man can’t be leaving you here alone. You’re eight — ”

“Almost nine,” I quickly corrected. “It’s not really all the time. He mostly doesn’t work. He’s just been working some the past few weeks.”

“Yeah. I guess I should have known that. Studio, right? Session work? Well.” He glanced around the wasted kitchen then looked to the door with longing. Turning back, he looked me in the eye. One more sad look at the front door and it was obvious he wanted to run. But he just shrugged. The sigh that escaped him told me he would stay.

Not that it would have mattered. I was already pretty much on my own when it came to Renee, my younger brother. Had Teal known the truth, he would have realized my father’s presence was more hindrance than help. Even at his best, my father never made much of a parental figure. By the day the poet had pulled up on our party-contaminated communal sofa, my father was just about the farthest he had ever been from his best — if there ever was such a thing.

“Well what, Teal?” I said, more to test the feel of calling an adult by his first name than for any other reason.

“Well, what do you wanna do?” he asked. It was a strange question coming from a rumpled semi-famous stranger, who, moments before, had seemed only to want to escape the morning-after ensnarement in which he had found himself.

“I’m cleaning the house,” I said. “And after that, I’m going to make Renee his breakfast.”

“Who’s Ren — ”

“My brother,” I interrupted.

“Right. The four-year-old. Wow. This is some heavy shit. You ever feel like you fell down the rabbit hole, Sebby?”

“Huh?”

“Never mind. I’m going to make breakfast for the both of you.”

Before I had a chance to protest, he started to move around the kitchen like he knew exactly where everything was. It freaked me out. A lot of people went through that old house, but I got to recognize their faces. This was the poet’s first visit. Goose bumps bloomed on my arms as I watched him. Time stopped. My world went slow-motion on me as I took him in.

The way he moved, too. It was an extremely familiar dance he made from the fridge to the stove to the cupboard. He had a precise synchronicity of movement I recognized, but I couldn’t place where I knew it from.

It was comforting to see an adult move with so much determination. The ones who normally crashed through our house were drunk and disorderly. For the first time in forever I felt like I could sit down and let somebody else take care of business. I sat at the kitchen table and watched Teal while I dreamily traced the many circled design on the table’s surface with my finger.

“How do you like your eggs?” Teal asked as he cracked four of them into the cast iron frying pan that had magically appeared on the front burner. He began to beat them vigorously with a fork.

“But you’re already mixing them scrambled?” I asked, smiling.

“Yeah, I just like to ask so it appears like I know what I’m doing. It’s the only kind I know how to make.” He walked toward the fridge. “Hey. Do you have any buttermilk? It’s so much better than milk in scrambled.”

“I don’t even know if we have milk. Dad didn’t give me any money this week.”

He stopped and looked at me. A troubled expression washed over his face.

He did his best to make it disappear before I caught it, but I saw it. I never miss those looks. It was a mix of disgust and pity. I could read him loud and clear.

He did not approve of my father’s parenting skills. He reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out a pile of crumpled bills. Tossing them on the table in front of me, he went back to the stove, removed the frying pan from the burner and turned the flame off.

“How about you run to the corner and grab some milk — and buttermilk if they have it — and I’ll wait here. I’m sure I saw a store down there somewhere last night. Oh, and while you’re at it, get some orange juice. I bet Renee would be happy to see a tall, cold glass of orange juice when he finally gets down here.”

I grabbed the money and put it in my pocket. “Okay, but you have to watch for him if he comes down before I get back. He gets into everything, Teal. I mean everything.” I walked to the side door and left him to the solitude of the kitchen.

The corner store was only three houses down from ours. The only tell-tale indications that it was more than just another house were the sign above the eaves and the glowing Coke machine on the front porch. The Coke machine was empty. You actually had to go inside to buy a Coke. Mr. Clarke didn’t trust anyone enough to keep the machine loaded.

The Clarkes had run the store since before I could remember. They were always happier when I came in without my brother. Renee never got out of there without knocking something over or causing some sort of disturbance that weakened the already frail, elderly Clarkes. When I went there without Renee, Mrs. Clarke always slipped me something on the sly so Mr. Clarke wouldn’t see her doing it. It was my reward for showing up alone.

“And where’s Renee this morning, Sebastian?” Mrs. Clarke said when I walked into the store. “Don’t tell me your father is home again. Lose another job, did he?” She said this with much scorn, making sure, once again, I knew exactly how she felt about my father.

“No, Mrs. Clarke. He’s gone to work. His friend is home with Renee.”

“Well, good,” she said. “No need of you dragging that poor little boy from pillar to post and back, him getting into everything and causing such a stir.”

Her skin was losing its noble fight with gravity, pooling at every dip and dive of her heavy frame. Mrs. Clarke was as big as a house, but sinking with age like a mansion in ruin. I always imagined I would come into the store one day to find a pile of old bones in the spot behind the counter.

Renee and I were afraid of Mrs. Clarke. She was harmless, just a miserable old woman who had no time for rambunctious children. That was the word she used for Renee: rambunctious. She said it so many times in his presence that he cringed in anticipation every time he walked into the store. His loathing of the word didn’t stop him from living up to its meaning, though. Renee just couldn’t help himself. He left a trail of destruction behind him after each visit.

I placed a carton of buttermilk on the counter beside the bottle of orange juice I had just deposited there.

“What’s this, Sebastian?” she said with surprise. “I don’t recall you ever buying — ”

“Teal asked for it. For scrambled eggs,” I said.

“Teal is a colour, my child,” she said as she rang up my things. “Have yourself some Bottle Caps, Sebastian. They’re your favourite, aren’t they?” Mr. Clarke was nowhere to be seen, so there was no need to be surreptitious.

“Thank you, Mrs. Clarke.” I grabbed the package of Bottle Caps before she had time to change her mind. I think Mrs. Clarke might have secretly liked me a little bit. God knows I was there often enough. We never really did groceries in our house. It was more about picking up a couple things at the corner store, just enough to get by on a daily basis. I never knew when my father was going to have money, and he wouldn’t let me walk all the way to Cirone’s Grocery by myself.

Just before the door closed behind me, Mrs. Clarke mumbled, “What kind of a name is Teal?”

I had pondered that myself in the time between reading Teal’s name off the album cover and saying it aloud to its owner. Since mulling it over, though, I came to the conclusion his was the perfect kind of name. Better than my name, that’s for sure. Almost all the kids at school made fun of mine, and not very many of them could even pronounce Sebastian. Renee, back then, managed only Bashtin, so that was the name I answered to most. Outside school, I spent most of my waking life with Renee.

I heard them laughing before I even got back to the house. A pang of jealousy shot through me before I had a chance to squash it. The second thought that came to mind, though, was why shouldn’t Renee get to have Teal too? In the five minutes I’d known the man, I liked him more than I had ever liked any other human being. The excitement of his newness put him miles above my father, which, admittedly, was not much of a feat.

I walked into the kitchen in time to see Teal swinging Renee like an airplane in his outstretched arms. Renee’s thick black hair blew out behind him, and his head was a mere inch from brushing the ceiling.

“Careful, Teal!” I said. “He’s the only Renee we’ve got. You can’t break him on us.” Renee squealed with pleasure.

“Hey, Bashtin!” Renee said, giggling. “You see Teal flying me?” I didn’t like how comfortable he was with Teal already. Given the assortment of strangers who wandered in and out of our lives, though, it didn’t surprise me.

“Yes, Renee,” I said. “But you better come down from there now. You have to get dressed before breakfast.”

His laughter stopped. “But Renee don’t like breakfess. I wanna fly, Bash. Teal’ll fly me first.” All the while, Teal continued to fly him around the room. I was amazed he didn’t fall flat on his face. I don’t know what I missed while I was gone to the store, but I had a feeling the flying was Teal’s way of distracting Renee from being his normal boisterous self.

“Come on down now, Renee. I need your help, big boy,” I scolded. I looked directly at Teal as I spoke. He pouted just as much as Renee. But he managed to make the landing as enjoyable as the flight. Renee went giggling up the stairs to get dressed while Teal went back to the stove and returned the eggs to the burner. Turning the burner on, he took a step back as the bluish flame beneath the pan popped into life.

“Were you always a party pooper, Mr. Sebby?” Teal asked, as he gestured for me to bring him the buttermilk. I handed it to him, and he pried it open and poured some into the pan, whisking the congealing eggs up into something closely resembling scrambled.

“Renee would have let you do that for hours. But I know what’s best for him. He should only get excitement in small quantities.” I began to set the table.

“Small quantities of excitement! Whoa. That’s harsh. How old did you say you were? You are way too old, man.”

“I’m almost nine,” I said defensively.

“Oh yeah. How could I forget? There are a lot of almosts around this here house, Sebby. I’d say your father is almost a father. Renee is almost five. You’re almost a kid, but almost an old man. You have to let your hair down, little man.”

He kept whisking those eggs like he wasn’t quite sure they were dead. He was a hundred percent right: I didn’t do the kid thing. He made me feel like a kid, though, so his words didn’t make sense.

“You don’t get it, do you?” he asked, stopping his massacre on the eggs just long enough to stare me down. “Sebby. You should have come in here hollering that you wanted a turn. You’re eight, for Christ’s sake! What has your father done to you?”

It was my first uncomfortable moment with the poet, but not my last. He had the ability to make people re-examine themselves. Even though I was only eight, he was able to make me question myself. Perhaps especially because I was eight. I shrugged. I had no defence, really. I had stopped being a kid long before Teal woke up on our couch. But somehow I was okay with being the grown up. I hadn’t really thought about my lost childhood. It just sort of happened.

Somebody had to keep our house moving. If I stopped doing things, everything would grind to a halt and what little semblance of normalcy we had left would instantly evaporate.

He acknowledged my shrug with one of his own, moved to the bread box and hauled out the half loaf of bread he found inside. He put two slices into the toaster. I felt the vibes coming off of him, those thinking vibes people get when they’re deep in thought and your brain feels all icy and fuzzy at the same time — like when you eat ice cream too fast.

He looked at his watch, his eyebrows arching in concentration.

“You know what? I should call off the studio thing today. I have this hangover and it feels like it’s going to be an all day thing.” He held his temples and watched the toaster with exaggerated intensity. “The last thing I need is to surround myself with loud music and even louder musicians. Why don’t we take Renee to the beach after breakfast?”

I looked at him like he had suddenly sprouted a third eye. Who was this man who thought he owed us his time? Usually when the strangers woke up around our house they couldn’t get out fast enough. And here was a man making breakfast for us — buying breakfast for us — and offering to take us to the beach?

As much as I felt myself being taken in by his charms, there was also a feeling that things weren’t quite right. Fighting with this was the familiarity I felt when he started working his way around the kitchen. Not for the first time I wished we could go back in time and he could miraculously become my real father.

But it was wrong to feel that way. He was just a guy, a drunk who happened to wake up on my couch.

“Shouldn’t you be going?” I suggested. “My father will be home at lunch. He’s gonna wonder what you’re still doing here, Teal. He usually — ”

“Oh, to hell with your father. I can deal with him. I’ve known him long enough to know how he shuffles his cards, little man. You leave that to me.”

For someone who claimed to know my father well, he had appeared pretty shocked to find out the man had children. Nonetheless, I wanted to take the gamble.

“We eatin’ eggs, Bashtin?” Renee asked as he bounded into the kitchen, nearly knocking over the cup of orange juice I had poured out for him.

“Yeah, Ren,” I said. “Teal wants to take us to the beach after. You have to eat all your breakfast, though.” I had given in that easily. Telling Renee about the beach had instantly solidified my decision.

“I’m eatin’, Bash. I will. And in the beach we can splash?”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Renee.” Teal laughed. “But maybe we can fly like airplanes again, eh? If it’s okay with Sebby, that is.” He turned and batted his eyelids exaggeratedly in my direction. The orange juice almost went over again, as Renee twirled around to see if I’d agree.

“Yes, Renee. But you have to eat your breakfast.”

“Good deal!” Teal brought the eggs and toast to the table and started divvying them out between the three plates I had set out.

“Yeah. Good deal,” Renee chimed.

And that was how Teal Landen seamlessly wormed his way into our lives. A stranger from one of my father’s all-night parties who had found himself accidentally abandoned to our living room sofa. And, as he was perhaps just as broken as we had been at the time, he decided to stay. Not that he moved in. It was never as official as that. But he never quite left, either. He became as permanent a fixture around our house as beer, women, and loud music. And somehow his presence made all the rest seem just a little more tolerable than it had been without him.

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