It’s hard to believe that on this day ONE YEAR AGO the novel of my heart made its way into the pandemic world!
If you blink, you might miss this one!
My awesome publisher–INTERLUDE PRESS/DUET BOOKS–found a way to include BILLIONS OF BEAUTIFUL HEARTS (and all the other COME WHAT MAY short stories) on Net Galley!!But you need to be SUPER QUICK! Act now! You must request it now because it releases TUESDAY FEBRUARY 9th, 2021 and won’t be on Net Galley for long! If you’re unfamiliar with Net Galley, it’s a website where publishers offer books for review. Once the books are posted to Net Galley, reviewers can log in and request to read/review. The publisher vets and approves readers and they have access to the book ahead of publication, for review purposes.
I found out overnight that BILLIONS OF BEAUTIFUL HEARTS went live on Net Galley, but it will be gone in a hot minute, so…act fast!
Here’s what BILLIONS OF BEAUTIFUL HEARTS is about:
A short story from the Interlude Press COME WHAT MAY collection.
Wen Devante is Insta famous with a massive following and a flare for fashion. At almost 18, they have already published a book on gender nonconformity, released several songs on Spotify and appeared on television. During the first wave of Covid-19 lockdown, they reach out to an unsuspecting Kaye, one of their 2.3 million followers. The two form a bond, first through Instagram messages and then through Zoom. They discover there are ways to have a meaningful relationship despite the bleak circumstances. In fact, the pandemic seems to make reaching out even easier than it used to be.
I was invited by my publisher (they published my latest novel, THE CAMINO CLUB in October of 2020) to write a short centring around love and relationships in the time of Covid. At the beginning of the pandemic, I promised myself that I would never include the nightmare in my fiction. In my fiction, 2020 would just be a normal year. But then, when I was invited to be a part of this project…I realized that life has to go on…whatever the challenges we face. And love…it happens…COME WHAT MAY. So, here we are. This is how Billions of Beautiful Hearts came to be, and how I wrote about a pandemic I vowed not to recognize in my fiction.
PREORDER IS LIVE NOW WHEREVER EBOOKS ARE SOLD. REMEMBER, THIS IS A SHORT STORY. Click here to go to my BOOKS page (it’s the 2nd book down the list) for multiple preorder links for 99 cents!
There are 4 short stories in the COME WHAT MAY series! Visit THIS LINK TO READ ABOUT ALL OF THEM.
I’ve been reading a lot lately. As a slow reader, my TBR list is just an impossible mountain I’ll never ever be able to scale. Adding three books for every one I read has never helped my cause one bit. And every once in a while a book not only sneaks into the pile by serendipitous accident, but gets moved directly to the front of the line once it appears.
Recently, while doing a bit of research for a CURE heavy novel I was contemplating writing (a multi-generational love story that switches from past to present with a soft Cure background soundtrack throughout), I discovered that I had missed the fact that Lol Tolhurst (founding Cure member) wrote a memoir that included the time spent with the band.
I was SO glad to come across it–it was like finding the perfect gift for myself. It turns out it is one of my favourite memoirs I’ve ever read. It’s sharply honest, poignant and self-effacing. It takes the reader on a journey from the excitement of starting the band up in the late 70s to the painful separation Tolhurst experienced when eventually leaving the band. It’s a brutally honest memoir where the autobiographer is unafraid of skewering himself and taking blame and responsibility for his actions during an exciting, yet tumultuous and overwhelming time in his life.
If you’re a Cure fan in passing, or a lifelong one like myself…you owe it to yourself to pick up this memoir. Tolhurst tells a raw and honest story that is at times painful to read and at other times remarkably joyful…much like the music of The Cure itself, which he helped to give birth to.
To be honest, this memoir has an underlying song coursing throughout it like a freight train…a song that makes the book’s subtitle so fitting: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys. This book is as much of a love song to boyhood friendship that endures as it is a tale of self-redemption and self-perseverance.
In the following touching passage, Tolhurst begins by saying The Cure began in 1972 when the boys first jammed together. But he then goes on to tell the reader how it really began on a rainy day way back in 1964:
“…But in my mind The Cure began much earlier than that, on a gloomy rainy day in 1964 with the mists swirling all around. It began the moment the school bus pulled up to the stop at the top of Hevers Avenue and the doors swung open with a hiss. Neither Robert nor I wanted to get on that bus. We didn’t want to leave our mums and go to a strange school in another town where we wouldn’t know a soul. I probably would have started crying if Robert hadn’t been there. I can hear my mother’s voice even now, gently urging me along. “Hold Robert’s hand now and look after each other.”
Robert took me by the hand and led me onto the bus. It was the first of many journeys together. If only in my imagination , we are still those boys.”
I think that passage is a wonderful and fitting example of the lyrical writing that fills this touching memoir. Through all the ups–and the many downs– that Tolhurst experienced through the decades that took him from that 1964 hand-holding moment to the present, the reader is gifted with a hard-hitting often lush and lovely retelling of life with and without one of the most beloved groups of our time.
I have loved The Cure since the moment I first heard their music sometime around 1979-1980. I no longer know when they came into my life, but I know it was close to their beginning. They entered when I needed them the most, and they have been a constant companion throughout. Their music has never ceased to lift me when I was down and comfort me when I didn’t want or need to be lifted. They have brought me endless joy. It’s not often one feels as though music itself has played a part in saving their life…but I feel this way about The Cure‘s music.
It was a magical experience to get this personal and poignant glimpse into the life behind the music. Tolhurst has written a beautiful memoir that is as much an homage to his good friend Robert and the incredible thing they created together, as it is an homage to his own strength, perseverance and redemption arc. He has poured himself into this retelling of an enchanted if at times rocky life.
This book is a must read.
Click the book cover above to visit Amazon
I think I did this once before, though I don’t recall. I thought I would compile a Christmas Wishlist for readers and writers. The READER part of the list will be based on books I have myself read this past year. Please keep in mind that I read mostly in the area in which I write, young adult fiction. You’ll recognize one of my other passions through the other books I choose to highlight, if you don’t already know it through my previous posts. (-;
CHRISTMAS GIFT LIST FOR READERS AND WRITERS
1. FULL DISCLOSURE by CAMRYN GARRETT: I absolutely loved this story! It’s funny, heartwarming, and a pure delight. It’s filled with theatre kids and the relationship between Simone and Miles is adorable. The sensitive subject matter is expertly handled. I’d recommend it for those who love YA and those who seldom read it. It was an exceptional story. I cannot wait to see what Miss Garrett comes up with next.
(From GOODREADS) Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.
Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.
Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…
2. HOW TO BE REMY CAMERON by JULIAN WINTERS: This book was long awaited, as I devoured RUNNING WITH LIONS the previous year. Remy is a teenager struggling with identity; adopted, black, gay, brother, son. When asked to write an essay to explain who he is, he sort of comes to an existential crisis. Throw in the fact that he’s discovering a new romance while simultaneously being contacted by a previously unknown half-sibling, and you have the makings for a perfect storm of awesome YA-ness. I couldn’t read this book fast enough. Your YA reader will fall in love with Remy and his world. Julian is really the reason I sought out publication through Duet Books/Interlude Press. He’s just a lovely person…and I have fallen in love with the fictional worlds he creates.
(From GOODREADS) Everyone on campus knows Remy Cameron. He’s the out-and-gay, super-likable guy that people admire for his confidence. The only person who may not know Remy that well is Remy himself. So when he is assigned to write an essay describing himself, he goes on a journey to reconcile the labels that people have attached to him, and get to know the real Remy Cameron.
3. WALKING TO THE END OF THE WORLD (A THOUSAND MILES ON THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO) by BETH JUSINO: I can’t say enough about this book. I absolutely loved it. It came out in October 2018 and I have already read it three times. If you have a traveler on your gift list, whether or not they have ever heard of the world-famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, they will love this accounting of its wonders. Trust me when I say that this book under any traveling-reader’s tree will make their January. I keep it on my bedside table.
(From AMAZON) In April 2015, Beth and Eric Jusino, laden with backpacks and nerves, walked out of a cathedral in the historic village of Le Puy, France, down a cobblestone street, and turned west. Seventy-nine days, a thousand miles, two countries, two mountain ranges, and three pairs of shoes later, they reached the Atlantic Ocean.
More than two million pilgrims have walked the Way of Saint James, a long-distance hiking trail familiar to most Americans by its Spanish name, the Camino de Santiago. Each pilgrim has their own reason for undertaking the journey. For the Jusinos, it was about taking a break from the relentless pace of modern life and getting away from all their electronic devices. And how hard could it be, Beth reasoned, to walk twelve to fifteen miles a day, especially with the promise of real beds and local wine every night? Simple.
It turned out to be harder than she thought. Beth is not an athlete, not into extreme adventures, and, she insists, not a risk-taker. She didn’t speak a word of French when she set out, and her Spanish was atrocious. But she can tell a story. In Walking to the End of the World, she shares, with wry humor and infectious enthusiasm, the joys and travails of undertaking such a journey. She evocatively describes the terrain and the route’s history, her fellow pilgrims, and the villages passed, and the unexpected challenges and charms of the experience.
Beth’s story is also about the assurance that an outdoor-based, boundary-stretching adventure is accessible to even the most unlikely of us. In her story, readers will feel that they, too, can get off their comfortable couches and do something unexpected and even spectacular.
Walking to the End of the World is a warm-hearted and engaging story about an average couple going on an adventure together, tracing ancient paths first created in the tenth and eleventh centuries, paths that continue to inspire and reveal surprises to us today in the twenty-first.
4. A HUG FOR THE APOSTLE (ON FOOT FROM CHARTRES TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA) by LAURIE DENNETT: This is another delightful read set on the same beloved pilgrim path. This one is a sweeping narrative beautifully told, filled with history. If you have a travel-reader on your list who is also a history buff, they will fall endlessly into this story. Laurie Dennett walked the Camino back in 1986 when it was just a whisper. She did so for a cause, as well…MS research fundraising. She tells a riveting story about her walk, interspersed with historic references that leaves the reader simultaneously fulfilled and wanting more. It opens up a desire to dive deep into French history before the journey is even underway. It’s definitely one of those springboard books that will have the reader devouring entire sections of the library upon finishing. I find it a little disappointing that Dennett’s journey isn’t right up there in the Canadian consciousness alongside Terry Fox’s. She raised a massive amount of money for MS and she called in regularly to Wally Crouter’s CFRB radio program with dispatches from the pilgrimage along the way. This is the kind of story that legends are made of. Canadians should know about it. As someone who routinely devours information about the Camino de Santiago, I did not know of Laurie Dennett’s journey until it was brought to my attention recently through the Canadian Company of Pilgrims.
(From the Publisher) HAVE YOU WALKED THE WAY OF ST JAMES? Have relatives or friends done so? Do you hope to travel it one day? Would you like to experience it, at least vicariously? This is your ticket. In spring 1986, Laurie Dennett walked the longest route of the Way of St James, or Camino de Santiago. She headed south from Chartres Cathedral, through the Loire Valley, historic Tours, Poitiers, Saintes, Bordeaux, and the Landes to the Pyrenees, crossing via Roncesvalles to Spanish Navarra. Then came La Rioja, the meseta of Castilla y León, Celtic Galicia, and finally Santiago de Compostela.
Her lively, 1987 account became noted for its direct style, cultural and historical insights, and depiction of the hospitality, kindnesses, and simple pleasures of life on the Camino. Laurie has remained active with the Way of St James, while pilgrim numbers grew exponentially and new modes of communication transformed travel.
An updated, lightly revised, lavishly illustrated version seems very à propos today. Inspired by the book, publisher John Parry and designer Anne Vellone have savoured, through Laurie’s account, the Camino’s joys, adventures, happenstances, and abundant treasures. Even if you never walk the route (and you’ll be tempted!), these evocative words and images will take you there.
5. I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST by MASON DEAVER: Another Young Adult title I want to shout about from the rooftops. It’s just soooo CUTE. Is it okay to sum up a book by saying it’s cute? It’s definitely also complicated, with its main character, Ben, thrown out of their house at the onset of the story for coming out as nonbinary. This OwnVoices story takes on a serious issue, the struggles of bigotry faced by LGBTQIA2 teens, and it does it with grace and love. There’s also an adorable romance This is a must read for teens on your list, but also for those who love a good YA read, no matter their age. Mason Deaver was put on my Immediate purchase list. I’m excited to see what they come up with next!
(From GOODREADS) When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.
But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.
At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.
Writers love to experience. You can always go with pens, paper, notebooks, books on writing, etc…the tools of their trade. OR, you can think outside the box and create your own certificates and coupons for RETREATS, WORKSHOPS, MEMBERSHIP, etc, etc, etc. Give your writer EXPERIENCE. Search for local workshops you can sign them up for, or simply create a gift certificate of intent for a workshop of their choosing. Below is one way to GIVE BIG, as well as a couple of more local thoughtful ideas for the writer(s) on your list:
6. LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT – A GIFT FOR THE WRITER ON YOUR LIST: I will never stop extolling the virtues of this yearly retreat for writers in Paris. What better way to honor the writer in your life, by giving them this uniquely immersive experience in the city of lights and love?! I took this retreat in 2014 and it stays with me still. It’s a romp through Hemingway’s Paris while simultaneously taking time to write in places like the Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg. This gift is for the soul and it will keep on giving years after it’s wrapped and under the tree. Click the pic below to go to the LBW website:
7. MEMBERSHIP IN A LOCAL WRITING ORGANIZATION: I can’t say enough about how enriching my own local writing organization is for me. Membership in such organizations is not often expensive, and to give such a gift is to embrace and support the writer in your life in ways that will see them growing both in their craft and in appreciation of that support. We like to know that the non-writers in our lives are encouraging of our passion. What better way to show it than to give the gift of fellowship with other writers. There are such organizations everywhere. In the Toronto area, might I suggest the WRITING COMMUNITY OF DURHAM REGION? WCDR (Membership begins at $25 for students and caps at $75)
8. SANCTUARY! WITH SUE AND JAMES AND INKSLINGERS: Two bright lights in the local writing scene are Sue Reynolds and James Dewar. Whether your writer loves poetry or fiction, memoir or sonnets, steering them towards the light of the Inkslingers’ Sanctuary Days will give them an endless and endearing supply of creativity. Explore the website, find something that fits the writer on your list…or create a gift certificate with the promise of Sanctuary in the new year. THE GOOD NEWS IS THEY DO HAVE THEIR OWN GIFT CERTIFICATES AVAILABLE. If you’re local to Toronto and the surrounding area, this dynamic duo is located close-by to Port Perry and they’re expertise and enthusiasm–their sheer love of craft and community–will ignite the writer on your list. Give them a look. Click on the banner below to visit their website:
I hope these suggestions have helped with your Christmas list. Enjoy shopping!
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Lock & West FTW
This is but exactly the messy, chaotic, sweet gay teen romance I didn’t know I needed so badly. So tumultuous and endearing. Every emotion. All the feels.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A Heartbreaking and Heart-bursting Story of Love and Hate We All NEED
Such a beautiful story. How can a story be so traumatic and traumatizing and yet still have a beautiful thread of love and hope weaved through it? I loved the love story in this book and we need the rest of the story that unfolded now more than ever. Just beautiful! Such a ride of emotions, too, with such a lovely denouement at the end of the ride. And the author’s note was such a lovely signature to end on. We need this book. We need the love and hope it exudes.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this book! From the heart-stopping chapter cliffhangers to the brother relationship between Nax and Malik to the sweet relationship between Nax and Rion to the awesomeness of the heroines… Case, Zee and Asra! The Swift Kick team is Kick Ass! I forgot how exciting and fulfilling this genre could be. Great read!
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was one of the hardest books I’ve read in a long time. I attempt to police myself on trigger stories, but my desire to read this one was stronger than my need for self-care at the time. As a survivor, I can definitely say this was TRUE. It was a roller-coaster of a story. I was beside Sadie every step of the way. The more I feared the reveals, the faster I read to discover them. Such a fast-paced exciting read. The word that comes to mind the most, for me, is AUTHENTIC. It’s very true to the survivor mindset. Great read.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Heartbreaking and Hopeful, Such a Fine Balance!
Took me long enough to get to this beautiful book. So glad I found it. I thoroughly enjoyed Henry’s story. Coming out of such a devastating story filled with hope and happiness feels almost like alchemy. Definitely my favorite read of 2018. Exquisite.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Darius is Actually Quite Amazing
I loved this story. I loved Darius and his fears and his inability to see his own strengths. I loved his friendship in Iran and his complicated relationship with his father. Yazd sounds beautiful and I want to visit now. Such a touching and subtle story. I’d recommend it to anyone.
When I first discovered Matthew Quick, I was at an interesting crossroads in my own writing journey. I had written a couple novels for adults and I was pondering writing for the young adult market. For some reason, I got it in my head that I couldn’t do both. One could either be an adult author OR a young adult author. I don’t know why I thought this, but I did. I’ve made it a point throughout my writing journey to always remind myself that THERE ARE NO RULES. There are guidelines, there is good advice and there is bad advice…but there are no steadfast rules. Writing is what you want it to be.
And yet, here I was…trying to make this decision. And while on the fence, I really sweated about it. I loved the darker issues I could explore writing contemporary adult novels, but I also loved the idea of exploring dark issues in a teenager setting…the coming of age in the high school environment novel. I was weighing the pros and cons of the two markets, because, as I said, I thought it had to be EITHER OR.
Enter Matthew Quick. No…I’m not going to be so bold as to call him my savior, or anything as nutty as that. I’m just gonna say that he reminded me of my own first rule of the Writer Club. The first rule of Writer Club is that there are no rules in Writer Club. He didn’t do this right away, mind you. At the time, I was mass-consuming YA novels…as part of my research in the market. Well, that’s what I was telling myself. Truth be told, I LOVE reading YA. But I was reading solely YA to get a feel for the landscape of the market. I was dissecting books for themes, formula, what-have-you.
I picked up BOY21 for several reasons. Because it seemed to have strong male and female ‘leads’. Because it was sportscentric. Because the blurb really caught my fancy. Sometimes, I’ll admit right here and now, I am sold by a cover. Or, at least, I am gripped by the cover and moved to learn more about a book. BOY21 had an awesome cover. Anyway, I picked it up and I read it. And I fell in love with it.
You know when you discover a novelist and then check out there other books and get excited because you get to spend more time with them? Well, immediately after I finished BOY21 I searched to find out what other Matthew Quick offerings there were on tap at the Kindle store.
HOLD THE PHONE!
The Silver Linings Playbook. Can it be? A contemporary ADULT novel?! Oh my God! He writes for adults AND young adults! YES!
Okay, so Matthew Quick may not be the first author in the history of authorship to do this. But he was the author I discovered doing it when I needed the permission to do it myself. When I needed to realize that it could actually be done. And not only was he writing for both markets, but it would seem he wrote quirky characters. I wrote quirky characters, too. I immediately purchased The Silver Linings Playbook. And I devoured it. And I thought it was a masterpiece!
Click on the book covers to read my reviews of these two Matthew Quick novels:
I later went through Quick’s full catalogue and loved all his books. I eagerly await his forthcoming THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW! I have it pre-ordered. And on February 11th, when I wake up, it will have been magically delivered to my Kindle! I know what I’ll be reading that day!
Click on the book cover below to read the synopsis of Quick’s latest offering:
Okay, so on the surface this post may seem like a commercial for Matthew Quick’s books. But I swear to you, the whole purpose of the post is to tell writers to keep reminding themselves of the fluidity of the rules they should live by. When you find yourself questioning whether or not you can do something, DO IT. Try it, anyway. Don’t listen to people who say do this, don’t do that. I was very close to saying goodbye to one of the markets in question, even though I loved both! It was through my discovery of Matthew Quick’s novels that I found the permission to carry on carrying on. Because I saw that he accomplished writing for both adults and young adults, I knew that I could take the same path. And I did. And I for one am extremely grateful for Matthew Quick.
But seriously, check out his books. You’ll love them! (-:
Just a quick post to let you know I’ve started a book review blog. I’ve been following them and reading them for a couple of years now and always wanted to try it out myself. The first review is up and I’ll be posting the next in a couple of days. Reading an amazing new YA that I can’t wait to review! You can find the review blog here:
Feel free to FOLLOW the blog. (-: