5 Guys In Between Days – Boys Don’t Cry

After yesterday’s debacle here, I think I’m going to review a few of my characters. I really feel yesterday’s blog post was a train wreck. I started and restarted it too many times to count. In honesty, it took me three days of trying. In the end, I just said the hell with it and settled on the latest sloppy version.

Today, I thought I would introduce you to 5 of my characters. These introductions should serve as a way of displaying the kind of fiction I write. I will have one from each of my five published novels…each broken, and each irrevocably hopeful.

There are several soundtracks to my life. The one that runs the deepest, I have to admit, is all The Cure. They have been my favourite obsession since about 1980. Contrary to what those on the outside of The Cure universe believe, I have always found their lyrics to be inspiring and uplifting. Robert Smith chose to dip into the morass of ennui and sadness as a way to dredge those feelings up into the light.

robert-smith

“Happy the man with the face that smiles” ~ Robert Smith of The Cure

I always feel better after listening to The Cure. They always had something for every mood and every moment. From the angsty relationship themed Boys Don’t Cry, to the manic chasing train driven punk wig-out of 10:15 Saturday Night, to the zany spirited uplifting Mint Car.

The sun is up
I’m so happy I could scream!
And there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be
Than here with you
It’s perfect
It’s all I ever wanted
I almost can’t believe that it’s for real

I really don’t think it gets any better than this
Vanilla smile
And a gorgeous strawberry kiss!
Birds sing we swing
Clouds drift by and everything is like a dream
It’s everything I wished

Those are not Gothic kill-me now depressed angst-driven suicidal lyrics. The Cure might be one of the most misunderstood bands of their time. There were times in my life when they were the place from which I derived my joy. When you struggle with issues, you sometimes need to trick yourself out of your bed in the morning. When I was a teenager, The Cure were there to dig me up out of my pain. They’re the happiest band I know. And all I ever heard in the media about them were slit-my-wrist jokes about how sorrowful and depressed their stuff was. So not the case. Many things saved me, but nothing ever saved teen me like The Cure saved me.

Oh wait! 5 Characters. Right! I’m so easily distracted these days.

  1. ZACH CARSON – summeronfire SUMMER ON FIRE – Zach appears in my first novel, Summer on Fire. He is the friend who outwardly appears to be the most together. But he is also, in a way, the weakest link. Picture Wil Wheaton’s Gordie Lachance. He’s the hero of the story, but he is nothing like the hero of the story. Everybody knows the guy you want to be when you watch the movie Stand By Me is Chris Chambers…the coolest of the cool (played by River Phoenix). Even though Chris later dies, he’s the ultimate hero of that story. My Chris Chambers in this story is Jeff Barsell. I’m referencing Stand By Me here because it is mentioned in quite a few of the reviews for this book. Zach was broken in the most subtle way of all of my main characters. He wants to please everyone and he struggles with his moral compass. He wants to do the right thing but he also wants to remain loyal to his friends. Jeff Barsell is the real broken hero of this story. Jeff has a brother who bullies him and a father who beats him. He adores his mother. He knows that the trouble he’s gotten himself into could finish the job of breaking her…a job his father has been chiseling away at for years. When the boys accidentally set a barn on fire, the stage is set for a much darker revelation. The house beside the barn goes up in flames…and with it, the body of the old man who lived there. From there, we get to see the mettle of these three boys as they attempt to wiggle out of their predicament.
  2. SEBASTIAN NELSON –  Sebastian's Poet SEBASTIAN’S POET – Sebastian Nelson is perhaps my favourite of all the characters I’ve ever created. He’s a boy who is forced to grow up at an all too young age. When folksinger Teal Landen appears on the couch one morning after a bohemian party at Sebby’s place, he quickly forms a bond with the boy. Sebastian comes from a broken family. He’s left with his mentally ill father after his mother takes off to her homeland of Montreal. With a father who can’t even look after himself–a father who is silently dealing with deep dark issues that threaten to kill him–Sebastian becomes the number one caregiver to his younger brother Renee. Teal becomes his saviour, but the distance between them is vast as Teal attempts to hide a truth from the young boy who worships him. This one takes place in The Beaches in Toronto…in the 1970s. It’s all Leonard Cohen meets James at 15. Sebastian is abused, neglected, and without a childhood to speak of. He is someone who should not be able to get up…but getting up is all he ever wants to do.
  3. TOBIAS REASON –  The+Reasons THE REASONS – Reason is the family name of the narrators in this one. The narration flips from chapter to chapter, from Tobias Reason to Maggie Reason. This is an entirely broken family. Maggie is insane. Her secret is so completely buried, she herself doesn’t even know what it is. But when she tosses her newly inherited house at Tobias, just to get rid of it, Tobias discovers the deepest darkest thing about a family so broken they might never be saved. Tobias’s older sister dies in chapter one…and on the surface this may appear to be the thing that breaks Maggie. But all along, there are hints that she was broken long before Deja died on her road-trip to the mountains she would never see. Maggie has no time for her youngest daughter, Annabel…so it falls to Tobias to raise her. But Annabel may in fact hold the key to everything that is broken. Tobias is abused, neglected, and without a childhood to speak of. But he is a character on a mission…he wants to save his mother, and in the process he wants to save his family. He will do anything to make this happen.
  4. FRANCIS FRIPP – burn-baby-burn-1000.jpeg BURN BABY BURN BABY – Francis Fripp’s last name is a nod to mention—He has the last name Fripp as an homage of sorts to Grady Tripp from Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys. This novel marks the onward march of my own courage. I wanted to go deeper with this one, explore the darkness that teens experience on a deeper level. Francis is bullied relentlessly at school. His tormentor, Brandon Hayley, won’t be happy until he sees Francis completely destroyed. But Francis was broken before Brandon ever got to him. Francis was mutilated by his abusive father, who burned half of Francis’s body in a murderous rage. As broken as Francis is–both inwardly and outwardly–he has a deep love of life. You can just glimpse it if you look past the angst and turmoil he lives with every day. He loves his little brothers Paul and Simon like mad. Sure, he calls them, collectively, Paul Simon…but he does this in love. He sees only his burns when he tries to assemble a picture of who he is as a person. But the new girl at school might see more than that. It’s up to Francis to allow her to do so. His walls are so high, he doesn’t know how to take them down. Francis is abused, neglected, and without a childhood to speak of. But Francis wants to soar. And his unflinching champion, Trig, will do anything to see that he does so.
  5. CARTER COLBY – cover2500 HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN – Carter is a twin. He’s the loser mentally unstable half of the Colby twins. His brother, inexplicably, is the popular All-American boy. But in chapter one, Marcus Colby dies in a motorcycle accident on the way to school.Carter was a passenger on the bike and becomes even more screwed up when he has to survive such a traumatic experience. Losing his twin is the beginning of the horror, but he quickly learns that sharing a face with the most popular dead boy in school is not an easy task. People who never saw him when Marcus was alive now don’t want to see him. Marcus becomes dead Marcus in this story…as he begins to visit Carter on a regular basis. He has unfinished work and he needs Carter’s help to see it through. The ghost of Marcus is just as fabulous and put together as the living Marcus was. While Carter attempts to pick himself up from the wreck of his life, he works with Marcus to help make things right. He also unexpectedly falls in love with Marcus’s girlfriend, Melanie, and forms an unexpected friendship with the school jock, Justin Dewar, who also happens to be the victim from the truck involved in the accident that killed Marcus. Carter is broken, but in different ways than usual. He has no self-esteem. He lives in the shadow of greatness and can’t manage to get out from under it. He hates himself. But he finds hope in Melanie…and in the possibility of being made more whole.

I brought up THE CURE at the beginning of this post because I wanted to draw a similarity between their music and my novels. On the surface, all of my stuff is morose, sad, broken, depressed, angsty, and filled with ennui. But it’s also, like The Cure, filled with hope and joy. Or, at least, I hope it is. I always make an effort to put a little sunshine in my work. Because all things broken are not ONLY broken. My favourite quote, which is also the epigraph in my novel Sebastian’s Poet, alludes to this. From Leonard Cohen’s ANTHEM…

THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING…THAT’S HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN.

In all ugliness, there is beauty. In all sadness, there is joy. This is what I attempt to write in my novels. I love to see the crack…because without it the beauty would not get in.

CLICK ON THE NAMES BELOW TO VISIT THE AMAZON PAGE FOR ITS RELATED NOVEL:

  1. Zach Carson
  2. Sebastian Nelson
  3. Tobias Reason
  4. Francis Fripp
  5. Carter Colby

Get HAPPY:

Real Life Heroes – Who Are Yours? And How Do You Honour Them?

I have had a few readers ask who I’m referring to in my latest novel dedication. Half Dead & Fully Broken released on January 19th. I spend a lot of time writing my dedications. Maybe even more time than it takes for me to write the novel itself. (-:

First, let me share a screenshot of the dedication with you…

DedicationWe all have heroes. If we’re lucky, we have more than one. If we’re really lucky we have more than we can count on two hands. I take my hero worship seriously.

The first in the above dedication is my late uncle. He was loud, opinionated, overbearing, at times scary, and, most of all…an amazing kind-hearted soul who would do anything for the ones he loved. I don’t know why he had such a soft spot in his heart for his nephews, but he did. And he would tell us, too. I remember that he loved me and wasn’t afraid of showing it in his way. And I remember that his laughter filled every crevice of a room. Hell, it filled the sky and the trees and the grass and the bees when he happened to be outside when he laughed. Just as a room or a cathedral could not harness his laughter, the great outdoors was also no match for it. I would do anything to hear it again. And a part of me will never stop hearing it. With all of his flaws, he was an amazingly good person. His legacy proves this. So, I wanted to mention my Uncle Don in my most recent dedication.

The first thing we should do, when it comes to heroes, is remember that nobody is perfect. Don’t look for flawless perfect people to look up to. Heroes can be tarnished and flawed…and, yet, still be beautiful.

The second person in my most recent dedication, Lynne MacDonell, is someone who has dedicated her life to rescuing men (and women) suffering the serious and life-damaging side-effects of childhood sexual abuse. Lynne is a tireless champion for men (who happen to be a marginalized group in a world that still has not fully come to the realization that boys too can be victims of sexual abuse). Not only does she run her own practice here in Toronto, but she flies across North America as part of the MALE SURVIVOR WEEKEND OF RECOVERY therapist team. And on Tuesday nights, she runs 2 groups for men. TWO! Every Tuesday. Every single Tuesday. Not one, but two.

Sometimes I think of the axiom, NO MAN GETS LEFT BEHIND, when I think of Lynne and her efforts to save male victims of childhood (and otherwise) sexual abuse. She will not rest.

From Lynne’s own website (linked above):

My Practice involves the healing of survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Although I work with both men and women the majority of my clients are men and their significant others. I offer two groups for male survivors covering topics of trauma issues, safety, healthy and unhealthy coping strategies as well as many other issues. I work with my clients in groups, in relationships and as individuals.

As a member of the award winning team of Malesurvivor.org, Weekends of Recovery, I have been involved developing training for and awareness regarding male survivor issues for OPP, Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness, Ontario Victim Witness Services as well as many others. 

I choose my words carefully in my dedications. We crave heroes in our fiction. It is to be expected that there will be at least one hero in every work of fiction. And, as writers, we try to find the right flawed-characteristics-to-heroic-characteristics ratio…in order to make those heroic characters seem real, believable, honest, true, plausible.

Lynne MacDonell defies the logic of Fictionlandia. Does she have flaws? Sure…I’m almost positive she does. If I’m going by the belief that we all do, I have to concede that she does too. Have I seen any of them? NO. This is the part where I say, “I’m not just the president of the Hair Club for Men. I’m also a client.” I’m there, in Lynne’s second of two Tuesday night TIME FOR MEN groups as often as possible. I don’t make every single Tuesday…but I certainly try.

While my characters are stumbling around in the dark attempting to help each other, to be heroes to one another, Lynne MacDonell is out in the real world…saving lives. I know this because she played a significant role in saving mine. Including her in the front dedication of one of my books? Easiest decision I ever made.

Who are your heroes? Before you answer that question, think about what HERO means to you. It doesn’t need to be someone capable of swooping down into your life from on high to save you from Niagara Falls in that crucial last second before you go tumbling over into nothingness. We should recognize our everyday heroes. Those people who, through either big or small ways, make our lives a little bit brighter. Who offers you sunlight in your moments of darkness? Who tells you that everything will be okay? Who simply goes along for the ride with you when times are trying? Who says, “You are not alone” at those times you feel most alone?

Something else to think about. Every day, each of us has the opportunity to be someone else’s hero. Every minute we have that opportunity. Just be your best self, and you never know who will benefit from that. Every moment, we have the power to effect the life of another…both positively and negatively. If you are carrying around a pocketful of heroes, make sure to emulate them.

We can be heroes…for ever and ever…

Happy Book Birthday to ME! Half Dead & Fully Broken is Now Released!

It’s been a long time coming! Half Dead & Fully Broken won the 2010 Muskoka Novel Marathon’s BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL AWARD. Slow-forward almost 5 years and here we are… RELEASE DAY! Carter Colby was one of my favourite characters to create. I’m so happy to finally get to share him with readers. You can 1-click Half Dead now at Amazon and start reading right away! Click on the cover below:

cover2500Here’s the synopsis for Half Dead:

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

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

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

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

LOOK FOR THE PAPERBACK VERSION TO BE AVAILABLE ANY DAY NOW! (-: It will be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters, etc.

Add Half Dead to your GOODREADS SHELF.

Team Carter Begins in 4 Days. Change Everything (MNM, MaleSurvivor)

I’m getting excited about the arrival of my 5th novel, HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN. I remember with great fondness writing this one at the 2010 Muskoka Novel Marathon! I’m sure you’ve heard all about this marathon by now. It takes place in a small town in Northern Ontario…but its reputation has now gained something of an international notoriety. For those of you NOT acquainted with the marathon, I will share with you now the movie created to celebrate it. This movie aired on national television here in Canada. It’s comprised 100% of still images, but looks like live action. It’s really quite amazing. I can’t even remember the amount of still shots gone in to make this movie. Here it is, for your viewing pleasure:

So, basically, 30ish writers get together over a 72hour long weekend. We each write a novel. We sleep, we eat, we laugh, we cry, we angst, we shout, we sing, we get stupid, we write, we write, we write. We also each come in with sponsors. It’s a marathon to raise funds for literacy. And raise funds, we do. In 2014 alone, we raised over $21,000.00 for literacy programs in Muskoka/Simcoe County.

Half Dead is the story of Carter Colby, and his dead twin Marcus. I will include the synopsis at the end of this post. While writing this story, I was in a completely overwhelmed with emotions. It was a thrilling roller coaster ride discovering the story while I frantically wrote into the night into the morning into the afternoon into the night into the morning into the afternoon into…you get the picture. From beginning to end in 72 hours, just rushing through the story to find out what happens next. My favourite way to write. I hope I caught something in the story worth the time of my readers. I feel like I did. I cried while writing the ending. That’s usually a pretty good sign. (-:

While I have you, I like to mention an organization that has helped me in the most profound way. It’s an organization that continually saves lives. MALE SURVIVOR. Their tagline, for those who are unfamiliar with the organization, is MaleSurvivor provides critical resources to male survivors of sexual trauma and all their partners in recovery by building communities of Hope, Healing, & Support.

Below, you can watch their video entitled WHAT IS MALE SURVIVOR:

Through attending 2 of their Weekend of Recovery retreats, I count myself among those saved by Weekend of Recovery. They made me realize that I had the power to change everything. Only when one is willing to work on past pain, can one eventually become free of it. Please consider this my semi-regular shout-out to Male Survivor. If you are a victim of sexual abuse, or know someone who is, there is no need to suffer in silence. Seek help. If not from MaleSurvivor, then from an organization in your area. The more we raise our voices against sexual abuse, the more resources we will have to combat its effects. You are not alone. And it is not your fault. Rebirth is just a step away. Having waited over 30 years to take that step, I know intimately how difficult it is to take it. But I promise you, it gets better once you take that first step. The road to recovery from the all-encompassing and devastating effects of sexual abuse is right there…just waiting.

So, here’s the cover for HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN. You can click on it to go to Amazon, where it is already available for PRE-ORDER:

51OeS9ITAHL._AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-46,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_The story goes like this:

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

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

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

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

Half Dead comes out on Monday January 19th. It will be my 5th published novel. It was also my 3rd of 4 BEST NOVEL AWARD wins at the Muskoka Novel Marathon. I am absurdly proud of my wins at the MNM. If you pick up #HDAFB, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. And I also hope that, at one point or another, you cry like a baby. (-: Looking forward to your indoctrination into #TeamCarter (-;

In other news, my BURN BABY BURN BABY is getting the most incredible reviews I’ve ever had. It was released last month and has had a steady stream of beautiful praise that has left me speechless. You can check out Burn Baby Burn Baby on Amazon by clicking the book cover below:

51Wb19wCHtL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_You can find all my books on GOODREADS RIGHT HERE.

Remember one thing…you have the power to change everything. No matter what it is. Either for yourself or for others. Don’t be afraid to use that power.

I leave you with the song that began to play while I walked into my first MALE SURVIVOR WEEKEND OF RECOVERY. It gutted me like nothing ever gutted me before or after. The anxiety I was feeling, dealing with uncovering a lifetime of darkness, might have had something to deal with it. But I still can’t listen to this song without shattering. It came to me at the moment of my first step. I knew it was going to be one of the hardest weekends of my life. And I also knew, as I listened to this song, that it would be my rebirth.

MAKE CHANGE HAPPEN.

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