The Book of Your Dreams – Chapter 1 of my Muskoka Novel Marathon Novel…

Unable to fall back to sleep, I thought I would finally open my Muskoka Novel Marathon novel. I just read the first chapter…thought I would share it here. I’ve been so disappointed by this year’s efforts . I’m going to try to work with what I got, though. Out of nowhere I decided my YA novel would be a horror this year. From that bad decision, it went downhill from there.

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Anyway…here’s chapter 1…which I need to edit. Just trying to motivate myself to write. To edit…

CHAPTER 1

My first clue should have been the honking big bells hanging off the front door. Only geezers use those things. They have them on the door in case they drop dead of old age and boredom or something. Someone accidentally comes into their store, the bells crash all over the place and they’re brought back to life.
Anyway, I wish I could take it all back. I wish I could go back to that first day and look at that piece-of-crap-falling-apart bookstore and not want to go inside. Curiosity don’t only kill cats, dude. That bookstore was the worst thing that ever happened to me.

When I opened the door, I got a hot rush of mold and old wood and old pages and ancient leather. Man, it was just too good.

I’m a book addict. There. I said it. That was my downfall. And, the older the better. Give me an old book and I’m in nirvana. Mr. Clancy says I’m a dying breed. I may be seventeen and stupid, but even I know books will be around long after the apocalypse hits. Yep, books and cockroaches.

I walked inside and the first thing I saw was the old white cat sprawled on the hardwood floor. He stretched inside a thin shaft of sunlight coming in the front window. Spreading away from—or drifting towards—the dirty old thing was a line of dust motes. It looked like both the cat and the motes were fighting for the light.

The cat lifted an eye in my direction long enough to telepathically say, ‘don’t fuck with me, I’m busy here’.

There were eight rows of thick wooden shelves, all filled with books that looked older than Great-Gram Imogene. If that’s even possible. Old bat’s like seventy-six, or something. She loses teeth every day. They just drop out of her skull like her gums are melting. Seriously.

I went right to the first shelf and started looking at all the books. I guess I should say I kind of caress books when I’m in bookstores. I like to touch their spines and just get all up in that. It kind of connects me to the writers, right.

Anyway, I was kind of spooked out right away. What bookstore isn’t like jammed packed with colour? Everywhere I looked, there were only about two colours…brown and black. And with all the dust motes floating around wherever the sunlight hit, it kind of looked like there was a low-lying fog throughout the store. When I’m fishin’ with Dad, low-lying fog is a good thing. Shopping in a bookstore? Not so much.

I had my hand on an old smacked-down mud-dragged copy of a Russian classic—The Brothers Karamazov—when I heard a rumbling throat clearing that sounded like stones in a washing machine or a cat stuck up in a car engine when the ignition gets turned over. It was something you don’t like hearing and would do anything to un-hear.

I’ve never heard a death-rattle, but Dad jokes around enough about them that I’m pretty sure something behind me had just made one.

“That’d be a good pick, right there, son.” The hairs up my arms reached away and I clenched my head into my neck like a turtle, only I couldn’t make my head disappear down inside my shell. His voice was way worse than his throat-clearing. The cat agreed. It snarled at the old man like he wasn’t its friggin’ owner, or something.

Just as I was about to tell him I already read The Bros Kara, my eye caught something shiny. You have to understand, in a store as dull as that one it was almost a eureka moment to discover something that stood out. The old man, who was not quite in my line of vision yet, was already objecting to the book I hadn’t yet picked up.

As my hand reached out to grab the spine—anything shiny in the dull dark ocean of books, dust and derelicts—he stepped between me and it.

“You don’t want that one, son.”

Who tells a kid that? Of course it automatically became the only thing within a twelve block radius I wanted. And I still hadn’t seen the title. Like the ninja that I am, I deeked around him and made a grab for the shiny-shiny.

“Ooh!” I said. “The Book of Dreams! Sounds awesome. Is this like the Tibetan one?”

“Young man,” he said. “I’m going to have to ask you not to touch that particular book.”

My hand was already on the gold spine. As I moved to haul it out of its slot on the shelf, though, the old man’s hand engulfed mine. My first sighting. A hand as white as bone and, well, bony. And cold. The hair standing up on my arms was now electrically standing up. I felt the ice course through me, like his touch was actually lowering my body temperature.

But I’m a kid who likes his books, right. And I was in a bookstore where the shelves were filled with books. And who the hell was this old coot to tell me what books I can or cannot touch? It was for sale, dude. If it was on the shelf in plain view—in a bookstore—it was for sale. End of story.

I wrenched myself away from that grip and stepped away from the shelf with the book in hand.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you, Ethan,” the old man said as he turned and walked back to the counter at the front of the store. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Just know that some books opened can’t be unopened.”

“What the hell does that mean?” I said. Now I was feeling brave. I won the standoff. I had the book in my hand. Dude was too weird. As I watched his back move up the thin aisle, I saw that he was impossibly tall and skinny. Like a basketball player who had just returned from a vacation at that Auschwitz concentration camp, or something. Like, he should be dead skinny.

His black suit was three sizes too big and filled with dust. He had an aura of dust about him that struggled and mingled with the dust motes that filled up all the empty spaces in the store. Dude was totally creeping me out.

I turned my back on Lurch and made to crack open the gold cover. My heart raced, like I needed to see what was inside.

“You read the title wrong too, son. Take another look. It’s The Book of YOUR Dreams.”

I stopped what I was doing and returned my gaze to the cover. The Book of Your Dreams. Huh? I couldn’t figure out how I had read that wrong. I was certain it had said The Book of Dreams.

I should have piqued then. Something wasn’t right. Between Lurch and his pissy cat and the dust motes and the book, I should have just got my shit out of Dodge. But I was intrigued. Like I said, I’m a bibliophile. And that book was calling my name.

I spotted a chair at the end of the aisle and took the book over to it. I sat down and opened the book.

He just called you Ethan.

“Hey,” I said. “How did you know my name?”

“If you haven’t looked inside that book yet, you can still leave it be and pick another. You still have prerogative on your side, Ethan.”

Talk about creeping the hell out of a kid.

“How the hell do you know my name?”

But I didn’t wait for an answer. None of the alarm bells were ringing in my head. Or at least not properly. He had suggested a forbiddenness about that book and I was never one to take to that kind of shit very gently. I dove into the book.

After turning the first few pages, though, I began to lose interest. They were empty and a rotten smell emanated from them. Like that book hadn’t been opened for decades and all the badness that had ever lived in the ancient bookstore had come to rest within this one book’s yellowed pages.

“It stinks,” I said more to myself than to the man, who now seemed too far away to carry an actual conversation with him. Like I would have wanted to. He gave creeps a bad name. “Why does it smell so bad?”

But he was listening. From the front of the store, he said, “That’s a question you really have to ask yourself, young man. You have things to hide in that little head of yours? You have things to be ashamed of? You sure that smell ain’t coming from the inside? Skunk smells his own stink first, Ethan.”

I stood up and walked towards him, book in hand.

“Stop saying my name. How do you know who I am anyway?”

“I’m just saying that book knows you better than I do. I’m just a silly old man who tried to warn you not to dance with the devil. Now you’re dancing, young man. Now you’re dancing.”

Talk about weirdness.

“What the hell are you talking about?” I put the book on the counter and kept thumbing through its empty yellow pages. “You trying to scare me? Who put you up to this anyway?”

The bells on the door rang. And not just a little bit. It was like somebody had taken them off the door and slammed them into it. And then stomped on them for good measure. I swung around to see who had come in, but the doorway was empty. Nobody there.

I jumped as something brushed against my ankle. Then I felt like an idiot, because when I looked down it was only the stupid pissed off cat wrapping itself around me. Someone needed to be pet. Guaranteed petting was not something that old man would ever do.

When I reached down to pet the cat, though, it hissed and snapped at my finger. Bitch drew blood with its dirty stinking fangs.

“Ouch! Jesus.”

“You wanna watch out for Lilith. She’d sooner eat ya than look atcha. Clean that out before it gets infected. Cats are filthy creatures.”

I sucked at the cut and rolled my eyes at Lurch.

“Gee, thanks, dude. First you try to stop me from buying a book, then your cat bites me and then you try to freak me out about rabies or some shit. Customer service in this store is tripping.”

“You have bigger problems than an old cat bite, Ethan. You let some stuff in and you let some stuff out when you done opened that book. I warned you. I’ll say it again.”

“What do you mean? It’s just an empty book filled with empty pages. That stink like shitty bad breath or something.”

“No. It’s out now. Your book is never empty. It’s the Book of Your Dreams. They there. You just have to see—”

“Fuck off,” I said as I pushed the book away from me. Cutting him off mid-sentence didn’t mean anything. I still got the gist of it. The pages in front of me were filled with words. He was right. I just had to see. And there they were, line after line after line of words.

“Can’t leave it now.”

“What the hell? I’m out of here. You’re a freaky old man. I don’t know how you did it. I actually don’t give a shit how you did it. I’m out.”

I made for the door. But the old man came out from behind the counter with a book bag in hand. He was sliding the gold book into the bag as he made his way between me and the door.

I looked into his face for the first time. Ever see one of those skeletal people in horror movies? You know the ones. They’re not dead, but they’re so skinny and frail and grey and white that you just know they’re gonna keel over in the next ten minutes and start eating brains or something. Dude was like that. Hollow cheeks. Empty eyes that looked just as dusty as his black suit. His lips were slits of white, just gashes in his face. I thought about screaming but knew the sound of it in that dank store would terrify the hell out of me. So I muffled it. I ate the scream like I never ate a scream before in my life.

There I was. Right in front of the door. With Lurch standing between me and it. I wasn’t getting through him. Just as I knew he was scrawny and near death, I also knew he’d be like frigging Gibraltar. A man of steel. Something in my head and my heart told me not to mess with him.

He reached toward me and I thought for a second that he might kill me. But I noticed that it was the hand with the bagged book in it that came out to meet me.
“Here you go,” he said. “You can’t leave without your new purchase.”

“I ain’t buying that piece of shit. Get it away from me.”

“Son, it’s already paid for. It’s yours. Bought and paid for. Told you not to open it. They usually don’t listen, Ethan. Not usually. In recent memory, I only remember one boy taking heed of my words and putting that book back on the shelf. Since you ain’t him, you bought this book. Now take it.”

He nudged the book into my belly, pushing it against me like he was attempting to break the skin and lodge it in my abdomen.

I backed off and pushed back. “I don’t want it.”

“Take it and go, young man. You stopped playing with choice when you opened it. Take it. And go.”

His eyes burned so hard into me that I did the only thing I could think of to do. I reached a hand toward his and grabbed hold of the book.

“There you go. Now get.”

“You’re a crazy old man,” I said. I know. Lame-assed, right.

“Maybe so. But I don’t dance with devils, Ethan. I leave that to my customers. Now take the book you wanted so badly and be gone from here. It’s time I close up shop for the day.”

He stepped aside and allowed me to leave. I felt like I was in a dream state. Fuzz filled up around me and swallowed up anything sane that was left of the moment. I was on the other side of the door. I could hear the muffled ringing of the bells on the inside, but as I looked in I couldn’t see the old man or his cat. I stepped away from the door, looked at the bag in my hands with the old book in it and felt my shoulders slump in defeat.

“Shit. I don’t want this stupid book.”

Announcement: Half Dead & Fully Broken Sold!

It is with GREAT PLEASURE that I announce the sale of my young adult novel, HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN!

Here’s the announcement from Publisher’s Marketplace:

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My sincere thanks and gratitude to my wonderful agent, STACEY DONAGHY of DONAGHY LITERARY GROUP!

Half Dead & Fully Broken was written at the July 2010 Muskoka Novel Marathon in Huntsville, Ontario. It went on to win the 2010 BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL AWARD.

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Once again, I find myself thanking the good (angelic) folks at the Muskoka Novel Marathon. And not only the organizers, who work tirelessly year in and year out to give us writers a magical space in which to create our fictional worlds. No, when I say the folks at the Muskoka Novel Marathon, I mean EVERYONE. My fellow writers, the volunteers who feed and fuel us, the venue people…everyone. Without the Muskoka Novel Marathon, I wouldn’t have so many novels under my belt. Together, they’ve created the perfect environment for me to write in. It takes a village to get me to write a novel. Truly. Whatever the magic elixir is, it works. When I get to the MNM in Huntsville every July, I suddenly have the kind of focus needed to put together a novel. And I am truly grateful to be a part of the magic. So thank you all!

Half Dead is my third Muskoka Novel Marathon novel to be published. (-:

Finally, I’d like to thank Andrew Buckley and Curiosity Quills. I’m thrilled that Half Dead has found a home, and I’m doubly thrilled that it was Andrew who opened the door and let us in. (-:

Book Trailer as Outline!

I found an easy and entertaining way to outline…for those of us who hate outlining. Now I use hate loosely here. Whether you’re an outliner or a pantser should ultimately depend on your project. I always felt this way. I don’t think one should come to a conclusion that they are one or the other. Always be open to new ways to draft your next novel.

Anyway, as I have frequently struggled with outlining, I needed to find a way to make it creative and fun. So, no charts for me. No diagrams, no lines from one scene to another, no boxed miasma of words planned out on chalkboards waiting to be distilled into novel form. My brain just doesn’t seem to want to work that way. I am content to have a large block of clay and just pound away slowly at it and wait for the story to reveal itself to me. It’s more exciting for me if I don’t know what will happen next until I make it happen.

But this one thing seems to be working for me. With Windows Movie Maker, it’s SO easy to throw together a quick book trailer. And this is my new outline. I make a book trailer for my vision of the finished novel, prior to writing the novel. Whether or not you use live action in a book trailer, I suppose is up to you. If you have friends who are competent enough actors for the job, it would be a great idea to film something. I prefer to mix stills, music and plot points in my trailers. And once I clip them all together in the easy to use Windows Movie Maker, I simply watch it a few times to let the ‘story’ soak in.

After that, I start the writing. I have no laboured chaotic mess of an outline to sort through. Just a quick 3 minute video that was fun to put together and hopefully fun to watch. I don’t have to stick rigidly to the video, but the process of making it solidifies the story I would like to tell. You should try it. It’s a lot of fun to search for just the right pictures and just the right words to accompany them. Sometimes, the music I choose even helps me to better envision the story I want to tell.

It’s creative. It’s fun and it really really helps. I’ve tried it. I will be making a book trailer this week for the novel I intend to write for this year’s Muskoka Novel Marathon. I’m not sure yet what I want to write, but once something comes to me I’ll make the trailer and then watch it until the gaps are filled in with my imagination and the wants and will of the characters I create for the trailer.

I won’t post any book trailers I’ve created as outlines, as I don’t have permissions for the images I used…I don’t make them with the intent of showing them publicly. I do have the permissions needed for the book trailer for my latest novel, The Reasons. So, I’ll share it now as an example of what you could do as an outline:

September – #1 With a Bullet

Another hectic September. Surprise, surprise. I should have seen this coming. Not that I’m complaining!

I think this coming week is the busiest. Tonight is a committee meeting for the Ontario Writers’ Conference. We are heading into full-swing planning and organizing for our May, 2013 conference. This is a labour of love for each and every one of us on the committee. Our vision was to create an atmosphere of learning and a celebration of words. Even at our busiest, this is a wonderful project we deeply love. Look for 2013 updates to start springing up soon on the OWC website, as well as through social media.

Maybe I should have used a more apropos word when I said HECTIC. Is a string of parties, celebrations, etc. really something one could call hectic? September is always busy, but it’s also always the best time of the year. Lots of great things happening.

This coming weekend, we are off to Huntsville for the 2012 Muskoka Novel Marathon Wrap Party! Best Novel Award winners will be announced, as well as all the participant-voted prizes for things such as B.I.C. and Spirit Award. It won’t matter in the least who wins any of these things. Clearly, everybody who took part in the marathon has already won (as evidenced by the photo below!)!

$15,000 raised for literacy! From left to right: Rob Armstrong, CEO, YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka; Fiona Cascagnette, Vice President, Child Development, Family Support and Community Programs, YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka; Nancy West, Team Leader, Huntsville Employment and Literacy Services, YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka; Paula Boon, Muskoka Novel Marathon 2012 Co-Convenor; Karen Wehrstein, Muskoka Novel Marathon 2012 Co-Convenor.

Yes. That is a cheque for $15,000.00. That’s what the marathon raised this year to put into the ring and fight against illiteracy. The MNM is such an amazing event. I can’t say enough about it…but in the end, it’s the money raised for literacy that matters. Everything else is just the icing.

There will also be a workshop on Saturday, after the wrap party…and the MNM contingent will probably walk to the next leg of the three event day—Supper at THE COTTAGE. We’re a pretty big family, the MNM contingent—so I feel for the poor restaurant. They’re in for quite a swarming. (-: I do think it’s great that we will be able to break bread together again, though. A lot happens during the July marathon weekend. In 72 hours, you write a novel AND discover that you are a part of a new family—a family that eats and sleeps and laughs and cries and sings together. We probably do so much more than that also, but—it’s complicated. (-;

To explore the history and the future of the MNM, click on the chair! (-:

There are happenings right up to the end of September…some big and some small. They’re all awesome, though. Hope you’re enjoying YOUR September. Just like every other month on the calendar, blink and it’s gone. Remember to capture the moments. (-:

(If you’re in Oshawa this coming Thursday, drop into Boston Pizza on Taunton just east of Harmony. My younger brother will be jamming there in the evening. (-:)

September – ALWAYS a busy month! (Updates)

I don’t remember a September that wasn’t action-packed. Historically, it just seems like one of those months where everything happens at once. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! This September is no exception. Things started to roll today, and it’s looking like yet another exciting September for me.

September 1st – My poem WHEN VENUS TAKES A RIDE was posted on the website of the Parliamentary Poet Laureate. It was chosen as the Poem of the Month by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate, Pierre DesRuisseaux. It will be featured for the month of September, and archived on the site for two years. I wrote this poem after my first day on the island of Lamu, off the coast of Kenya. I went there this past December with the Summer Literary Seminars, as part of their Kenya writing program. We took a plane to Manda Island from Nairobi and then hopped a dhow over to the island of Lamu. Once there, the group was given a walking tour of Lamu Town. During this tour, one of the poets in the group, Venus Thrash, was given a ride on a donkey (there are no cars on Lamu, but there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of donkeys). The poem is about that experience.

September 11 – Just like the second Saturday of every month (except for August), the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR) hosts it’s monthly Breakfast Meeting. If you’re a writer in OR NEAR the Durham Region, these are NOT to be missed. The September Breakfast Meeting speaker is Neil Crone. Personally, I think he’s one of the funniest people in Canada. It’s a DON’T-MISS month! Neil will be talking about writing humour.

September 24-25Uxbridge Celebration of the Arts. It’s a 25-year anniversary celebration of the vibrant artistic community of Uxbridge, Ontario. And when I say vibrant, I mean electrifying. I’m constantly amazed by the artistic community in this small town just west of Port Perry, Ontario. I’ve been drawn there on several occasions for BIG TIME artistic endeavors. This time, I’m partaking in the fun. I’ve been chosen to be the playwright for the 25-year anniversary celebration. On the 24th of September I will be given a prompt and I will have 25 hours not only to write a one-act play, but to send it off to my director, Jessica Outram, have her run through rehearsals with the actors AND have it performed live on stage at the Uxbridge Music Hall at the 25th hour. So I’m giving myself about 5-6 of those 25 hours to actually pen the script…as I think they’ll need the bulk of the hours to rehearse. This is the kind of thing I absolutely love! I was fortunate enough to do this type of playwriting on two other occasions, for Driftwood Theatre, as one of the playwrights for their 2009 and 2010 Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festival. I can’t wait to find out what I will be writing about! AND…the best part…watching it come to life just a few hours after it’s written. I am constantly amazed by the talent of the directors and actors that I am fortunate enough to work with!

September 26th– I will be MUSKOKA BOUND! It’s the wrap party for the 2010 Muskoka Novel Marathon. This event, held every July, has quickly become one of my favourite writing related activities! You sit in a building with approximately 30 other writers and you write a novel—in either 48 or 72 hours. How amazing is that! It was a great group this year (as it is every year). We had a lot of fun, and it’s hard to believe at the end of the weekend that there was actually time to put together a manuscript between the fun. I wrote a Young Adult novel this year – HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN. I’ve been editing it since July. The wrap party is on the 26th…all the writers regroup and award trophies for various different things–BIC AWARD for Bum in Chair, Most Prolific Writer, Spirit Award, Rookie of the Year Award and the Remy Award for most money raised. Most money raised, you ask? The marathon is a double-edged sword. It is a huge benefit to those writers brave enough to participate, but it’s also a marathon of hope. Each writer raises funs for the Muskoka Literacy Council…it’s writers helping readers. The marathon raises funds and awareness for the council—it helps them to spread the joy of literacy. Another prize awarded at the wrap party is the BEST NOVEL AWARD—awarded, actually, in different categories—Best Adult Novel, Best Young Adult Novel and Best Children’s Novel. The manuscripts are sent to 6 industry judges immediately following the marathon…and they read and judge them over the summer. The winning novels get sent to participating publishers for consideration. The benefits of this event are just neverending! I have my eye on the hands on favourite for Best YA this year—I’m not going to name names (she will not be mentioned here!), but I had the opportunity to read one of the manuscripts and I found it STELLAR. We will see what the Wrap Party brings us. I consider this wrap party the official end of summer, even though Huntsville is already quite in bloom with turned foilage by the time it rolls around.

Month EndMuseitup Publishing is preparing to launch! My Young Adult novel SUMMER ON FIRE will be published by Muse in July, 2011…but the publisher is launching in October. We’ve been talking excitedly about this launch behind the scenes. September is bound to thrive with chatter between publisher and cover artists and editors and writers. It’s a great family to be a part of! I’m really excited about the launch…and can feel the tsunami of its approach! September is THE month to be a Museitup member!

Not to mention! September is another month of busy planning for the 2011 ONTARIO WRITERS’ CONFERENCE. This is an ongoing labour of love that factors into every month on the calendar. We want to organize the best conference every year. To do this, we must be dedicated to putting in a lot of volunteer hours. It’s worth it, though…so rewarding to see the happy faces of writers on the day of the conference!

And I’m certain there will be more excitement along the way. Like maybe a reading from author friend Karen Cole  somewhere in Uxbridge, maybe! Or maybe some poetry read by friend Barbara Hunt!  (-;