Gene’s Jealousy – Why Do You Write?

I often wonder why writers write. What was it that brought you to the place of writing?

When I try to answer this question myself, so many moments in my early reading life come to mind. From Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women to Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids. But I always rush forward in my reading trajectory to a boy on the outstretched limb of a tree, being caught off guard when his friend gives the branch the slightest jostle, sending him crashing to the ground beneath.

Looking back, I now see that moment of I WANT TO BE A WRITER forever entwined–entangled?–with Gene’s jealousy of the almighty perfect-in-every-way Phineas.

Though some of the themes in John Knowles’s of A Separate Peace hold no interest to me whatsoever (I always shy away from any story centered around war and sports are, well impenetrable and uninteresting), it is the relationship between these two main characters that enthralled me so much. From the first pages of this story, I could see what the writer was doing. It was as though I was locked into the story while at the same time capable of bearing witness to the scaffolding behind the story. The scaffolding, in this case, was a simmering jealousy that was effortlessly displayed by the author through the narrator’s gaze. This jealousy boiled throughout the story more powerfully than a screaming tea kettle. I was fascinated by the way the author was manipulating the reader. I wanted to do that. Such duplicity, and such a way of making me, the reader, feel solidarity simultaneously with both characters.

The way Gene, right from the beginning of the story, prayed for his best friend’s failure and comeuppance. And assumed–wrongly, because he was incapable of thinking in any way other than his own–that Finny felt the same way about him.

That relationship and the way it thrilled me as a young reader, that right there was what I wanted to capture as a writer. I savored that moment Gene realized Finny had not a scrap of jealousy for him…that Finny actually wished nothing but the best for him and was, in fact incapable of thinking mean things about him! That was such a sharp slap, such a quick burn to Gene’s psyche. The way Gene tried to fit Finny’s thinking into the way he himself thought was so telling! And that moment it all came crashing down and Gene realized he was just a mean person whereas Finny was incapable of meanness? It was such a fascinating look into friendships and the duplicitous simmerings that sometimes boiled just beneath the surface of them. By making the narrator, Gene, a small, arrogant, mean, and jealous person, John Knowles started me off on my path to wanting to be a writer.

What’s your Writer Origin Story? I know it’s never as simple as one thing. There’s always this leads to this, leads to this, leads to this, leads to this. It’s kind of like in Stephen King’s book The Tommyknockers. Remember? When Bobbi Anderson was walking with her dog, Peter, in the woods and one of her elderly hiking boots fetched up against something…fetched up hard? She thought it was a tree root until she saw a gleam of metal. Roughly three inches…just enough to trip over. Then she thought it might be a tin can. As she began to dig it out, her thoughts went to bigger and bigger possibilities. A piece of logging equipment? A car? If you read The Tommyknockers, then you know what Bobbi found was much much bigger than a car. Like a sliver of the world’s biggest iceberg, that three inches she tripped over was just the beginning of the colossus she would uncover.

What made you trip over writing? It’s hard to pinpoint that magical moment, but if you think about it, you’ll find it. I might answer differently on another day. I may dig a little deeper to unearth more and realize that it was not Gene’s jealousy and smallmindedness that made that final click with me. But today, that’s what I’ve uncovered. My origin story. Jealousy is as good a reason as any, I suppose. All the emotions fascinate writers, don’t they?

 

Find my books here: MY AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

Where is My Ending – Where is Ethan Sinclair…

When we were young, it was such an easy fix to go from malaise to happy. “When your get up and go has got up and went…”

One merely had to reach for a hunk of cheese.

When you’re an old writer who just can’t seem to find their way anymore, there’s more to it. I’ve been trying for the past year to restart my writing life. It’s been all but dead, to be honest. I thought that reading all the right books would be the cure, but nope. I thought that reading my own works would help, but nope. I thought that sitting down and forcing myself to write would help, but nope. I thought that editing my work would help, but nope. I long for the days when everything would be fixed by a good ole hunk of cheese. Those were the days.

I have a deadline with my next (ALREADY CONTRACTED) novel. In truth, I’m over a year past my deadline. My publisher is being really supportive in even allowing me to still strive for a submission date sometime in the uncertain future. Charitable doesn’t begin to describe it. I have been struggling to figure out how to finish this book for 2 years. With no end in sight.

I keep going back to the beginning and editing my way through to figure out an escape, an ending. The struggle is REAL.

Where is Ethan Sinclair. That’s the name of the novel. I don’t f*cking know!? That’s the problem. Where is my ending?! I need an ending. This book is literally killing my desire to write. It’s STOPPING me from beginning other projects, thus completely murdering my writing path. I am now a writer who keeps circling back to the beginning of the novel that won’t tell me its ending.

How’s your writing life going? How about this pandemic?! Really not a good thing for creatives, is it?

Where is my ending?

I think I’ll go and eat some cheese…

 

If you want, you can pick up my latest book…I wrote it myself, back when I was a writer!

BOOK OF DREAMS (Duet Books/Chicago Review Press) NOW AVAILABLE WHEREVER BOOKS ARE SOLD!

Gaige’s curiosity gets the better of him when he discovers a bookstore on an abandoned street where no bookstore should be. He steps inside and is immediately enthralled by its antiquarian sights and smells. But one book in particular calls to him. It isn’t long before he gets a bad feeling about it, but it’s already too late. The store’s aged bookseller gives him no alternative: once he touches the book, it’s his—whether he wants it or not. It’s bought and paid for and there are no returns. The book leads Gaige on a horrific descent into the unknown. As he falls into the depths of its pages, he loses blocks of time, and his friends become trapped inside ancient cellars with seemingly no means of escape. Gaige soon learns that the ancient bookseller is a notorious serial killer from a previous century, and fears that he has fallen into a predicament from which he may not escape. When all seems lost, he finds the one person he can turn to for help—Mael, a sweet teen also trapped inside the book who didn’t fall for the bookseller’s tricks. Together, they race against time to protect Gaige from joining a long string of boys who vanished without a trace inside the book of dreams.

Amazon USA | Amazon Canada | Chicago Review Press Print | Chicago Review Press Ebook | Barnes & Noble | Interlude Press | Kobo USA | Kobo Canada | IndieBound | Blackwell’s | Booktopia | Book Depository | APPLE Books | Goodreads

And, hey, stay tuned…WHERE IS ETHAN SINCLAIR just might find a way to end itself. Watch for it (hopefully) in 2023…if there is a god.

 

 

One More Time! The Muskoka Novel Marathon Part XIII

Lucky Number 13! Here we go!

It’s that time of year to start gearing up for the annual MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON again! And this year will be my 13th kick at the 72-hour novel writing marathon can. I have well and truly found what works best for me. It’s the bum-in-chair once a year chaos of a marathon writing frenzy.

The Active Living Centre in Huntsville, Ontario, where the marathon usually takes place (when there’s not a pandemic).

This event is a fundraiser for area literacy programs. Since its inception, the MNM writers have collected hundreds of thousands of dollars through this marathon. And, as an added bonus, we get to spend an uproarious long weekend together in beautiful Huntsville, Ontario, in the heart of Muskoka.

40 Writers – 1 Room – 72 Hours – 40 Novels

Unfortunately, the past 2 years have been online…and this year will ALSO be online. Damn pandemic! I will tell you right now, it’s not the same as when you have 40 writers living together for 72 hours, sharing one big room, while each attempts to write the Great Canadian Novel. But the magic is still there. We meet through Zoom, we brainstorm, we chat, we laugh. We read our work. There is still a special dynamic that cannot be ignored. It’s still worth it.

Taking a break in the closet at the 2018 Muskoka Novel Marathon. My nap-cubby.

This year’s marathon is JULY 15th to JULY 18th. From Friday at 8pm to Monday at 8pm. If you register and write your novel (or part of your novel) during that 72 hour period, you can submit it at the end of the weekend. It goes to an industry panel of judges and a BEST NOVEL AWARD is chosen for MG/YA and ADULT manuscripts. Winners get prizes and the opportunity to submit their manuscript to a publisher, once they have time to complete it and edit it.

Meet and Greet at the beginning of the 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon.

The online marathon’s registration fee is only $25. Here’s the INFO PAGE FOR FIRST TIME PARTICIPANTS. Keep in mind that the link covers in person details, but it also has the breakdown of prizes and awards, etc.

The facility where the Muskoka Novel Marathon usually takes place. The writers have one huge room to write in together, with a second room where we all dine together.

The in-person facility for this annual marathon is quite amazing. Once it’s back in-person, you should really consider vying for a coveted seat at the marathon table.

This dock is only a few feet from the building where the marathon takes place when it’s in-person.

Here is what I have done in past years at the Muskoka Novel Marathon:

What I have written at Muskoka Novel Marathon

2007|Sebastian’s Poet|Best Adult Novel Award
2008|The Reasons|Best Adult Novel Award
2010|Half Dead & Fully Broken|Best Young Adult Novel Award
2011|That’s Me In The Corner|Best Young Adult Novel Award
2012|Burn Baby Burn Baby
2013|Alive & Kicking
2014|The Book of Your Dreams|Honorable Mention
2015|Pride Must Be A Place
2016|I Will Tell The Night|Best Adult Novel Award
2018|Hey, New Guy
2019|No Visible Damage|Runner Up
2020|I’ve Waited Hours for This
2021| Worked on contracted novel…did not enter.

I’m not sure what my plan is for this year’s marathon. To use a juggling metaphor, a few balls are in the air.

Every time a writer reaches another 10-page milestone, they add a strip of paper with their name on it to the clothesline. It gets pretty full by the end of the weekend!

We will meet online this year. Hopefully this is the last year. The good thing is… we get to introduce NEW people to the Marathon this year. Because it’s online, people from all over the world can join…and there’s no cap on attendance. In person, the cap is 40 writers. So, if you want to focus on your writing for 72 hours in July this year, consider registering. You will get writing time, support, new friendships…win, win! REGISTER HERE.

There is LOTS of silly time to be had at the in-person marathon! Here I am with the zany Karen Elliott. Can’t wait to be back to the in-person event. I can’t believe I get so much writing done at the event, because we have the time of our lives!
I’ve met lifelong friends at the marathon, and also dragged many local writing friends to the event. And I’ve been lucky to get visits most years from my favourite person as well. 🙂

Here’s hoping 2023 is in person. As for 2022…it’s time to register! Cyber-See-You there!

To Create Inside of Chaos

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my position as a creative. When you juxtapose creativity with what is going on with the world today, it’s hard to comprehend that one could simply sit down, zone out, and create…amidst all the chaos.

I mean, honestly, between doomscrolling, masking, and just scraping by emotionally after two solid years of a pandemic…when does one have the time and mental capacity to create? That’s a real question, because I have been suffering terribly trying to come to terms with the answer. There is nothing worse for a creative than WANTING to create but not being able to motivate yourself to do so.

Today alone, we are waking up to Russia attacking Ukraine on the heels of Texas attacking trans kids and teens and their supportive parents days after ignorant moronic anti-masking Nazi racist anti-vaxxers tried to overthrow democracy in Ottawa. The world is so filled with hatred, madness, and rage right now. Where do we find the time to silence that chaos while sitting quietly and creating? It just feels like it would be turning one’s back on something important the very moment one shouldn’t look away. The world is HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.

I write this today after seeing a tweet cross my path on Twitter. Initially, I thought, ‘YES, YES, YES!’ It’s great advice. But it’s also somehow debilitating to ponder…especially if that’s exactly what you want to do, but you JUST CAN’T. For context, here is the tweet (click the tweet to go to Cavan’s Twitter):

No shade to Cavan Scott. I actually love the tweet. They’re incredibly right with this advice. Just don’t beat yourself up if you can’t pick up the torch of this tweet and run with your creativity.

It is also in times of trouble that creativity sometimes abandons our hearts. We need to give ourselves permission to NOT act on this tweet if we are unable to. Creativity will never die. YOUR CREATIVITY WILL NEVER DIE. Sometimes we need a break.

When the world is falling to pieces in front of your eyes and you can’t help but feel a deep lasting despair, please don’t complicate things by hating yourself for not being able to take refuge in your creative passions. Sometimes we are simply too overwhelmed to do so. Be kind… to yourself and to others. Times are dire. Be safe. Be the light the world needs in whatever little way you can be without burning yourself out.

Create if you can. Sit this one out if you can’t. Read poetry. Look at the beauty of art. Send hope into the universe for a better humanity. Do what you can to get by. Give yourself GRACE.

Nominated for the Queer Indie’s 2022 Awards!

Hello Readers!

It’s that time of year again. The Queer Indie’s 2022 Awards are upon us! And guess who’s been NOMINATED in the Queer Lit: Youth category?!

ME! It’s me. 🙂

QUEER INDIES is a great resource for independent queer books. Visit their main site page HERE.

This is my second nomination. If you would like to vote for my category (and/or any other category) you can do so by visiting the VOTE PAGE HERE.

Voting in each category is done by drop down box for that category. Just click on the category for which you would like to vote and the nominees will be revealed.

Voting is open until February 7th, 2022.

I Am From…a Poetry Exercise…

I just came across a little chapbook from Sue Reynolds’ Fearless Writers Spring 2004 Session. Some great poetry in it from my fellow participants. An archaeological look at some fine writers who have gone on to do great things since attending Sue’s workshop. If you EVER get an opportunity to be mentored by Sue Reynolds…just do it. No questions asked…just jump in–parachute free–and do it! She’s an exceptional teacher, and a passionate writer!

I thought I’d share the poem I have in the chapbook, mostly because I forgot it ever existed until just now. (-;

I AM FROM…

I am from the rusty Miramichi,

which swells and contracts to the heartbeat of the distant moon.

I am from the smiling lips of Shakespeare,

who tells the young lovers to look up into the night and shout out:

 “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?”

I am from that ancient of minds.

“It is the East,” I say, and I am from the sun.

“Arise fair sun and kill the envious moon,” which I am also from.

I am from the liquid reason of Neruda’s lines.

I am from the forest creatures

who beat a path to my door,

calling out my name through the darkness

of night’s great blanket.

I am from the place where dreams die.

I am from a woman who is strong and dark and proud…

a woman of this soil who tells me that what doesn’t kill us

makes us weaker, but more determined.

I am from that smell that escapes

off the tattered spines of books

in the ancient library.

I am from the sadness that breathes in loneliness

and the happiness that comes with remembering the dead.

I am from anger,

mounted foolishly out of false pride.

I am from the crumbling mountains

that yearn to be flat.

I am from Icarus,

the melted wax of his fallen dreams.

I am from the bridge we left behind

as the last Autumn leaves finished falling.

Thanks to Sue Reynolds for inspiring a whole group of writers to explore their worlds through words! Check out her Inkslingers Writing Workshops, Retreats, and Mentoring (which she does with James Dewar, another great writing mentor) here.

Hemingway’s Paris – Immersive Writing Retreat on the Left Bank!

The Left Bank Writers Retreat – Writing At Hemingway’s Favorite Spots in Paris!

The 2014 Left Bank Writers Retreat faculty and students, of which I was a student. From their website header, this photo was taken by Sarah Suzor. We’re posing in front of Les Deux Magots.

(Full Disclosure: I have no affiliation with Left Bank Writers Retreat. I am merely a past participant who thoroughly enjoyed and cherished the experience given to me by the retreat.)

It appears that the 2022 Left Bank Writers Retreat is a go!

If you or someone in your family would love nothing more than to tour Hemingway’s Paris while going deeper with your writing craft in the midst of the city of love and light, look no further than the Left Bank Writers Retreat!

The knowledgeable faculty are not only experts in the craft of writing, but they’ll immerse you fully into the Paris that Hemingway knew as an expat writer back in the day when he lived and wrote in Paris. And they’re all lovely people you will immediately feel comfortable with as they guide you through your Paris experience.

For me, being a first time visitor to Paris, I was immediately at ease in the presence of the LBWR faculty! You really get a sense that they’re taking care of all the details. Even those evenings when the students are left to their own devices, the faculty is at the ready to answer any questions you may have prior to your individual adventuring.

Visit Hemingway’s haunts, lunch together, explore museums, be guided through neighborhoods that come to life with your LBWR guides! I really can’t say enough about how wonderful my experiences were with this retreat. I think of it fondly and often…these seven years on since participating.

Visit their site for all the details:

LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT

Next retreat is June 11-17, 2022!

There is still time to register, either for yourself or for a family member (should you be looking for the perfect Christmas Gift!).

From the front page of the website, a little rundown:

Eight writers will spend a week immersed in new experiences in the magical setting of Paris’s Left Bank. Part writers workshop, part tour of Paris, The Left Bank Writers Retreat is for anyone who would like to break out of a writing rut and build momentum in their work. Will you be one of the 2022 Left Bank Writers?

Cost: $1,999 includes morning workshops, breakfast, lunch each day at a fabulous restaurant, snacks,
museum passes, literary tours, Seine boat ride, Metro tickets and a farewell dinner celebration.

This retreat will enrich your writing life and give you a lifetime of memories. I cannot recommend it enough!

LBWR on FACEBOOK

Retreat Schedule

About Page – Introducing the Faculty

Head on over to the Left Bank Writers Retreat website now, so you can head on over to the Left Bank come June 2022!

To See What Isn’t There and to Take Away What You Can See – Editing Frustration Edition

As the universe is my witness, I did not foresee these difficulties! ~ Me, circa now.

The editing journey is quite often a TRIP. Never more so than when you need to make some massive changes in your manuscript…like, thematic changes! Whoa!

This is the case with my current WIP. I did not realize how hard it would be. When you see the way things are, you cannot easily see the other ways they could possibly be…when it comes to your own manuscript. You always see the story the way it is…and as you change it, the way it was. That original story acts like a ghost in your head…inserting itself damnably and relentlessly into the current rendition of the story.  It’s a seriously difficult situation to be in. Like, impossible. It’s hard to actualize something DIFFERENT once the story is down on paper. It takes the work of a magician, I think. And even when you make those changes, it’s hard to erase the past from your memory…and, at times, from the story itself.

That was convoluted. I apologize…but also the convoluted-ness of it helps to define the difficulty level I’m facing in re-writing this story. The original is not only haunting the revision stage…it is fighting for its life…it does not want to die.

 

This is how my editing process is going today. Writing is hard. Editing is hard. Revising is hard. The conundrum is that these things are also, in their turns, divine and divinely easy. Writing life is so bizarre. Do we make things difficult, or are they inherently difficult.

I just need the ghosts of this current WIP to die already, to allow me to move forward with another version of this story. Like, just shut up! I have deadlines, and you’re not making my work any easier by sticking around and staying in my head and refusing to be deleted.

That is all.

Except also, preorder my upcoming novel BOOK OF DREAMS so I can feel like I’m still propelling myself forward with this writer thing. Just click on this highlighted paragraph to preorder.

 

 

When Paris is Possible – A Journal of Paris…

When I want to manifest something, I first bring it to life on my blog. For those paying attention, I always do this. I’ve become predictable, even.

Sometimes these notions I have first appear in my Twitter feed. And then I feel the need to solidify them by writing about them on my blog. It’s called accountability and it’s a way to hold myself to task. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Dollarama has such cute journals!

This is how my last novel, The Camino Club came about. At first, I dreamed it. Then I tweeted about my idea. And then, while I was preparing to walk my first Camino in 2014, I blogged about it. It was a kernel of an idea. So in order to hold myself accountable, I put out into the world that I would write a YA novel set on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage path.

That novel was published by Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press, in 2020. Ask me about launching a book during a pandemic. You know what, on second thought…don’t ask me. Nobody should have to do that!

Anyway, I’m also famous for digressing. Today I want to hold myself accountable for a new idea.

My dream this time is to release a journal of our upcoming short trip to Paris. It will only be a week in Paris…but a week is enough if you’re fast of your toes. Paris is a moveable feast. But it’s also a well constructed easily traversed city that’s perfectly laid out for the hiker and consummate walker. That happens to be what Michael and I are. We will take that city by storm, one footstep at a time…and we will cover it all!

And I will keep a daily journal. And if all goes according to plan, I will publish it. The only other thing I ever self-published was my short story set on the Camino called Light Near the End of the World. So this will be my 2nd journey into that world.

My short story set on the Camino.

I don’t have a plan, but I will write about the places we visit in Paris and how we got to those places. And I will write about food and restaurants and cafes and macarons and baguettes. I will cover everything that strikes my fancy. We’ll see how this goes.

I will probably start writing in the journal before I even get to Paris. This will be a personal account of ONE JOURNEY. We’re traveling during a pandemic and we’re getting to Paris via Iceland. I mean, anything can happen, right? We’ll see if we get there…and if and when we do, I’m sure I’ll have lots to write about.

I’m ready. With my Dollarama journal and the lovely bookmark I picked up somewhere along the way as its traveling companion, I will take notes on our Parisienne travels.

I hope this goes well! I’m so passionate about Paris. It appears in many of my short stories, and I am also currently writing a YA novel that takes place there. Wrapped somewhere in the reasoning for returning to Paris–one of my favourite cities in the world–is the excuse of doing some extra research for my novel in progress. But honestly, I just love it there so much. I want Michael to see it…and I want to see it again for the first time, through his eyes.

My Paris journal, with a Camino bookmark I received with an Etsy purchase.

Just over 40 days before our departure. Let’s hope the Delta Variant doesn’t keep us from our already postponed (we originally planned Paris for September, 2020) trip to the beautiful city of light!

Updates from the Edge – Worldbuilding Zone Edition

Today, I am almost to the end of a very complex (for me, the creator) story. It’s a story I had contracted just a couple of weeks ago…to my favourite LGBTQ publisher, no less.

The thing that makes it complex is the thing that takes it out of my usual lane. Truth/Confession: I am NOT a worldbuilder. I do my best to navigate my stories through the contemporary non-shifting non-magical world of now. Sometimes, to be honest, even that’s a struggle.

Contrary to popular belief, writing doesn’t always come easy. Throw into the mix the fact that I like to shift lanes and expand my comfort zone and I often find myself in over my head.

This manuscript is one of those times, indeed.

But I have persevered. My first chapter told me this was going to be a story outside my comfort zone. I still buckled in, knowing it would be a hard–but not unrewarding–ride.

I’m closing in on an ending now…after trudging my way through a mile of worldbuilding complications and learning moments. The fact that my publisher offered a contract on the novel after reading the first third was the fuel I needed to edit the second third and complete the last third. Also, deadlines help!

Fast forward to earlier this week and I find myself with an appointment with a WORLDBUILDING CONSULTANT. Or maybe a WORLDBUILDING AUDITOR. Yeah…auditor. That’s it. My son-in-law has offered to do a reading of the manuscript for me…with particular attention to worldbuilding. I still have time to make corrections/edits/rewrites before my deadline, so I thought it was a timely lifesaving offer. I’m definitely going to take him up on it.

During the course of the conversation, he also laid down some knowledge when he said there’s NO GROWING IN A COMFORT ZONE AND NO COMFORT IN A GROWING ZONE. I mean, yeah…I get the concept, but I don’t think I ever saw it laid out so BOOM…there. If it’s a popular saying, it’s one that has, until now, escaped my radar. I definitely needed to hear it. Man, have I been outside my comfort zone on this one!

So…stay tuned. I might just make my deadline on this horror novel I’ve had contracted with Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press. And I have a worldbuilding doctor on hand to give it a pre-submission check up. Pandemic aside, things are going well.

Happy Writing or Editing or Worldbuilding or Whatever it is you’re doing these days. Push those boundaries. Comfort zones are nice, but sometimes tedious. It’s a false lull. Change lanes and see what happens…

Book of Dreams