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The Purgatorio Dialogues – Meet the Writers of Purgatorium Part II

Welcome to day two of my interviews with the writers from Purgatorium. Today, I’m featuring Pat Flewwelling and Tobin Elliott. Together, with Connie Di Pietro and Dale Long, they make up the staff of ID PRESS. Pat had me laughing out loud in places. Especially when she spoke of her fear of flying and then let me know she was boarding a plane (sadly, I’m quite certain her fear amped up yesterday…as she experienced several delays at the airport prior to boarding said plane). What can I say about Tobin Elliott? Nobody makes me cry as often as Tobin does. He’s like that phone commercial that breaks you down and leaves you bawling and surprised that a 30-second vignette could cut you so close to the bone. He’s a funny guy…but he writes with an emotional poignancy I myself could only dream of owning. Even his Facebook updates often have me swallowing through the lump in my throat. Yes…a couple of his responses here left me in tears. Something in the way he writes…

The Proust Questionnaire was not penned by Proust, but rather made famous by him. It was a personality questionnaire that Proust famously answered in the most delightful of ways, and often. It was his answers to the question that caused the questionnaire to take off and become a favourite form of interview…it even had a life as a parlour game of sorts. I find that it reveals a lot about a person…it invokes personal insights as well as personality, sense of humour and one’s beliefs, etc. This questionnaire I composed is not entirely the same as the Proust version, but a lot of the original questions remain intact. Enjoy today’s insights into the minds of Pat and Tobin, two of the ten writers featured in PURGATORIUM!

Purgatorio Dialogues – III – Pat Flewwelling

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Pat Flewwelling

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Letting go.

2. What is your most preferred genre as a writer?

Anything but Westerns, Romance, and Poetry.

3. What is your greatest fear?

Flying. I go a little crazy before and during every flight. Like…I need to gnaw on people and scream and stuff, that kind of afraid. I hate flying.

4. What is your most preferred genre as a reader?

Non-fiction and mystery.

5. Which horror writer do you most admire and why?

Nancy Kilpatrick, because she’s not afraid to tell a new writer the painful, honest truth, without being discouraging – but as an editor, she is also willing to give new, unknown writers a chance.

6. What was your idea of horror prior to setting off on this adventure into Purgatorium?

That it was an easily maligned, but not easily defined, genre. It should, at the very least, make me shiver at the profoundness of the human soul – either as profoundly evil, or profoundly defiant in the face of utter horribleness.

7. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Temperance. All things in moderation, including moderation.

8. What is your idea of horror now that you’ve been to Purgatorium?

Horror doesn’t have to go to extremes – neither all-scary, nor all-gory, nor all-demonic/paranormal. Sometimes horror can use a soft touch.

9. What else have you written?

Three dark fiction novels (Helix: Blight of Exiles, Helix: Plague of Ghouls, and Helix: Scourge of Bones), two dieselpunk novels (The Fog of Dockside City series), a crime/biography (Judge Not), and a smattering of short stories. Those are the published ones, at least.

10. When and where were you most afraid?

Depends on your definition of “afraid”. If you mean anxious to the point of running away, the answer is “Any time I’m in Costco on a Saturday afternoon.” If you mean, jump-scared / ran away / screamed like a little girl, then it would be that time I tried to clean my first fish, and it wasn’t as dead as I’d thought it was, and it jumped clean off the plate, flapping tail-to-mouth in the air. If you mean “afraid for my safety”…that seems to be the times when I’m most focused and self-controlled, so I guess I would have to say, “n/a”…?

11. Which talent would you most like to have?

Is tact a talent? Because I’d like to have that. Mind you, I find talent overrated. If a talented gymnast won gold every year without hardly trying, and this other “talent-less” but hardworking gymnast won silver for the first time in sixteen years, I’d applaud the one who won silver.

12. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I’d like to come back as the incarnation of bad luck. I don’t know why I said that. I blame the lack of coffee. But it’s amazing what bad luck can do for you sometimes. A flat tire could save you from a five car pile-up.

13. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Convincing yourself that you can’t – and don’t deserve to – change.

14. What are your three deserted island books?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (aka Blade Runner, Philip K. Dick); The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (Howard Pyle); The Hound of the Baskervilles (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).

15. Who are your favorite writers?

The ones I’ve met in person. Well, most of them, anyways. Also, Raymond Chandler, Sam Thomas, and Ellis Peters.

16. Who is your hero of fiction?

Brother Cadfael. Crusader turned sailor turned Benedictine monk / gardener and sometimes murder-solver. He’s completely anti-noir because he looks for the good in humanity, despite war, murder, profiteering, etc., and knows the value of a peaceful place.

17. What sound grates on you more than any other?

Power tools. Any power tool. Literally any. If they had faces, I would punch them.

18. How would you like to die?

Quickly, purposefully, and in saving someone else.

19. What sound brings you deep joy?

The overall harmony of nature in the morning, deep in the interior of Algonquin Park.

20. What is your motto?

Video et taceo. For the record, it was also Queen Elizabeth I’s motto, and it is not Latin for Netflix and tacos.

On the Web, PAT can be found:

Pat Flewwelling

TWITTER

Purgatorio Dialogues – IV – Tobin Elliott

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Tobin Elliott

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Perfect happiness is having my family around me, lots of books to read, good friends who love me unconditionally, and my pets. Preferably on a lovely fall day.

 

2. What is your most preferred genre as a writer?

I love the horror genre, but it’s finding the horror in the everyday things. To me, the monster isn’t scary unless it’s in a position to take something cherished away from my human characters. A realistic character reacting to the loss of a lover or child or parent is more terrifying than a monster that bites his neck or kills him.

 

3. What is your greatest fear?

Not being able to be there for those I love. Whether that’s due to a debilitating terminal illness, or death, or just not being available when one of my kids or my wife really needs me. I never want to let down those that need me most.

 

4. What is your most preferred genre as a reader?

Oh damn. That’s tough. I love good horror, probably because I find it so rarely. But I also can say the same for good science fiction, or thriller, or crime drama, or mystery, or non-fiction books. I read constantly and widely, so for me it’s less about genre and more about the quality of the experience.

 

5. Which horror writer do you most admire and why?

Also a tough one. I admire Stephen King simply because he’s bucked the odds and become not only the most popular modern author, but he did it writing a much-frowned upon genre. But I also have great admiration for Jack Ketchum because no one—absolutely no one—has affected me like he did with some of his writing, particularly The Girl Next Door.

 

6. What was your idea of horror prior to setting off on this adventure into Purgatorium?

From a reading standpoint, usually something involving a supernatural element. I love my vampires and werewolves and demons. From a personal standpoint, it was—and remains—the answer to #3. Our greatest fear is always that thing that inspires the greatest horror.

 

7. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Physical beauty. Yes, I like attractive looks, just like everyone else, but I despise how they often give the person a pass to be an absolutely deplorable person and get away with it. I’m looking at you, Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton. Beauty fades, but the ability to be empathetic and honest and funny and loyal are forever.

 

8. What is your idea of horror now that you’ve been to Purgatorium?

Finding the horror in the everyday. As I said above, I love my vampires and werewolves and demons, but nothing matches the horror of a parent or role model who is more of a monster than any of them could ever hope to be. So, a bit more of a dovetailing of greatest fear and horror.

 

9. What else have you written?

I’ve written some ugly stories about awful people doing terrible things. I’ve had three novellas published through small presses, as well as a couple of short stories in anthologies. All are horror. But I’ve also written three interconnected horror novels and collaborated on a dark fantasy novel involving the Four Horsemen, a God who is mad (and angry) and the Biblical Apocalypse. Oh, and some blogs that made people laugh.

 

10. When and where were you most afraid?

Well, there was a time in Algonquin Park when a bear attacked our camp for about an hour and the only thing between it and my twelve-year-old tasty flesh was tent fabric. But I think the most terrified I’ve been…well, to be honest, I can’t even talk about it. That’s not a cop out, it’s the truth.

 

11. Which talent would you most like to have?

The power of persuasiveness. I’d love to be able to guide people to make better choices. From small things like helping my kids, to larger issues like preventing things like gun violence, racial crimes, sexual attacks, and better leadership for the countries of the world. As the old Coke commercial said, I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.

 

12. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

Probably a cat that my daughter would own, because I know I’d live like a freaking king.

 

13. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Losing a loved one. No question. Because there is no lowest depth when it comes to that.

 

14. What are your three deserted island books?

I hate this question. Still, I’ll play your silly reindeer game…

The Shining – Stephen King

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle – David Wroblewski

Boy’s Life – Robert R. McCammon

 

15. Who are your favorite writers?

Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Dennis Lehane, Robert E. Howard, Elmore Leonard, John Skipp & Craig Spector (when they collaborated), Douglas Adams, Harlan Ellison, Harper Lee, Ray Bradbury, J.K. Rowling, Carsten Stroud, David Wroblewski, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Chris Claremont, Warren Ellis, Terry Moore, Brian Michael Bendis, Garth Ennis, . And a bunch of others that I likely can’t think of off the top of my head.

 

16. Who is your hero of fiction?

You’re killing me here. Sorry, I’m going to have to stray from books because I tend to default to a character in a television series. Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce as played by Alan Alda in M*A*S*H always wins for me.

If I need to go from the written word, I’d likely choose Danny Torrance, the young boy from The Shining. There’s a lot that I can identify with in him: an abusive, alcoholic father who could never say no to his demons, a mother who desperately tries to swim the current of her husband’s madness and keep both her own and her child’s head afloat, and Danny himself, walking through the corridors of a manmade hell, doing all he can to understand and navigate away from the horrors…

 

17. What sound grates on you more than any other?

Anyone whining. Drives me absolutely batshit.

 

18. How would you like to die?

That’s an odd question. Would anyone really like to die? Not so much. Nor do I, and as I get older, the thought intrudes more and more as my mortality makes itself known. But if I have to go, I want to go out with those I love around me, and everyone laughing and joking and telling their most embarrassing or stupid stories about me…god knows there’s a lot of them.

 

19. What sound brings you deep joy?

The sound of my wife or kids saying they love me. The purring of my cats. My dog’s yipping in his sleep as he dreams. Wind through the leaves. Rain. The strange muffled silence after a snowfall. The Beatles. Pink Floyd. Heart. Boston. David Bowie. Cheap Trick. The Eagles. Steely Dan. Billy Joel. Elton John. Tom Petty. The Electric friggin’ Light Orchestra. And…absolute silence.

 

20. What is your motto?

I have a few…

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you would not fail?” – Robert Schuller

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

“Mommy’s all right, daddy’s all right, they just seem a little weird.” – Cheap Trick

“Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three lefts do.” – Unknown

“And, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” – The Beatles

 On the Web, TOBIN can be found:

Tobin Elliott

TWITTER

Don’t forget to ADD PURGATORIUM TO YOUR GOODREADS SHELF!

Watch this blog for more Purgatorio Dialogues! Six more to go!

 

Life is Change – Writing Outside the Comfort Zone (Purgatorium Comes)

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The Jester’s Court Restaurant in Port Perry, Ontario, is housed in what is presumably one of Canada’s most haunted establishments. It was a fitting place to unveil the beautiful cover for the upcoming HORROR ANTHOLOGY —> PURGATORIUM!

Last night I had the extreme pleasure of being a part of a new and exciting creation. When you’re a member of one of the world’s most vibrant writing communities, these opportunities rise up often. They begin as a kernel of an idea, and then people jump on board and they blossom into real tangible things. When a group filled with creative vitality comes together, magic can happen. I witness that all the time as a member of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region WCDR.

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ID Press is comprised of 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse…er, um…I mean 4 members of ‘THE BAD TABLE’.

Last year, the idea of creating an anthology of stories rose up out of the din of what a group of WCDR members affectionately refer to themselves as THE BAD TABLE. It was Connie De Pietro who came up with the original kernel. With much excitement, the idea was tossed and bandied about until it was formed into an actual possibility. And then creativity happened.

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Pat Flewwelling, Connie Di Pietro, Dale Long, and, Tobin Elliott are ID PRESS.

From the first idea came the writing of and the submission of a collection of short horror stories. For some of us, it was an introduction to a genre we had not yet explored as writers. This was, in fact, a part of the original concept—STEP OUTSIDE YOUR ZONE OF COMFORT. As writers, we are constantly striving to better ourselves. One way to do this is to try something new. With a collection of dark storytellers at the helm, the horror concept was formed and it was eventually the premier genre that the group chose to run with.

Fast forward several months and ID PRESS (GO LIKE THEM ON FACEBOOK) rose up from the gossamer darkness that encapsulated THE BAD TABLE of WCDR members who sit at the back of their monthly ROUNDTABLE MEETINGS causing chaos and upheaval in the otherwise well-behaved room. From the chaos comes a well-oiled fine-tuned machine. And you know, I wouldn’t want to sit anywhere else. We’re rambunctious and giddy and loud…but these things are often needed in the formation of creative endeavors. I’m proud to sit among my friends in writing.

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A Glimpse of the Cover for PURGATORIUM, an Anthology of dark stories…coming soon from ID PRESS.

What I loved most about the original idea was the forced capitulation from the comfort zone. All writers should try this occasionally. In fact, all creative people in any media should try it. It injects fresh blood into one’s creative process. One never knows until I tries. Growth can only happen with change.

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“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” ~ Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. The more things change, the more they stay the same. UNLESS you turn them on their heads. So cometh the horror!

To step into a genre you have never before written in is a terrifying thing. But we’re writers, right? It’s not like we are chemists working with a new element just recently discovered in the deep quagmire of a distant planet’s molten sea. Even if we do struggle and squirm in our attempts to explore the new genre, whatever the outcome, it most likely won’t result in our death. We will come out on the other end of the experience with new knowledge and new appreciation for the genre. Whatever that genre may be. As writers, it is important that we never disqualify or belittle a genre simply because we ourselves do not write in it. They are all important, they are all appreciated by the readers who love them.

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I just had to include a friend selfie here! Mel and I at last night’s PURGATORIUM cover reveal get-together at Jester’s Court in Port Perry. Writer friends are the awesome!

If you’re a writer reading this blog right now, do yourself a favour. Think about a genre you would never in a million years imagine yourself entering into. Go to your local library and pick up a book in that genre. Read it. Listen to the way the story is formed, take note of the genre’s quirks and nuances. And when you’re finished reading the book, or several books in that genre, sit down and write. Give the genre a go. You’d be surprised not only by how difficult it is, but also by how easy it is. The elements of writing are the same across genres…it’s the elements of the genre that make the experience one of growth and enlightenment. You’re a writer…you already know what goes into making a good story. You just have to manipulate the way of thinking you have in your genre of choice in order to make yourself fit into the genre of the experiment.

If you attempt this genre-swapping experiment, you may discover a whole new appreciation for a genre you previously largely ignored both as a writer and as a reader. You may even discover a new genre to devour as a reader. What could be better than that?! I have always found that if I try something new I’m usually not disappointed. This is true of slipping into the reading of a genre I usually don’t explore. Change is good. Life is change.

The folks at THE BAD TABLE had an idea. And we ran with it. I am extremely thankful for the engine behind this idea—the smaller group among us who stepped forward as captains of this vessel of creativity. Because of them a simple idea took off and became a wondrous thing that we will soon unleash upon the world. I will share more details of this upcoming anthology as they are released. For now, I would just like to personally thank the powerhouse behind making an idea a tangible thing that I will soon be able to hold in my hands. A thing with a breathtakingly gorgeous cover (soon to be revealed) that I am extremely proud to be a part of. Thank you Connie, Tobin, Dale, and Pat. You are deeply appreciated. Your efforts and talents and vision are deeply appreciated. You are all the fire that burns in the depths of our Purgatorium, as well as the phoenix that rises from the ashes of that creativity fire.

PURGATORIUM! It’s coming!

Waiting for Godot, Or Something…

I realize now that Godot may not be coming at all. I do. I get the whole ‘if not today, then surely tomorrow‘ ideology, too. I try to remain hopeful.

It’s hard, though…waiting on the slow wheels of the publishing world. What makes it harder is when everyone around you seems to believe in your work. Work you do not believe in yourself. Work that has been out in the market for going on 8 months without results.

When I finished writing my latest young adult novel, Pride Must Be a Place, back in July of 2015, I had the sensation that it might be the best thing I wrote so far. I felt REALLY GOOD about it. And then I had a few people read it. And they all thought it was great…maybe my best work to date. So I sent it to my agent. And she seemed to love it, too. So I waited for the good news.

And it has not yet arrived. I keep coming back to the same point every day where I wait to hear the good news. And every day it doesn’t come. And it doesn’t come. And it doesn’t come.

I seem to be one of those people who cannot write when they are waiting on their most recently completed manuscript to be picked up by a publisher. And believe me, I have a lot of WIPs in which I could be writing. I’m at a standstill. Waiting for Godot…and realizing that he might never come.

As I said, I finished the manuscript in July. Almost a year ago. I’ve never ever been sure about my work…but I felt sure about this one. I thought, ‘maybe it’ll have a home by September!?’ And then I had to edit that thought to, ‘…October!?’ Then I allowed it to leave my train of thought as we took off for Cuba in a last-bit-of-sun-before-the-snow-falls vacation. “Surely tomorrow!” I kept thinking. It would be nice to come home from Cuba to discover a publisher had picked up Pride.

Nope. Didn’t happen. I still hoped. November? December? January? February? NO. No. No. No.

March? April? May? No. No. No. Another holiday in the sun went by as we took off to Barbados in May…as I hoped to hear good news from my agent.

It is now JUNE, a month shy of a year after I finished Pride Must Be a Place. I am wondering how to get back onto the horse and write something new. I know I’ll have an Adrenalin shot next month when I take part in the annual MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON. Nothing says, “Get back into writing” like “you have seventy-two hours to write a novel. Don’t mess it up.”

I’m thinking that I best get off my ass and start contributing to some of my WIPs. I can’t wait forever. I’m beginning to lose faith in the possibility of Pride ever being published…just because, in the beginning, my faith was so entirely strong. Clearly, it didn’t present as the novel I thought it was going to be. My agent is still trying, but it might be an ugly baby. Who knows. Who ever knows?!

I’m boggled by the publishing industry and the reading public. I’m at a place where I think I need to leave behind the young adult market for a while. Even after Burn Baby Burn Baby made the official 2016 IN THE MARGINS BOOK AWARDS LIST put out by the American Library Association’s Library Services for Youth in Custody (LSYC), it did not see sales. Even after many amazing reviews, it did not see sales. My voice in the young adult market is not what readers are interested in. After 3 published young adult novels, and no interest…I have to reevaluate. With the 4th one (Pride) with my agent, I have decided to back off this market and try something new.

I’m pondering what that something new is. And don’t get me wrong, I did not start writing to sell books. But I am discovering that I am losing my motivation to write based on the fact that I am writing for nobody. A writer needs readers. I don’t have many. I’ve been hopeful. But it’s not happening.

So, the market has spoken…and I am listening. Time to move on. I want to get that NEED and CONSTANT DESIRE to write back. I don’t have it when I know my efforts are futile…slipping into a void of nothingness. So, changing gears will be the first step. Was it Einstein who said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Well…that’s what I’ve been doing in writing young adult novels. Time for change.

In the meantime, July is quickly approaching! The Muskoka Novel Marathon is galloping towards me…and I need help! The writers who take part in this 72 hour novel writing marathon are collecting funds for literacy, to fund the Simcoe/Muskoka County YMCA literacy programs, which are underfunded. All money collected goes directly to helping run these programs. So anything you donate will be helping someone struggling with illiteracy get on their feet. We are writers helping readers. We can only do this if you donate to the cause. ANY amount will help. Please consider sponsoring me on my journey to my next novel. Together, we can eradicate illiteracy. You can make a donation directly to my page by clicking on the image below:

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Now, while I have you…you can check out the reviews for my 5 novels on Amazon. And you can peek inside my novels to read the opening chapters by using the LOOK INSIDE feature. Click on the image below to go to my Amazon Author Page. Somebody has to! (-:

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Please keep your fingers crossed for me. I sort of need PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE to find a home. I can’t have what I believe to be the best novel I have ever written to get passed up. There is no rhyme or reason in this industry. Novels I thought wouldn’t get picked up DID. The one and only one I ever thought was worthy has not been picked up. I still believe…

 

Canadian Writers’ Summit! Big Issues in YA Writing…

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The Canadian Writers’ Summit is scheduled to take place this coming June at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, and it is HUGE! This is being billed as a SUPER-CONFERENCE, as it is hosted by a bevy of Canadian writer organizations. Members of all of the writing organizations hosting the event (and there are many), as well as anyone interested in writing, are encouraged to attend.

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been added as a last minute replacement to participate in the BIG ISSUES IN YOUNG ADULT WRITING panel discussion on Friday June 17th. This is especially pleasing to me because I dedicate my novel writing life on tackling young adult issues. It’s what I do. I have no idea whether or not I’m good at it, but I am 100% committed and passionate about doing it. Everything I write for the YA market is issue oriented.

From the CWS website, here’s the write-up for the panel discussion:

Jump into the world of young adult literature. The subject matter and story lines of YA literature are typically consistent with the age and experiences of the main character, but YA literature spans the spectrum of literary genres and themes. Hear more about the big issues of today in YA from Canada’s YA literary writers.

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I hope to contribute some helpful wisdom to the conversation and look forward to discussing the importance of tackling issues in YA literature. It’s a delicate thing to do in fiction, especially when writing for today’s intelligent teens—injecting issues into story without preaching or talking down…and without making it obvious that the issue is there. One needs a delicate balance to do this—as, in the end, story and entertainment value are paramount. Issues kinda sorta need to be there without being there. So looking forward to this Super-conference…visit the website today. It’s a super packed conference that most definitely has something for everyone!

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CLICK THIS IMAGE TO VISIT THE CWS WEBSITE – Hope to see you there!

To check out my own issue-centric young adult novels, click on the covers to visit their Amazon pages for details and to read the openings through the LOOK INSIDE feature:

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My other titles, Sebastian’s Poet & The Reasons, are definitely ISSUE stories facing children as well…but they have mature themes and are NOT considered Young Adult.

See you at the CANADIAN WRITERS’ SUMMIT at Harbourfront this June!