The Purgatorio Dialogues – Meet the Writers of Purgatorium Part V

My last visit with the Purgatorium Anthology contributors! Amanda Tompkins is always a delight in person, and I find her endlessly interesting. She makes me laugh and she’s also über smart and tells fascinating stories. I’m really looking forward to her words in Purgatorium. I will not soon forget the motto she leaves us with here…one I think I may take as one of my own. “Expectations are just mind forged manacles”.

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the release date of this sumptuous anthology of horror! November 19th, Purgatorium will be here!

IN FACT! If you come to BOOKAPALOOZA from 10am-3pm at Durham College Centre for Food/Bistro 67 in Whitby on November 19th, you can pick up a copy of PURGATORIUM…and there’s a good chance you’ll be able to get quite a few of the authors to sign it for you! Bookapalooza is a free event and it’s ALL ABOUT BOOKS! You won’t want to miss it! It’s also the place where the Purgatorium Anthology launches!



And now, Amanda’s responses to my Proustian Questionnaire…


Prugatorio Dialogues – X – Amanda Tompkins

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Curled up in my easy chair, with a good book in my hands, and my dog at my feet.

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


3. What is your greatest fear?


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

I’ll read just about anything, but Fantasy is my favorite.

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

I’d have to say Mary Shelley. She did amazing work and faced a lot of opposition.

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

Taking the mundane, the familiar, and making it threatening.

7. What do you consider the most overrate virtue?

Patience. Who needs it?

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

Word count limits.

9. What else have you written?

A few short stories, and several works in progress.

10. When and where were you most afraid?

When I realized that nothing is forever, and you can lose the people you love most.

11. Which talent would you most like to have?

I’d love to be able to read/speak every language.

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

Something large and predatory. That probably says more about me than I’m strictly comfortable with.

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

Being forced to watch a loved one suffer, and knowing there is nothing you can do.

14. What are your three deserted island books?

To kill a mockingbird’, by Harper Lee. ‘War for the oaks’, by Emma Bull. ‘The interior life’, by Katherine Blake.

15. Who are your favorite writers?

Usually whoever I’m currently reading.

16. Who is your hero of fiction?

Atticus Finch

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

People chewing loudly with their mouths open.

18. How would you like to die?

Ideally, not at all. Realistically, in bed having just finished the last page of a good book.

19. What sound brings you deep joy?

The click of my dogs nails on the tile as he runs to greet me.

20. What is your motto?

‘Normal’ is a subjective judgement call, and expectations are just mind forged manacles.



Children become adults. Summer becomes winter. The old pass from life to death. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

But to some, life is purgatory. A place of temporary suffering between this world and the next.

In these eleven stories, every painful, frightening transition is driven by a single element.

That element is Purgatorium.


It’s coming!


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


“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.


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!

Sebastian’s Poet Now Available on KOBO! (With Reader Praise and Link to Chapter One)


Sebastian's Poet

Sebastian’s Poet is now available on KOBO!

Here’s what readers have said about the novel:

Sebastian’s Poet is a wonderful feel-good story that you must read!

Broken people, abandonment, longing, aching. This book drew me in with its beauty, and I shed a few tears. It was so well crafted –- a really well-written book — and I was so glad to read it. I loved this book.

Sebastian’s Poet is a wonderful contemporary work that deserves much more notoriety than it has received. More people need to know about this author. Please, please, trust me when I say that you will love every page of this fantastic story.

Oh Sebastian, your story made me smile, made me angry and made me cry. It’s not that often that a book rings this true to real life for me.
I found I couldn’t put it down.

This novel for me is a 5/5 for sure! I would suggest this for anyone who loves a novel that is going to make you feel (even if it is uncomfortable at times), and makes you think about what other people have gone through and why they may be the way that they are.

Sebastian’s Poet is a story full of heart and humanity. The characters are strong and believable and I rooted for them during their struggles, particularly the children: Sebastian and Renee. Their suffering and confusion is touchingly, achingly real. When I finished this story, on the bus on the way to work (of course) I had to struggle not to audibly sob in public.

Craig adeptly maneuvers the reader through the story that is one part a happy trip down memory lane interwoven with a heartbreaking tale of a family fractured, broken, and quite possibly beyond repair.

Beautifully written! I couldn’t put it down! Kevin is a wonderful writer – he gets you from the moment you turn the first page!

Months after reading SEBASTIAN’S POET, I’m still haunted by images of Sebby and his poet, Teal; I still smell the ashes in the ashtray; I still feel the awkwardness at the corner store.

Why don’t more people know about this author? About this book? Because they should. It’s a hidden gem.

I could not put this book down! I started it this morning and am already done reading it.

This is an excellent book about family, secrets, music, and the different kinds of love that we experience in our lives.

Kevin Craig does an excellent job of writing this beautiful, yet tragic tale through the eyes of a child caught in an unfortunate situation. The thoughts and feelings come through so well with Craig’s lyrical prose that you will instantly be drawn in and feel yourself experiencing the same emotions as the characters.

You can pick up your copy for your KOBO device or KOBO app today! For $3.75


You can read CHAPTER ONE of SEBASTIAN’S POET in its entirety at this link to an older blog post where I shared it here.


Sebastian’s Poet – Redo (Bringing Back the 70s)

The long journey to my second novel, Sebastian’s Poet, began in the 1970s. And it ended in a 48-hour maelstrom of a writing marathon. Sebastian has always been there. It wasn’t until I sat in front of my laptop at the 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon that his story bled from me. And boy did it bleed. In those 48 hours I was transported back to the 70s childhood I endured. And having always imagined Sebastian, the child of a down and out no-good and his hit-the-road wife, it was all I could do to keep up with the story as it came out during that marathon weekend.

I love a good story of loss and despair and, in the tiniest of ways, hope. Every good downtrodden story should offer the reader a glimmer of hope, even if it’s an infinitesimal glimmer.

And, having come to age inside a record store in the early 70s, I had to include the perennial bad-boy musician who kind of floats through the world in a cloud of smoke and philosophical optimism. Teal Landon is my favourite character…out of all the characters I have ever written. He is the kind of father figure all lost boys dream of having.

Sebastian’s Poet was originally published in 2012 by Musa Publishing in the United States. Sadly, Musa closed its doors a few months back. This made SP revert to a non-published novel. My favourite novel written by me and it disappeared. It’s very special to me…in that it came to life in a frenzy of emotion and drive and creativity. It’s not easy to write a novel in 48hrs. Until I tackled SP, I would have said it was impossible. But then I did it.

And at the time I desperately wanted to write CANADIANA. I wanted to capture Toronto, and the Canadian music scene, and what it was like to grow up Canadian in the 70s. I think I did that, though I can’t really be objective about it. What I do know is that Sebastian’s Poet won BEST ADULT NOVEL in the 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon. And I also know that it transformed me. I went away from that weekend with a feeling of euphoria. I knew I had found MY WRITING METHOD. Writing a novel in one sitting was the way for me, a flighty easily distracted person, to write a novel.

The pictures above are reflections from the 70s setting of the novel. GORDON LIGHTFOOT is actually a character in Sebastian’s Poet. He appears in the last chapter, as part of the denouement. And, if I’m being completely honest, the main character TEAL LANDON is based upon the incomparable LEONARD COHEN. I didn’t see a way to write a story based in the 70s without somehow including Carol Burnett. I loved making references to the things of my childhood…but make no mistake about it, this novel has nothing of me in it. It is not my Mary-Sue.

I don’t like SP not being out there in the world. It is, after all, my favourite. When I say my favourite, I’m talking feelings. I carry the memories of the experience of writing my novels as a way of judging which are my favourites. And the time I shared with these characters? That time is my Belle Époque as a writer. It was a moment of awakening for me. Or, should I say a 48hr period of awakening. My soul is in this book.

So I am releasing it on KOBO, for those interested in exploring the novel I wrote at my highest point as a writer. I don’t usually worry about how my works will be received. I put them out into the world and I shudder and cringe, knowing they will never be what I intended them to be…that they could have been so much more…that I fell short. I can’t expect the reader to love something I myself feel didn’t quite make the grade. Although this may sound like a bad thing, I do tend to think that it keeps me honest as a writer. If everything COULD be better, then I challenge myself always to attain BETTER.

But Sebastian’s Poet was the one novel I was SURE of…even in its rough finished draft at the end of that 48hr weekend, I knew. And here’s where it sounds like I am bragging, but I assure you I am not. It’s more the essence of the story and the feelings I had while writing it that make me feel like this about it…not the finished product itself.

SP will be available on KOBO in the next day or so. I hope you give it a go. In the meantime, here is the cover blurb:

Sebastian Nelson is a boy in search of a family. Abandoned by his mother, Sebastian is left with a broken father who doesn’t even seem present when he does show up. Forced to be the main caregiver of his younger brother, Renee, and lost in a sea of indifference, Sebastian only wants to experience the love a real, stable family could afford him.

One morning he discovers the famous folksinger, Teal Landen, asleep on the sofa. Teal’s nurturing nature brings an immediate sense of security into Sebastian’s tumultuous life. But a dark secret looms between Teal and Sebastian’s father of a hidden past. Sebastian is driven to discover their secret, but also he’s aware of how tenuous their hold on Teal really is. He doesn’t want to lose the feeling of home Teal’s presence has brought him.

If Sebastian pushes too hard, he could lose Teal forever. He could be destined to raise his younger brother alone, while witnessing the total decline of his emotionally devastated father. If Sebastian is abandoned by the only healthy influence in his otherwise shaky existence, he will also be forever in the dark about the secret that will reveal so much about his fractured family.

And you can also read the reviews at GOODREADS, from its original release life: GOODREADS SEBASTIAN’S POET


Here’s the cover of the re-release coming to KOBO soon…

Sebastian's Poet

The epigraph of this novel is “THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING…THAT’S HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN.” This is a line from Leonard Cohen’s ANTHEM. That song was the soundtrack of my 48hr weekend novel writing marathon. On repeat…it gave me what I needed to write Sebastian’s story…and the story of the folksinger known as The Poet. It was an amazing weekend…one I will never forget. If you want to take the trip, you’ll have to get the novel. (-: