NYC Midnight & Me

Here we go. I am entered into the 2019 NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. It begins at Midnight tonight and it is my first foray into all this NYC Midnight business. This is the 13th annual challenge and I’m pumped for it but certain I’ll fair poorly. I’ll come back and let you know, once I get the boot…but for now, here’s how it works:

KNOCKOUT ROUND ONE:

(January 18-26, 2019), writers are placed randomly in heats and are assigned a genre, subject, and character assignment.  Writers have 8 days to write an original story no longer than 2,500 words

The contest judges will choose the TOP 5 STORIES in each heat and those writers will move on to Round #2. All other writers are given the boot.

KNOCKOUT ROUND TWO:

(April 4-7, 2019)where writers receive new assignments, only this time they have just 3 days to write a 2,000word (maximum) short story.

Whoa. The time between rounds?! I wonder if this is set up this way to mess with the writers’ psyches. I’d much rather prefer to jump right back into the ring, myself. Listen to me…as if I’d make it to round two! Judges pick finalist from this round, as well. And they get to move on to the third and final round. LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THIRD & FINAL ROUND:

Remaining writers are challenged to write a 1,500 word (maximum) story in just 24 hours (May 17-18, 2019) in the third and final round of the competition.

Begins in January and ends in May. Yikes! The prizes for the winners are QUITE SUBSTANTIAL. First Prize is $5,000.00USD + almost $1,500.00USD value in other writer-related prizes. You can see the whole list of prizes HERE.

The biggest benefit for all writers who enter is FEEDBACK. From the site, here’s the statement in regards to feedback. It can come not only from the judges, but also fellow contestants on the group forum:

Not only does every writer receive feedback from the judges for every story submitted, but a special review forum is available for the participants to submit their stories for review from fellow writers throughout the competition.  During the Short Story Challenge 2018, there were over 9,500 comments made on the 700+ stories submitted on the forum.  Click here to visit the forums.

Oh, just so you know…as of this blog post there are still a few hours before the registration deadline. Sound like a great idea? Then CLICK THIS LINK TO GET YOURSELF IN ON THE GAME (Scroll down to the CLICK HERE TO REGISTER button—but registration closes at 9:00pm EST today — Friday January 18th).

The first challenge will be emailed to contestants tonight at Midnight. I guess that’s where the name comes from!

GOOD LUCK, SHORT STORY WRITERS! May the words be with you!

(I’ll be back with my results at a later date—good or bad/head high or tail between my legs. You can’t win if you don’t try.)

Click image below for NYC MIDNIGHT on Instagram:

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This Is Me In Grade Nine – Love Is Love

Look for an announcement regarding my latest anthology inclusion. My short story THIS IS ME IN GRADE NINE will be published this month in the LOVE IS LOVE  anthology. All proceeds from this anthology will go directly to the TREVOR PROJECT. Full details to follow. (-:

love is love

In the meantime, I will be re-releasing the 2nd of my novels that was once with Curiosity Quills Press. Half Dead & Fully Broken will re-release in February, 2019. Details to follow.

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love is love

Further details on LOVE IS LOVE will be forthcoming. Stay tuned!

My WCSC 2nd Place Short Story Contest Entry – Helen Finds Her Way to After

What follows here is my short story Helen Finds Her Way to After, which won 2nd Place in the 2017 Writers’ Community of Simcoe County’s Short Story Contest. Unfortunately, the WCSC has since become defunct. My short story had been published on their website, which no longer exists. So, I’m sharing it here.

HELEN FINDS HER WAY TO AFTER

 Both of Helen’s feet bled steadily as she walked. She fought to ignore the blisters making a nasty soup of blood and puss in the heel of each of her merino wool socks. It was nine a.m. With each passing hour she lost a little more of her will to carry on. She held on to the memory of her ex-husband’s laughter at the folly she displayed in thinking she could make this journey. She carried her daughter Meagan’s doubt, freely given when she had told her of her goal. Their lack of support was perhaps the only thing left to propel Helen forward to Santiago de Compostela. And to the apostle James, whose bones lay waiting for her there, whether she made it to the cathedral or not.

Must keep walking. It had become a mantra Helen hated just as much as she needed. Must keep walking.  

Helen’s left baby toenail had fallen off two days earlier, somewhere between Sarria and Portomarin. She had mourned for a moment before bandaging up what was left and carrying on. Must keep walking. Rationality had left her long ago.  

“Buen Camino,” a couple mumbled in tandem as they passed her by on a narrow dirt pathway leading to a cobbled bridge. Their walking sticks click-click-clicked as they walked by without looking up from the uneven ground.  

“Buen Camino,” she said before reentering her gloomy thoughts.  

Continue reading “My WCSC 2nd Place Short Story Contest Entry – Helen Finds Her Way to After”

As it is On the Camino, So Shall it be In Writing – Intentions

You may have noticed by now that I relate things to a circle of a few of my favourite obsessions…most notably music lyrics and the Camino de Santiago. Okay, and Paris. Paris is the filter for all of life. Today, while writing a short story for a specific short story contest deadline that is quickly approaching, I stopped in my tracks and said, “What are your intentions?”

That sentence, or variants of it, were heard and overheard on my pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago almost constantly. “What are your intentions?”, “What is your intention?” “But what are your Camino intentions?”

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Today, I had begun a short story without having intentions. It’s a habit of mine, like watching the sun go down (excuse the gratuitous song-lyric relating). I write without purpose or plan or intention quite often. I always had faith that the story would reveal itself to me as I went along. Whatever I start doing to my characters, they’ll eventually discover a path for the plot, arc, story, etc…and they’ll take it from there. They’ll run with it. Why should I do all the work? I did create them, after all. They shouldn’t be so lazy. They should pull their weight. I shouldn’t have to do everything.

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I’m SUCH a lazy writer…

Enter lately. Lately is not a friend to my style of writing because lately I am discovering that stories are fizzing out, ending abruptly in a puddle of purposelessness. I can’t always rely on my narrators and characters to see the story through to the end after all. That’s a nasty realization. Am I getting old? Is my memory slipping? Am I losing my mind?

Or have I just been too lazy to do things properly, and up until now very very lucky that it seems to work out in the end anyway? I’m suspecting this is most likely the case.

Today I full-tilt stopped writing long enough to ask myself, “BUT WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION!?” When I looked around me and came to the realization that I did not in fact have my backpack on–and I was not in fact in the north of Spain on a dirt path following yellow arrows all the way to Santiago de Compostela–I knew that I had struck a chord. As much as pilgrims on the Camino talk about carrying intentions and purpose for their pilgrimage, so too should writers carry intentions and purpose for their stories. We should always ask ourselves what those intentions are. If we do not know, then do we have any business whatsoever even writing the story in question?

Probably not.

This is my new plan. Before I run headlong into a story, I’m going to demand of myself what my intentions are for the story. Not quite the same as Camino Intentions, but the same idea. I won’t rely so much on my characters to figure out the plot path. I should do the heavy lifting. I’m the one wearing the backpack. I’m such a lazy writer, you have NO idea.

On the Camino, we often answer the WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION? question with things like I will be okay if I need to slow down today. I will not be judgemental today. I will be kind to others today. I will release something that I am holding onto today. I will breathe today. We choose these daily intentions and we walk while meditating on them.

In writing, I think my answer to the WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION? question is quite obvious…even though I have almost never held myself to such scrutiny while exploring story.

Today I set up a homeless guy to spend the night taking refuge in a hidden cubbyhole in a library. It began interestingly enough. I thought it went well, actually. The hoops he had to jump through to pull off the deed seemed plausible. He overcame the odds and tricked the library staff into forgetting him. He made it! Victory. He found himself alone in the library overnight.

Then, once the dust settled and the character glared at me awaiting the next move in his adventure, I hit the proverbial brick wall. That’s when, without thinking, I whispered that age-old Camino question to myself. WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION? I have/had absolutely no idea. Getting him locked inside was the extent of my vested interest in the story. Clearly that’s not enough. The STORY has to be about what happens after the set-up succeeds. CLEARLY!

It’s high time I started asking myself these rather important questions prior to wasting several thousand words on a story that is not a story. I don’t need to outline. God knows I’ve tried doing that enough times to know it doesn’t work for me. But I DO need to know my intention. I need to know what I want the story to be about prior to sitting down to write it…at the very least. At the bear minimum I should know what the bloody story is going to be about.

I have to stop doing this to myself.

So, do yourself a favour. And not only at the beginning of your story, but all the way through it. Whether it’s a novel or a short story…or a poem or an article or an essay or a blog post. Ask yourself that all important question at every step of the journey. WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION? If you don’t know what your intention/motivation is, figure it out. It’s better than leaving yourself high and dry or leaving your poor character abandoned in a library overnight with nothing to do. You deserve better and so does your character. Don’t do what I did. As obvious as it is that a writer should ask themselves what the hell it is they want to accomplish in a story, they sometimes forget to do so.

Say it with me now…

WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION?

Light Near the End of the World, a Camino de Santiago Short Story NOW AVAILABLE

My passion for the Camino de Santiago has come out in many ways over the past couple of years. Most recently, I have completed a young adult novel that is set on this pilgrimage path in Spain. Last year, I also won 3rd place in the (WCSC) Writers’ Community of Simcoe County’s 2017 Word by Word Short Story Contest with my story, Helen Finds Her Way to After. I think I am approaching the end of my exploration-in-words of the Camino experience. I have one more story, though. And it’s now available on Amazon! Light Near the End of the World – A Camino de Santiago Short Story released on May 8th! You can download it now. This short tells the story of Corinne, who walks the Way of St. James on her own as a way of fulfilling a plan she originally had to walk the path with her husband.

See the synopsis below:

Corinne began her Camino de Santiago pilgrimage way back in St. Jean Pied de Port, France, weeks ago. Exhausted, spent, and on the verge of giving up, she meets a pilgrim who gives her the inspiration she needs to carry on. But is it enough to get her there, to the famous cathedral at the end of the journey in Santiago de Compostela? Follow Corinne’s path along the Way of St. James as she struggles to carry on and to find herself along the way.

Camino Short

For less than it costs to buy a cup of coffee, you can read Corinne’s Camino story…

Download LIGHT NEAR THE END OF THE WORLD at AMAZON USA

Download LIGHT NEAR THE END OF THE WORLD at AMAZON CANADA

Download LIGHT NEAR THE END OF THE WORLD at AMAZON UK

ALSO AVAILABLE ON KOBO!

Through Corinne’s journey, I hope you discover why so many pilgrims have fallen in love with the Camino de Santiago.

 

Isobel Swallows a Warrior – A Short Story (Previously Published in Nothing But Red)

I thought I would share a short story today. This was originally published in the anthology NOTHING BUT RED. The anthology came about after the brutal ‘mercy’ killing of Du’a Khalil Aswad. Joss Whedon wrote an essay on the incident on May 20th, 2007. Later, Nothing But Red was created. It contained the essay from Joss Whedon which can be read HERE.

From the NOTHING BUT RED website:

In April 2007, seventeen-year-old Dua Khalil was pulled into a crowd of young men—some of them family members. They proceeded to stone and beat her to death, a supposed “honour” killing for being in the company of a man of a different faith.

The police stood by and did nothing, and several members of the crowd filmed the incident with camera phones. You can find the video on both CNN’s website and YouTube (We have not linked to the video. A simple search will find it for you.).

One month later, popular writer and filmmaker, Joss Whedon, posted his complete despair and outrage on a fan-run news blog, Whedonesque.com. Among his words was a call to action. This is how some of us responded.

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Here is the story I wrote for the anthology. It was published in 2008.

 

Isobel Swallows a Warrior

By: Kevin Craig

Isobel has reached her breaking point. She watches the wipers’ valiant attempts at clearing the rain from the windshield as she wills herself somewhere outside the Denali in which she is trapped. It is futile. There is nowhere she can go to escape the voice of oppression sitting beside her.

“You never listen, Isobel,” Cal repeats. “This has been planned for months. Just because you don’t want to participate in the social events of my life, doesn’t mean you’re excused from them. You’re my wife. You will accompany me. It’s the way it will always be.”

Isobel attempts to hear Cal’s voice as only noise. She has become adept at tuning out the gist of his words; at hearing only his baritone drone. This ability saves her from the sting of many insults.

As the wipers continue to fight the deluge, she listens to the near-whisper of Dusty Springfield singing Son of a Preacher Man (“A radio is supposed to be background noise. The volume doesn’t need to be above three. Anything higher is excess.” One of the first Cal tenants; handed down some twenty years earlier. She has been straining to hear ever since.). Her finger itches to crank the volume; an action that would be met with dire consequences.

“Are you even listening, or are you proving my point?” In her head, Dusty is drowning him out.

“Isobel? Earth to Isobel.” The jab to the shoulder brings her back. “You’re going to act like a normal human being tonight. I work with these people. The least you can do is show them a little respect, for Christ’s sake.”

She rubs her shoulder and ponders Dusty’s words. Cal is the only boy who could ever teach her. There was a time–way back when–when she thought he was a sweet-talker, too. It seems she shares something with Dusty. She wonders if Dusty would allow herself to become a doormat to her preacher man’s son.

“Promise me that.”

“Yes,” she mumbles. “I always do. Your fetes are so incredibly stimulating—”

“Don’t get lippy, Issy. You’re going to ruin this for me before it even—”

“I’ll be your puppet, Sir Cal. Don’t worry.” Something in the hopeless way the windshield wipers struggle against the rain empowers her. She smiles, proud of her flippancy.

“Phhh. Some puppet you make. You’re as useless as feathers on a trout. I’d be able to control a puppet better.” Cal reaches for a cigarette and works at getting it lit. Isobel cracks her window against the smoke. “What the Christ are you doing? Can’t you see it’s pissing out?”

“You know I can’t handle the smoke,” she says.

You know I can’t handle the smoke,” Cal mimics in his mousy Isobel voice. “You’ll soak the seats.” Isobel reluctantly shuts the window.

Isobel shuts down and allows Cal to concentrate on his cigarette. She knows he is thinking about tonight’s Big Cal on Campus event; how wonderful he will be. She thinks idly about her children.

At first, she did the Cal experience for Cal’s sake. He was a sweet-talker. He seemed like someone she could love forever. As the tides began to turn—as the ugliness began to show through his rigid façade—she had found herself with child. First came Hennessey, and then Ben. With each rise in her belly, she felt a swell in her sense of hopelessness. With each child, Cal’s particular brand of Calness grew uglier.

But the kids are grown, a new voice in her head announces. What am I staying for now? She seems to search the rain for an answer. “We’re almost there.”

“Give the woman a medal,” Cal says. “Does MENSA know about you?”

“I was just thinking aloud.”

“Try not to make any mental breakthroughs like that tonight. They already think you’re weird. Don’t start talking to yourself.”

“I was making an observation.”

“And a fine observation it was,” he laughs. “Fine as rain.”

Isobel watches the wipers cut their rhythmic path across the windshield. She knows there is an answer to her problems right in front of her—she just can’t touch it.

If he lets me out at the door, I’ll stay. If he makes me walk in the rain, I’ll leave.

Isobel almost jumps from her seat as this thought occurs. She sneaks a peek across the void between herself and Cal, afraid that he has heard the ultimatum. He is finishing his cigarette, staring blindly into the road and savouring his superiority.

She wants to jump out of her skin. She feels as though a warrior has taken possession of her body and she tries desperately not to blink away this belief. She is afraid the spell will be broken, and with it her resolve.

Cal moves into a turning lane. They are at the Sienna Suites, the pretentious banquet hall where the pretentious soiree is being held. Isobel feels her heart in her throat. She is afraid he might not be able to resist the bright lights and showiness of the valet parking.

As they enter the parking lot she crosses her fingers, hopes for a miracle. As soon as the thought had entered her head, she knew she had wanted it more than life itself. Now she allows her future to rest on Cal’s next move.

“Like I’d let one of those punk-ass kids drive this truck!” Cal says to himself. Isobel waits for him to suggest she jump out.

If he drops me off, I stay with him. Her heart races and monarchs scratch the insides of her belly. They inch past the doors, past the smartly dressed, pimply teen-aged valets—past the security of knowing where Isobel will sleep at night.

In typical Cal fashion, he heads for the back of the lot. Isobel hears the tired parking-refrain mixing with her swirling thoughts of escape—Nobody’s denting these doors. This is a Denali, for Christ’s sake!

Cal pulls sideways into two spots, grabs a Toronto Star from behind his seat, unfolds it over his head and opens his door. He is running toward the banquet hall before Isobel’s door is opened.

She leaves the truck slowly, allowing the rain to soak her new Alfred Sung dress. Cal stops halfway, waves one arm impatiently while holding the paper above his head with the other. Isobel’s own arms begin to rise at her sides. She feels them lengthening—becoming wings. She looks into the night sky, allows the water to further soak her upturned face. She is unconcerned with running mascara and wilted hair.

She makes her way to the entrance and sees Cal waiting inside. His face is red with anger as he glimpses the damage that the rain has caused her. She smiles and waves. She splashes through a final puddle before allowing a tall dark doorman to open the door for her.

“What the hell took you so long? Christ, Issy. Now is not the time to get lost in that Dreamland head of yours. You’re soaked!”

She comes back down to earth just long enough to placate him with a few light words. “I’m in heels, Cal. It’s okay. I’ll just run to the washroom and freshen up. Wait here. I’ll be right out.”

“I’ll see you at the table. I’m not your Goddamn servant,” he snarls. “Wait here,” he says in his finest mousy Isobel voice. “That’s rich, Isobel.” He storms off, handing the doorman his dripping Toronto Star.

Isobel makes a show of walking towards the washrooms, in case he glances back. Her full-circle back to the door is almost a dance. She thinks of Hennessey and Ben—of how they will react to her spontaneous decision to flee. For a split second she thinks she will step back into her life. The resolve takes hold. The warrior in her belly propels her to the doorman.

“Can I help you, Miss?”

“Can you please call me a cab?” It is not Isobel’s voice that comes out of her tiny body. It is the voice of her swallowed warrior. She is leaving.

“They’re just outside. Follow me.” He cracks an umbrella and ushers her into the new and unknown. She puts one foot in front of the other, attempting to look like the sane, rational woman she is leaving behind.

An orange door is opened. She hears the thank you escape her lips. Her wet frame drops into the seat of the cab and she thinks she is smiling as the door closes.

Isobel stares forward, not knowing her next move. I’m leaving Cal. She turns to look at the back of the driver’s head. I’m on my way out of my life. I’m leaving Cal.

“Looks like you got a drenching,” the cabby says, pulling her back into the world. There is music playing softly, almost inaudibly.

“Just a little rain,” says the new voice that Isobel is trying on for size. “Could you please turn the music up? Music should be heard.”

“Certainly. And where are we going tonight?”

She looks to the ceiling and then closes her eyes. “Anywhere but here, driver. Just drive.”

THE END