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Summer on Fire Teen Fiction The Camino Club YA Fiction YA Lit Young Adult Young Adult Fiction

Summer on Fire – The First Chapter!

Today, I thought I would share the first chapter of Summer on Fire. Summer is my first novel and I’m still extremely proud of this one. It was my first attempt at novel writing. I wanted to capture boys in awkward friendships amidst an impossible calamity…something in the way of Stand By Me. But also something in which the kids are actually embroiled in the action.

This was my nod to coming-of-age stories…which happen to be my absolute favourite! Set in the 80s, in a small town where everybody knows your name. Three boys do a stupid thing that results in an unused barn they’ve claimed as their hangout bursting into flames. And the action takes off from there.

Before I share chapter one, I wanted to point out the the novel is on sale for UNDER $1 on Amazon right now. Great time to get it, if you enjoy coming-of-age stories. (I’ll add that several of the reviews it has gotten over the years have compared Summer on Fire favorably to Stand By Me (the Stephen King movie based on his short The Body).

Summer on Fire – Chapter One

In the early summer of 1983, Jeff Barsell burned the Henderson barn to the ground. By the time that summer got underway, we had all been put through tests of one kind or another. I am still troubled by how poorly I fared. I am also humbled by how impossible a task it is to bury our own versions of the past. No matter how many times I try to reconstruct the facts of that summer in my mind, the truth keeps seeping to the surface like an inevitable vein of thick black crude.

I try not to think about it. Sometimes it’s just too unbearable to reflect on things we have done. Those deeds seem so distant from the people we’ve become. But I’ve recently been forced to revisit my carefully buried memories. The more they develop the Henderson land into a subdivision, the more those deeds haunt me.

I drove by the construction site the other night, and it was easy to imagine the emergency vehicles converging on the house that is now nothing more than a memory in the hearts of Nelson’s citizens. Remembering that phantom clapboard farmhouse, and its dilapidated barn, brought the whole summer back to the forefront of my thoughts. I had, for so many years, artfully avoided the scene of our crime. But after seeing it, like a ghost that won’t rest until you give it leave, that summer would not stop haunting me. So much so, I feel a pressing need to tell the story the way it really happened.

Old man Henderson hadn’t used the barn for ages. It was the only place where my friends and I could go to just sit back and be ourselves. Jeff’s older brother, Marty, had laid claim to all the good hangouts in town, from the Burger Buddy on Fairfax to the ravine behind the strip mall on Salem. And you didn’t mess with Marty Barsell. He was a walking loose cannon. So the abandoned barn became our haven, our secret refuge.

Jeff didn’t intentionally set the fire.

We were smoking in the barn’s hayloft and Jeff flicked his butt in emulation of the greasy cast of The Outsiders. We had spent most of that April’s weekends gawking at that movie in slack-jawed fascination down at The Hollywood, Nelson’s solitary theatre. Never aware of his own smoldering coolness, Jeff—with his dark brooding looks, black Ponyboy hair and soul-penetrating brown eyes—constantly mirrored the cool he saw in others.

I can’t imagine how the summer would have unfolded, had the fire not occurred. It was, however, merely the catalyst that ignited the ensuing chain reaction: the house, the murder and the investigation that would eventually test our bonds of loyalty. The whole drama sent a ripple of electricity through our small town, sparking a flurry of tongue-wagging gossip. But we were the only ones who knew the whole truth behind the barn fire; Jeff, Arnie Wilson and me.

* * *

Arnie and I were sprawled against the wall of the loft when the fire broke out. We watched intently as Jeff took aim at barn swallows with his brother’s borrowed slingshot. I was green from one too many cigarettes and temporarily avoiding movement (we were fairly new to smoking and I was already aware that it was not a pastime I would take to for long). Arnie, on the other hand, argued with Jeff after every shot, demanding his turn with the weapon. He grabbed at the air around the slingshot in heated frustration as Jeff managed to keep it just outside his reach.

It was probably Arnie’s fault Jeff forgot about his flicked cigarette as it careened out of his thoughts and into a nearby stack of hay bales. Arnie was usually to blame when things went awry. His restless personality was a magnet for chaos and commotion.

Three abandoned bales of hay sat in the back corner of the loft. They were older than Moses, slate grey with faded binding. We sometimes used them as chairs or tables when we played poker, or Parcheesi (Arn’s game of choice). On the day of the fire, though, they were forgotten. Jeff’s butt must have landed on one of them. We never did see it, but those bales suddenly lit like crepe paper in a bonfire.

One moment I was laughing at the turmoil Jeff was causing Arnie and the next we were scampering for the loft’s dilapidated ladder in our frantic panic to abandon ship.

I was first to the ladder. Arnie scrambled after me, kicking my head in his haste. Jeff, ever the hero-wanna-be, stayed behind and tried to extinguish the flames with his jean jacket. I could see from my new vantage point on the floor of the barn, though, that he only fanned the fire and quickened its speed. I watched as it jumped to the wooden beams above the bales.

As Jeff connected with the ladder, I heard the distinctive peal of cracking wood. Arnie, as slow as he was obese, was only halfway down the ladder when it snapped apart, toppling both boys to the ground at my feet.

The second crack to echo throughout the barn was more profound and sickening. It was followed by an ear-splitting wail that was hardly recognizable as being human.

As Jeff scurried to his feet, I found the source of the screaming. Arnie lay in a crumpled mass, his leg jutting unnaturally beneath his rotund trunk. He was hysterical, clutching at his leg with a crazed unfocused look in his usually intent blue eyes.

“Holy Jesus, Zach!” Jeff yelled, looking to me to authenticate what he was seeing. “Oh Arnie. What did you do?”

Arnie just screamed. He was elsewhere at the moment, unreachable by reason.

“We have to pick him up,” I said. I looked up. The fire licked out over the loft, reaching for the higher beams in the middle of the barn’s ceiling. The roof would soon be engulfed in flames. The acrid sting of burning hay and ancient wood filled my nostrils as thick smoke swelled and roiled above us. “We have to get him out of here.”

“Arnie!” Jeff hollered, slapping him across the face.

Arnie stopped his wailing and looked to Jeff in disbelief. “What’d you do that for?” he asked indignantly. “Jesus! It hurts, Zach. It hurts. My leg!” He looked at me and prepared to go into another series of unrelenting screams.

“Arnie,” I said. “Shut up! Henderson’ll hear you. Look at me.” I pointed my peace-sign fingers at his eyes, and then dragged them slowly through the air to my own and back again. “Look at me. We have to move you. You have to help us and it’s gonna hurt like hell.”

“No. I wanna stay right here. Don’t. I’m okay here.”

“Arnie. The barn’s gonna burn down. We’ve gotta get out of here. This place is kindling.” I spoke loud to be heard above his sobbing and the escalating music of the fire. Jeff scoured around looking for something, anything. He ran into a nearby stall and came out seconds later with an old wheelbarrow.

“I’m not gettin’ in that thing. Ooh, it hurts. Don’t make me get in there, Zach.”

“You have to, Arn,” Jeff yelled, less diplomatically than I had been. “Get your fat ass inside!”

The fire above us was nearing a crescendo, and the racket of crackling wood and hay was now deafening. Arnie looked up at me, his eyes pleading. I understood then that his current state of shock would only respond to threats and abuse.

“Come on, bubble butt. Help us get your fat ass into this thing! Now!” I said, following Jeff’s lead. “It’s now or never, Arn. I’m getting out of here and if you don’t come now, you’re not coming.”

He looked above us and resignation washed over him. I looked at his leg. It was twisted unnaturally and a bruise was already spreading across the surface of the dimpled flesh where a bone seemed to be pushing against the skin. It looked bad and I didn’t want to touch him. I had broken my arm the previous summer and I could only imagine how much more pain he was in.

“Come on, Arn,” I cajoled. “I know you can do it, bud.” He put out his hand and I took it. But he didn’t budge. He held firm to the ground in defiance. “Arnie, I promise. I will never make fun of your weight again,” I said.

“Oh Christ, Zach. It hurts real bad.”

“I know. We have to get out though. We’ll take you down the road and say you fell out of Halverton’s apple tree. But first we have to get you there. We’re dead if we’re caught here. You know that, don’t you?”

“Come on, guys,” Jeff screamed, rattling the wheelbarrow. “There’s no time.” He looked up and I followed his gaze. Fire formed a hot umbrella of flames above us, swallowing the place.

Jeff dropped the wheelbarrow and grabbed Arnie under his arms. He heaved. Arnie moaned as his leg was jostled. I yanked on his arm with both hands as he began to work with us. It felt like we were raising the Titanic with a fishing rod. If it were me or Jeff on the ground, we would have done whatever it took to get up. But Arnie was a crybaby at the best of times.

“Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus,” Arnie screamed. He was halfway up; his broken leg jarring painfully. What little colour he still had, raced from his cheeks.

“Shut up and get up,” Jeff said. “Christ, Arnie. You have one good leg. Use it, dammit.”

Something in Arnie finally relented. He was on his one foot in seconds, hopping slowly to the wheelbarrow while we clumsily held him. He swayed in our arms like a wind-bent tree. One more step and, with a thud, he keeled into the wheelbarrow. He landed face first with a loud moan.

“Arnie,” Jeff yelled. “Hey Arnie. You need to roll over.”

He didn’t move. I leaned in and was not surprised to see that he had mercifully passed out. “He’s gone, Jeff.”

“Holy crap, Zach,” Jeff said as he swatted his bangs away from his face. “I’ve never seen anybody actually out cold before. How are we gonna do this?”

We looked up. The roof beams, resembling the ribcage of a mammoth beast, were now engulfed. The flames would reach us in seconds, in the form of falling debris.

“Take an end. We can do this.” I said.

“Damn. I wish it were you in there, Twiggy.”

“Ha ha.” I took a handle in one hand and the shin of Arnie’s broken leg in the other. “Let’s just go before it’s too late.”

“My jacket,” Jeff said, picking it up off the dirt floor where it landed when he fell. He threw it over Arnie. “Oh man. It’s all scorched. My dad’s gonna kill me twice.”

“If this fire doesn’t get us first,” I said.

The first few movements were hard. The wheel moved like it was deep in mud. Once it started, though, it went by its own momentum. We were out of the barn in no time, but it would only get harder from there.

I was so busy keeping Arnie’s leg as motionless as possible that Jeff was left with the bulk of his weight. We grunted our way toward the road in an awkward dance that left us sweating and breathless. Even out cold, Arnie was moaning nonstop. He grumbled with each bump in the gravel driveway.

“Stop. Stop,” Jeff said. “I need a break, Zach.” His face was beet red and sweat ran into his eyes.

As we dropped the wheelbarrow onto its legs, Jeff heaved a sigh of relief. Together we turned back toward the barn. Flames shot out the hayloft doors and through rifts in the roof, while thick tunnels of grey-white smoke billowed out the barn doors below.

“Holy crap,” Jeff said. I just stood there shaking my head.

“Jesus,” said a squeak from behind us. I turned to see Arnie looking up at the burning building with a dazed, listless expression on his face. “Nice one, Jeff.”

“Thanks Arn. I call it ‘Flaming Barn’.”

“Enough with the trying to be funny,” I said. “Henderson’s gonna be out here in a second. I wouldn’t be surprised if he brings his shotgun. Arnie here will be an easy target once we make a run for it.”

“Thanks a lot, Carson,” he said. “Leave the fat guy behind.” He attempted humour, despite his obvious agony, but he looked seconds away from passing out again. His pallor now looked a sickening mottled grey.

“Let’s not give the old crank a chance,” I said, getting back to the wheelbarrow and grabbing a handle. Jeff took the other end as he wiped his forehead with the back of his hand, and we made for the road.

“Easy, guys,” Arnie said. “This is hurting like crazy.” Tears streamed down his face.

We struggled over the driveway’s rugged terrain and finally made it to the slightly more level paved road. I looked over at Jeff and realized, with shock, that he was actually crying. Not a lot, but enough for me to notice. Jeff never cried. Arnie was the crybaby of the group, I was the one who cried under pressure and he was the tough guy who never shed a tear. I followed his worried gaze and noticed it led directly to the scorched jean jacket.

“Jeff?” I asked. “What—”

“My dad’s gonna kill me,” he said. “You know it and I know it.”

The scorch marks had nothing to do with the panic in his eyes. I knew the jacket would find its final resting place in a matter of minutes. It wouldn’t do to show up on the day of a fire with scorch marks on your clothes.

The problem was how Jeff was going to explain away the missing jacket to his father. There was only one person in town meaner than Jeff’s brother Marty, and that was Jeff’s father. The man was a worthless slob. He was walking, talking misery. If his son mentioned he needed a new jacket, he was sure to beat the crap out of him first and ask questions later.

“I’ll give you mine,” I said. “My parents won’t even notice. They wouldn’t care anyway.” My father owned the more prosperous of the town’s two service stations.

He’ll notice, though,” Jeff said. “Crap. What am I gonna do?”

We pushed on in the direction of Ms. Halverton’s place. “You really think he’ll notice? I mean, it’s only a jean jacket, right?”

“My old man looks for reasons to get ugly. If he notices I’ve lost it, he’ll flip his lid.”

“Come on. Maybe he’ll notice eventually. But don’t tell me he examines your clothes every time you come in the house? You can have mine. Ten to one he doesn’t even clue in.”

“Yeah right,” came an annoying verbal jab from Arnie, who had been quietly addressing his pain until that moment.

“Shut up, Arnie,” Jeff said.

“Zach, you have a Levi jacket. Jeff’s old man may be stupid, but even he knows he can’t afford Levi. He’ll notice all right.”

“I said shut up,” Jeff said between clenched teeth. The veins in his arms were now bulging with the efforts of his labours. He looked ready to strike Arnie. He might have too, if he hadn’t been struggling to keep the wheelbarrow in motion.

“You can have mine. We’ll stop off at my house after we dump off this fat-ass payload under Halverton’s tree.”

“Hey,” Arnie screamed indignantly. “You said no more fat names.”

“That was before I realized you couldn’t help being an arsehole, Arn. I take it back.”

“Ha,” Jeff smirked. “You’re on, Zach. If he notices, he notices. Screw it. Everybody’ll be so busy talking about the fire anyway.”

“Good point,” I said. “Wouldn’t it be wild if he found out who started it?”

The thought made him smile at first, but the smile quickly faded. His father finding out would be the worst thing that could ever happen, and we all knew it.

We kept moving, silent except for our laboured breathing and Arnie’s groaning. Not a car was in sight. Unusual for a Saturday afternoon, but I was thankful just the same.

“Stop,” Jeff commanded, dropping his end of the wheelbarrow so that Arnie was met with a new jolt of pain.

“Jesus,” Arnie moaned. “What’d you do that for?”

“I have to get rid of this, Arn.” He took the jacket off Arnie. “This is evidence,” he said, smiling and shaking it in his clenched fist. He left the road and started off in the direction of the woods. I followed him.

“Hey. You guys can’t just leave me here. What if somebody drives by and sees me? Hey. You guys!” We ignored him and hurried into the woods.

Jeff hid the jacket in some dense brush. I had imagined us burying it in a shallow grave, or something more dramatic, but he simply dumped it and turned to walk out.

“Do you think that’s good enough?” I asked.

“You’d have to be in here looking for it to find it, Zach. Don’t worry about it.” He had calmed down about the whole thing.

“Guys,” Arnie shrieked from the road. “Guys? Come on. Where are you?”

“We better get back to that Nancy boy,” Jeff said, turning to walkout. I tramped the jacket deeper into the brush and kicked some loose dirt and pine needles onto it before following him out.

Jeff stopped midway back, palming his pockets in desperation. He panicked. “Oh crap, man!”

“What? What’s wrong now?” I asked, wanting to keep moving as far away from the jacket as we could.

“The slingshot! I put it in my back pocket. It’s gone. I’ll have to go back for it, Zach.”

“Jesus Christ. You stupid bastard,” I yelled. For a guy who never made mistakes, they were suddenly coming fast and furious. “It’s too late.”

“No, Zach, come on. Think about it.”

“We don’t have time to think about it, Jeff. You probably lost it in the barn. It’s toast.”

“What if I didn’t?”

“Guys. This really hurts. You have to get me to the hospital,” Arnie shrieked as he saw that we had stopped in the clearing. Tears streamed down his smoke-dirty face, leaving a trail of clean in his chubby cheeks.

“Okay Arnie,” Jeff said, pulling at his hair in frustration. He appeared completely insane standing there, conflicted between so many different decisions. He ran back to Arnie, and grabbed his end of the wheelbarrow. “Hold on. You’re in for a bumpy ride.” He winked at me. I caught up, grabbed the other end and we were off as fast as we could go with an overweight fifteen-year-old on board.

“Christ. Ouch. Slow down,” Arnie cried out like a girl. “You’re killing me. Stop. Stop.”

We ran all the way to the Halverton place and came to a screeching halt at the field with the apple tree.

It was a good idea to pretend Arnie had fallen from the tree. We were always climbing it, so it wouldn’t be a shock to anyone if one of us were to fall out of it. The problem was with the hill leading down to it. You don’t realize things like that until it really matters. I had run down that hill a thousand times and never fully realized, until we showed up with Arnie in a wheelbarrow, just how steep it really was.

“How are we gonna pull this off?” Jeff asked, eyeing the slope with the same incredulousness that I was experiencing.

Arnie was too busy crying to notice our predicament.

“We’re gonna have to dump him out and carry him to the tree on our shoulders. There’s no other way.” Arnie heard that and stopped crying.

“There’s no way you’re dumpin’ me outta this thing.” He gripped the sides in defiance.

“Well, Arn,” Jeff said. “The alternative is calling up your fruitcake mother and asking her to pick up her lard-ass son at the Halverton place. I can picture it now: ‘Yes, Mrs. Wilson, he’ll be the one with the broken leg sitting in the stolen wheelbarrow. We got it from old man Henderson right after we burned his barn to the ground. Maybe you can return it after—”’

Okay. I get the picture,” Arnie screamed, defeated. “Just be careful. This really, really hurts like hell!”

“Maybe we can wheel it down gently,” I said. “If we watch out for holes we might be able to do it.”

“On second thought, I’d rather take my chances being dumped out, Zach,” Arnie said, staring off down the expanse of the hill.

“Okay, let’s do this,” Jeff said. “It’s a miracle nobody’s seen us yet.” He looked off in the direction from which we had come. I followed his gaze and was surprised to see so much smoke billowing into the sky above the Henderson barn. It looked a lot worse than I thought it should.

“Holy crap. That’s a lot of smoke for such a little barn,” I said.

“That’s exactly what I was thinking.”

“Holy gees,” Arnie said, momentarily forgetting the pain of his broken leg.

Jeff dumped the wheelbarrow on its side, causing Arnie to slide halfway out onto his good leg. We leaned down and wrenched him up by the armpits.

“Hold it. Hold it. Careful,” Arnie yelled.

“Let’s go, McBlubber,” Jeff said. “We have to get this done before somebody sees us. That’s a huge fire.”

Arnie hoisted himself up, helping us get him to his feet. In no time we were standing side by side, Arnie leaning solidly on Jeff and shakily on me. He knew where the strength was. Even with the small amount of weight he put on my shoulder, though, I sank helplessly.

“On my count,” Jeff began as we swayed in the breezeless afternoon. “One. Two. Three.”

On three we started down the hill, wobbling two steps forward one step back, going from side to side all the way down. Arnie’s relentless yelps threatened to reach Ms. Halverton. Jeff screeched at him to shut his mouth so many times, I finally just put my free hand over it to try to stop the noise from escaping.

By the time we reached the tree, we were spent. Jeff fell in a heap, taking both of us with him. Arnie howled out a final torturous wail as he slumped into the ground. We lay on our backs for a moment, looking up at the blue sky, panting and gasping for breath.

I stared at the sky thinking, this isn’t how my summer was supposed to begin.

“Now you can cry, moron,” Jeff finally said, turning to Arnie. “Scream if you want. Maybe Ms. Halverton’ll come running down the hill.”

On Jeff’s cue, Arnie let loose the loudest wails he could muster. I was certain there was nothing artificial about them.

As an afterthought I sprang to my feet, ran up the hill and grabbed the wheelbarrow. There was no way we could have explained the wheelbarrow.

Running down the hill with it was even harder than helping Arnie down. I tore past them, speeding out of control with the barrow’s momentum. Their faces were blurs of laughter as I went by.

The wheelbarrow didn’t stop until it hit a tree a few hundred feet downhill from them. By then, I was running too fast to stop it. I landed head first into the barrow with a smack.

Jeff’s laughter met me as I crawled out of the brush and made my way back up the hill to the apple tree.

“Very funny,” I said, dusting myself off and rubbing my head.

“You’ve never run so fast, Zach,” Arnie said, “you should seriously think about joining the track team.”

“And you should seriously think about joining a fat farm, ass.”

“You don’t have to be so mean,” he replied, changing his tune, instantly sounding like a baby again.

“You two girls work it out,” Jeff said. “I’m going up to Ms. Halverton’s to ask for help. Oh, and that was really sweet, Zach,” he continued, “I only wish I had a camera.”

“Ha ha,” I said as Jeff walked away. Arnie lay back in the grass and waited for the shit to hit the fan. I sat down beside him and watched Jeff disappear up over the slope of the hill.

END OF CHAPTER ONE.

You can pick up Summer on Fire at the following places, for just under or just over a dollar…depending on where you live:

Kobo USA | Kobo Canada |Amazon USA | Amazon Canada | You can also pick it up in paperback: Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Indigo-Chapters | IndieBound |

Visit Goodreads for Summer on Fire reviews!

My new release THE CAMINO CLUB is also available wherever books are sold:

Amazon USA | Amazon Canada | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Book Depository | BookShop | Indigo-Chapters | IndieBound | Kobo USA | Kobo Canada | Interlude Press/Duet Books | WalMart USA | Target | Blackwell’s (UK) | Booktopia (Aus) | APPLE Books

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Summer on Fire YA Lit

Happy 6th Birthday to My Debut Novel!

Six years! SUMMER ON FIRE hit the bookstores six years ago today. The book that changed my status from writer to author. It was such a journey. It began in 2003 as my very first NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) manuscript. And it took until 2011 to see it through to the finished product.

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Summer On Fire – 6 Years Old Today!

Buy it today on AMAZON:

Amazon Canada Kindle Edition $5.51

Amazon Canada Print Edition $4.63

Amazon USA Kindle Edition $4.21

Amazon USA Print Edition $7.95

Zach Carson is a loyal friend. But is loyalty enough to keep best friends together when one of them sets fire to the rural barn they use as the local hangout? Zach, Jeff Barsell and Arnie Wilson struggle to pick up the pieces when news spreads that a body was discovered in the burnt out shell of the neighbouring home. When the word murder is used by the local police, the stakes grow even higher. When the police start searching for their most likely suspect-none other than Jeff’s older brother, and nemesis, Marty Barsell-the boys decide to join forces and come up with a way to prove his innocence. But just how innocent is Marty Barsell? When Marty admits to being at the scene of the crime, the three friends enlist the help of Zach’s annoying sister, Sherry, as well as the sympathetic town eccentric, Ms. Halverton. But can they keep it together long enough to save Marty, and themselves, from imminent catastrophe? Summer on Fire is the story of friendships, and the lines we are asked to cross in order to keep them.

Some of the greatest compliments I have ever received for my writing can be found in reviews of my debut novel. I can’t even count the amount of people who brought up the movie STAND BY ME in their review of the book. This is one of my all-time favourite movies, based on Stephen King’s short story THE BODY. Every time Summer on Fire was compared to this movie, my heart grew another size.

READ REVIEWS FOR SUMMER ON FIRE AT GOODREADS

 

Categories
Burn Baby Burn Baby Half Dead And Fully Broken Kevin Craig Sebastian's Poet Summer on Fire The Reasons

5 Guys In Between Days – Boys Don’t Cry

After yesterday’s debacle here, I think I’m going to review a few of my characters. I really feel yesterday’s blog post was a train wreck. I started and restarted it too many times to count. In honesty, it took me three days of trying. In the end, I just said the hell with it and settled on the latest sloppy version.

Today, I thought I would introduce you to 5 of my characters. These introductions should serve as a way of displaying the kind of fiction I write. I will have one from each of my five published novels…each broken, and each irrevocably hopeful.

There are several soundtracks to my life. The one that runs the deepest, I have to admit, is all The Cure. They have been my favourite obsession since about 1980. Contrary to what those on the outside of The Cure universe believe, I have always found their lyrics to be inspiring and uplifting. Robert Smith chose to dip into the morass of ennui and sadness as a way to dredge those feelings up into the light.

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“Happy the man with the face that smiles” ~ Robert Smith of The Cure

I always feel better after listening to The Cure. They always had something for every mood and every moment. From the angsty relationship themed Boys Don’t Cry, to the manic chasing train driven punk wig-out of 10:15 Saturday Night, to the zany spirited uplifting Mint Car.

The sun is up
I’m so happy I could scream!
And there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be
Than here with you
It’s perfect
It’s all I ever wanted
I almost can’t believe that it’s for real

I really don’t think it gets any better than this
Vanilla smile
And a gorgeous strawberry kiss!
Birds sing we swing
Clouds drift by and everything is like a dream
It’s everything I wished

Those are not Gothic kill-me now depressed angst-driven suicidal lyrics. The Cure might be one of the most misunderstood bands of their time. There were times in my life when they were the place from which I derived my joy. When you struggle with issues, you sometimes need to trick yourself out of your bed in the morning. When I was a teenager, The Cure were there to dig me up out of my pain. They’re the happiest band I know. And all I ever heard in the media about them were slit-my-wrist jokes about how sorrowful and depressed their stuff was. So not the case. Many things saved me, but nothing ever saved teen me like The Cure saved me.

Oh wait! 5 Characters. Right! I’m so easily distracted these days.

  1. ZACH CARSON – summeronfire SUMMER ON FIRE – Zach appears in my first novel, Summer on Fire. He is the friend who outwardly appears to be the most together. But he is also, in a way, the weakest link. Picture Wil Wheaton’s Gordie Lachance. He’s the hero of the story, but he is nothing like the hero of the story. Everybody knows the guy you want to be when you watch the movie Stand By Me is Chris Chambers…the coolest of the cool (played by River Phoenix). Even though Chris later dies, he’s the ultimate hero of that story. My Chris Chambers in this story is Jeff Barsell. I’m referencing Stand By Me here because it is mentioned in quite a few of the reviews for this book. Zach was broken in the most subtle way of all of my main characters. He wants to please everyone and he struggles with his moral compass. He wants to do the right thing but he also wants to remain loyal to his friends. Jeff Barsell is the real broken hero of this story. Jeff has a brother who bullies him and a father who beats him. He adores his mother. He knows that the trouble he’s gotten himself into could finish the job of breaking her…a job his father has been chiseling away at for years. When the boys accidentally set a barn on fire, the stage is set for a much darker revelation. The house beside the barn goes up in flames…and with it, the body of the old man who lived there. From there, we get to see the mettle of these three boys as they attempt to wiggle out of their predicament.
  2. SEBASTIAN NELSON –  Sebastian's Poet SEBASTIAN’S POET – Sebastian Nelson is perhaps my favourite of all the characters I’ve ever created. He’s a boy who is forced to grow up at an all too young age. When folksinger Teal Landen appears on the couch one morning after a bohemian party at Sebby’s place, he quickly forms a bond with the boy. Sebastian comes from a broken family. He’s left with his mentally ill father after his mother takes off to her homeland of Montreal. With a father who can’t even look after himself–a father who is silently dealing with deep dark issues that threaten to kill him–Sebastian becomes the number one caregiver to his younger brother Renee. Teal becomes his saviour, but the distance between them is vast as Teal attempts to hide a truth from the young boy who worships him. This one takes place in The Beaches in Toronto…in the 1970s. It’s all Leonard Cohen meets James at 15. Sebastian is abused, neglected, and without a childhood to speak of. He is someone who should not be able to get up…but getting up is all he ever wants to do.
  3. TOBIAS REASON –  The+Reasons THE REASONS – Reason is the family name of the narrators in this one. The narration flips from chapter to chapter, from Tobias Reason to Maggie Reason. This is an entirely broken family. Maggie is insane. Her secret is so completely buried, she herself doesn’t even know what it is. But when she tosses her newly inherited house at Tobias, just to get rid of it, Tobias discovers the deepest darkest thing about a family so broken they might never be saved. Tobias’s older sister dies in chapter one…and on the surface this may appear to be the thing that breaks Maggie. But all along, there are hints that she was broken long before Deja died on her road-trip to the mountains she would never see. Maggie has no time for her youngest daughter, Annabel…so it falls to Tobias to raise her. But Annabel may in fact hold the key to everything that is broken. Tobias is abused, neglected, and without a childhood to speak of. But he is a character on a mission…he wants to save his mother, and in the process he wants to save his family. He will do anything to make this happen.
  4. FRANCIS FRIPP – burn-baby-burn-1000.jpeg BURN BABY BURN BABY – Francis Fripp’s last name is a nod to mention—He has the last name Fripp as an homage of sorts to Grady Tripp from Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys. This novel marks the onward march of my own courage. I wanted to go deeper with this one, explore the darkness that teens experience on a deeper level. Francis is bullied relentlessly at school. His tormentor, Brandon Hayley, won’t be happy until he sees Francis completely destroyed. But Francis was broken before Brandon ever got to him. Francis was mutilated by his abusive father, who burned half of Francis’s body in a murderous rage. As broken as Francis is–both inwardly and outwardly–he has a deep love of life. You can just glimpse it if you look past the angst and turmoil he lives with every day. He loves his little brothers Paul and Simon like mad. Sure, he calls them, collectively, Paul Simon…but he does this in love. He sees only his burns when he tries to assemble a picture of who he is as a person. But the new girl at school might see more than that. It’s up to Francis to allow her to do so. His walls are so high, he doesn’t know how to take them down. Francis is abused, neglected, and without a childhood to speak of. But Francis wants to soar. And his unflinching champion, Trig, will do anything to see that he does so.
  5. CARTER COLBY – cover2500 HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN – Carter is a twin. He’s the loser mentally unstable half of the Colby twins. His brother, inexplicably, is the popular All-American boy. But in chapter one, Marcus Colby dies in a motorcycle accident on the way to school.Carter was a passenger on the bike and becomes even more screwed up when he has to survive such a traumatic experience. Losing his twin is the beginning of the horror, but he quickly learns that sharing a face with the most popular dead boy in school is not an easy task. People who never saw him when Marcus was alive now don’t want to see him. Marcus becomes dead Marcus in this story…as he begins to visit Carter on a regular basis. He has unfinished work and he needs Carter’s help to see it through. The ghost of Marcus is just as fabulous and put together as the living Marcus was. While Carter attempts to pick himself up from the wreck of his life, he works with Marcus to help make things right. He also unexpectedly falls in love with Marcus’s girlfriend, Melanie, and forms an unexpected friendship with the school jock, Justin Dewar, who also happens to be the victim from the truck involved in the accident that killed Marcus. Carter is broken, but in different ways than usual. He has no self-esteem. He lives in the shadow of greatness and can’t manage to get out from under it. He hates himself. But he finds hope in Melanie…and in the possibility of being made more whole.

I brought up THE CURE at the beginning of this post because I wanted to draw a similarity between their music and my novels. On the surface, all of my stuff is morose, sad, broken, depressed, angsty, and filled with ennui. But it’s also, like The Cure, filled with hope and joy. Or, at least, I hope it is. I always make an effort to put a little sunshine in my work. Because all things broken are not ONLY broken. My favourite quote, which is also the epigraph in my novel Sebastian’s Poet, alludes to this. From Leonard Cohen’s ANTHEM…

THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING…THAT’S HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN.

In all ugliness, there is beauty. In all sadness, there is joy. This is what I attempt to write in my novels. I love to see the crack…because without it the beauty would not get in.

CLICK ON THE NAMES BELOW TO VISIT THE AMAZON PAGE FOR ITS RELATED NOVEL:

  1. Zach Carson
  2. Sebastian Nelson
  3. Tobias Reason
  4. Francis Fripp
  5. Carter Colby

Get HAPPY:

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Amazon Balloons Elton John Kevin Craig Levon Music Sebastian's Poet Shakespeare Summer on Fire The Reasons William Shakespeare

Birthdays and Balloons!

Today is my good friend’s birthday! Okay, so he’s more an acquaintance than a friend, really. Okay, so he’s more a mentor than a friend, really. Okay, so I never actually met him…but I feel as though I know him intimately.

Happy 450th Birthday, Sir William Shakespeare!

I love Shakespeare. I finally dipped into this love for one of my forthcoming YA novels. My main character, Francis Fripp, loves Shakespeare and can quote anything from the bard’s work because he spent the lion’s share of his childhood in the hospital recovering from burns he received to almost half of his body. While it was his father who set him on fire for playing with matches, his father’s kind sister gave him The Complete Works of Shakespeare to read during his recovery. So, I really got to give the old Shaky Pear the nod in Burn Baby. (-: Shaky Pear. That’s what we called him in high school.

Did you know that many of the phrases we use every single day come from the man? It’s true.

How many times do you say the following phrases? If you invoke them, you are invoking Shakespeare!

  • A wild goose chase
  • Give the devil his due
  • Wear your heart on your sleeve
  • Vanish into thin air
  • What the dickens
  • Knock knock! Who’s there?
  • For goodness sake

These are just a few of the good man’s many everyday phrases. He certainly has achieved world domination in the English language phrasebook.

Raise a glass for old William today. He has brought us much joy.

shakespeare1

Speaking of birthdays, don’t you just LOVE balloons! Wouldn’t you love for your job to be to sell cartoon balloons in town?! Couldn’t you just imagine yourself sitting on a porch swing somewhere blowing up balloons all day. Just letting them go and watching them fly!

After listening to Levon recently, I turned to my friend and said, “Wouldn’t that be the most awesome job in the world?! Selling balloons for a living.”

He said, “Der. That’s what you do. You play with words. You sell word balloons. You HAVE the awesome job. Dude, you’re living it.”

Sometimes I forget how fortunate I am. I get to do this thing I love to do. I play with words. I sit on the porch swing and watch them fly. I take a balloon and I go sailing.

Find your thing. Find your balloon. And when you do, enjoy the flight. You only live once.

 

Don’t forget to check out my novels on Amazon. BURN BABY and HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN will release in the Fall of this year, but there’s always SUMMER ON FIRE, THE REASONS and SEBASTIAN’S POET…if you want to check out something now.

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Book Trailer Kevin Craig Summer on Fire

Summer on Fire – A YA Novel – Book Trailer

A short trailer for my 2011 young adult release, SUMMER ON FIRE. It is available through most major online booksellers, both as an ebook and a print book. If you go directly to MUSEITUP PUBLISHING and order the print book, they will give you the ebook for free!

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Kevin Craig Summer on Fire

My Grandson & Summer on Fire

This picture totally rocks my universe!

Edward Anthony, my grandson, spending time with my debut novel- Summer on Fire. 🙂

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Kevin Craig Summer on Fire

A Short Excerpt from Summer on Fire – A YA Novel

I thought I would post a short bit of the excerpt from Summer on Fire that is up on my publisher’s website. I don’t think I shared one here, yet.

“I just need your help, Sherry. I need to talk some things through and I can’t do it with anybody else. I know I can trust you. You may be an ass sometimes, but I know I can trust you.”

“If that’s not an underhanded compliment, I don’t know what is.”

“It’s all I got,” I said. I got up and headed for the door, knowing she would follow me.

“What’s Jeff up to now?” she asked as we made our way across the parking lot.

I grabbed her hand, stopping her in her tracks.

“This isn’t really everything, but someone was following Jeff and me earlier and we split up and ran through some backyards by his place and I lost him. So now I don’t know where he is.”

“What do you mean, following you? You mean, like—”

“I mean, like in a car. An unmarked police car moving slowly down the street behind us.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“I wish I was. We took off and, well, he’s way faster than me. He was gone and I couldn’t keep up with him.”

“Let’s walk home,” she said, grabbing me and pointing me in the right direction. “There’s no way we can find them just wandering around.”

“Wait. No. I have to make one stop first. You can come with me.”

“Where?”

“I have to go to Arnie’s place, Sherry. I have to see him for a second.”

“Okay, whatever. Let’s just walk.”

“Thanks.”

“You said that wasn’t everything. What else is there?”

“Marty.”

“Damn, Zach. You guys aren’t helping him, are you? Look at me.” She grabbed my collar and shook. “You can’t screw around with him. You know the cops are looking for him. Do you want a record too? Because you know damn well he’s gonna have one as long as his arm before he’s twenty. Stick around him and you’ll have one to match.”

I shook myself free of her weak hold.

“I’m not an idiot, Sherry. We’re careful. He’s turning himself in. He was going to do it last night, but he chickened out.”

“Trust me, Zach. He has no intention of doing the right thing. Ever. I don’t know if you ever noticed, but the guy’s pretty much without a conscience.”

“Well,” I said. “I used to think so too. But he really convinced me last night. I thought for sure he was going to do it. He just needs one more push.”

“Off a cliff, if you ask me.”

To continue reading this excerpt, you can head on over to my page at MuseItUp Publishing. You can purchase a print copy of Summer on Fire at the link, and receive the ebook for free.

You can also purchase Summer on Fire at Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo or Amazon, to name a few places.

Here’s my Summer on Fire Reader Response page, where I’ve collected a lot of the reviews that have come in for the book. If you would like to add a review, or comments, to the page…just let me know.

As I move closer to the release of Sebastian’s Poet, I just thought I would share this info on my first novel. (-:

Summer on Fire can also be found on GOODREADS!

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Books Fiction Musa Musa Publishing Museitup Museitup Publishing MuseItYoung Muskoka Novel Marathon Reads Sebastian's Poet Summer on Fire Terpsichore YA Young Adult Young Adult Fiction

Sebastian’s Poet Nearing the Gate! (Editor Love)

Okay, so I love working with a good editor. I just went through the first round of edits for my soon to be released adult novel, SEBASTIAN’S POET. My editor was so precise and helpful. I just love the way she was able to take a sentence that was a little foggy and rework it until it said exactly what I wanted it to say. It was like she was a clairvoyant, reading my intent and making it reality. I hear writers often complaining about the editing process. Heck, I’ve done it myself. But when you read the notes of the editor and they all help you to see things in a slightly different slant—a more correct slant—it’s such a euphoric feeling. I love that my editor is able to adjust things here and there until the clarity that I was looking for comes through. It’s an amazing experience. I felt giddy as I read some of her suggestions and notations. 

Round two of my edits will be coming my way shortly. I’m really excited about this book. It was a real journey writing SEBASTIAN’S POET. The first draft was written in a 48hr writing marathon. By the end of that marathon, I was peaking on words. I felt like Carlos Castaneda flying on peyote. But it was such a clean high, this high of words. There is NOTHING to describe the feeling of writing a novel in one sitting, without an outline, without an idea of where you’re going to go. I just sat down and wrote. I watched the words appearing on the screen and felt as though I were seeing them for the first time, like they didn’t just travel through my mind, down my arms and through my fingers onto the screen. I wrote faster and faster so that I could find out what would happen next. 

Over the next couple of years (Sebastian’s Poet was written in July, 2007) I worked extremely hard at polishing the manuscript. Once it was accepted for publication by Musa Publishing, I felt like my favourite baby was picked! I’ve written seven or eight novels over the past few years, but this one…the emotional attachment is so great. It was my first marathon novel. I lived and breathed nothing but it for an entire weekend. It was my peyote. When it recently went through the first round of edits, and I saw my editor making all the iffy sentences I thought to be ready actually resonating with more clarity—well, I wanted to dance. It made me that happy. I can’t wait to see the second round of edits.

This is the novel I am most proud of. I am on tenterhooks to see the cover of SEBASTIAN’S POET. So excited! Can’t wait! 

More to come on the release of this novel. Until then, SUMMER ON FIRE, my young adult novel, is still available. (-:

 

My debut novel, Summer on Fire
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Kevin Craig Museitup Summer on Fire

Preparing for Montreal Book Signing – MuseItYoung – Nov 5

Just getting ready to print flyers for the table at my book-signing in Montreal this coming Saturday. There will be a slew of MuseItUp Publishing authors on hand at Zellers in Pointe Claire…for most of the afternoon. Should be a great event!

 

SUMMER ON FIRE by KEVIN CRAIG

Zach Carson is a loyal friend. But is loyalty enough to keep best friends together when one of them sets fire to the rural barn they use as the local hangout? Zach, Jeff Barsell and Arnie Wilson struggle to pick up the pieces when news spreads that a body was discovered in the burnt out shell of the neighbouring home. When the word murder is used by the local police, the stakes grow even higher. When the police start searching for their most likely suspect—none other than Jeff’s older brother, and nemesis, Marty Barsell—the boys decide to join forces and come up with a way to prove his innocence. But just how innocent is Marty Barsell? When Marty admits to being at the scene of the crime, the three friends enlist the help of Zach’s annoying sister, Sherry, as well as the sympathetic town eccentric, Ms. Halverton. But can they keep it together long enough to save Marty, and themselves, from imminent catastrophe? Summer on Fire is the story of friendships, and the lines we are asked to cross in order to keep them.

“This book was absolutely fantastic. I can already see that this will be making the round among family and friends. I would highly recommend this book. I am confident you won’t be disappointed.”

“Couldn’t put this one down. I was immediately captured by the three boys & the crisis that threatened to rip apart their friendship.”

“Kevin does an amazing job of telling a story where heart, loyalty and courage are at war with one another.”

“A delightful read…hopefully we will see more from Mr. Craig.”

“This is beautifully written…I loved every word of the book.”

“What a great read! I’ll be recommending this to both my teenage children! Great job…I can’t wait to read the next one.”

AVAILABLE at     ZELLERS

www.museituppublishing.com

CHAPTERS/INDIGO       BARNES & NOBLE        AMAZON

www.kevintcraig.com                            www.kevintcraig.wordpress.com

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Kevin Craig Museitup Summer on Fire

Montreal Bound – November 4-5-6 for MuseItUp Publishing Extravaganza

November 4/5/6, MuseItUp Publishing is hosting their first retreat to be held in Montreal. Writers from around the world will gather for a three day event that includes a huge booksigning extravaganza at:

Zellers Pointe Claire on Saturday, November 5, from 1 to 5 pm

Come and meet our authors that day and have a chance to win one of several door prizes, including 500,000 Club Z points offered by Zellers to one lucky winner.

It’s true. I will be in Montreal November 4-5-6 to help promote my publisher and my young adult novel SUMMER ON FIRE. We have a lot of things lined up…I do believe we will be taking Montreal by storm.

Lately, I’m realizing how hard it is to continually promote yourself and your work when you’re not in the self-promoting mood. To be truthful, I am NEVER in the self-promoting mood. It feels contrary to who I am. But I feel it’s a blessing to have my work published and I am grateful for the opportunity. I don’t want to waste it by being myself and hiding in a corner somewhere trying desperately to look like I don’t exist. SO…I will be in Montreal, signing copies of my debut novel. If you’re in the area, please come out and see some of the wonderful MuseItUp authors. I will be the desperate wallflower aching for a wall.

Available directly from my publisher, by clicking the book cover above. Or, you can also purchase SUMMER ON FIRE through CHAPTERS BARNES & NOBLE AMAZON and other booksellers.

Follow the reviews at GOODREADS