For some unknown reason, My Google alerts chose today to send me an alert on a PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE review from July. Maybe Google knew I needed a boost in spirit?
Anyway, I’ve been talking so much about my recent release, THE CAMINO CLUB, that I sometimes forget how happy I was to have PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE published. I absolutely loved writing that story about the inception of a Gay Straight Alliance in a small town high school! I wrote half of Pride at the 2015 Muskoka Novel Marathon. Then, Michael and I stayed at his sister’s cottage for a week later on during that same July and I finished the manuscript. It was a fun ride!
Anyway, Google sent me an alert for a beautiful review of Pride that was posted at Muskoka Style Magazine in July. The reviewer, Kaitlyn Sutey, actually suggested it for a Pride Month read. It’s really a gorgeous review and it reminds me that I have written other books. We lose sight of that when we’re in the thick of publishing The Next Novel.
Click the photo from the article below to be taken to the review: Pride Must Be A Place, A Summer ReadIf you haven’t yet read PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE, you can pick it up at any of the below links (there’s also a link to Goodreads, where you can add it to your shelf and read what others are saying about Pride:
I probably don’t talk about this as much as I should, but if you were to go and purchase the PAPERBACK of THE CAMINO CLUB directly from my publisher…they will send you the ebook RIGHT AWAY. This means you can read the novel prior to its release! How cool is that!
If you’re a REVIEWER, BOOK BLOGGER, BOOKTUBER…you can still request THE CAMINO CLUB from NET GALLEY. I do not know how long my publisher will keep THE CAMINO CLUB on Net Galley, so this one…you’ll have to act fast.
Release day is quickly approaching! I really don’t know how ready I am for this. I love this book with all my heart, because I wrote about a place I love deeply…and I made that place an additional character in the book. What I want is for others to discover that place. I want that with all my heart. But I also hope they fall for my characters. And not only the 6 delinquent teens who find themselves on the Camino de Santiago by court order. I also want them to fall for Bastien, the older gentleman who falls in with the kids in The Camino Club. And I want them to fall for Kei, the boy who walks into one of the character’s lives. Heck…I just want readers to fall for the book. Period.
I have had the honour of having a great list of early readers blurb The Camino Club…authors whose books I’ve loved. These are authors I deeply admire! Tom Ryan, Danika Stone and Kip Wilson. You can see their reactions on my home page here. There is also an extremely special review over on Goodreads from Beth Jusino. Beth wrote my absolute favourite travel memoir book, which not coincidentally also takes place on the Camino de Santiago. I encourage you to pick up her book, WALKING TO THE END OF THE WORLD – A THOUSAND MILES ON THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO. It’s truly beautiful! Her prose transported me to heaven.
Last September (2019), How to be Remy Cameron, by Julian Winters, released on the same day I headed for Spain–via Portugal–for another pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. It was the book I devoured on the plane and before bedtime every night as I settled down in a new town after walking all day long from the previous night’s rest. It was such a delightful read and it’s now a book finely entwined with one of the greatest of my life’s experiences. If you haven’t read Remy’s story, you really should consider picking it up…it’s heartfelt and pure and just so lovely.
The September before (2018), I saved Running With Lions, also by Winters, for my reading material while crossing India from Delhi to Varanasi and onward to Katmandu, Nepal. I remember being on an overnight train headed for Varanasi, reading Running With Lions and forgetting all about the raucous noises about me. I was on the top bunk of a sleeping car, my face mere inches from the ceiling. We jiggled and rattled and crashed our way through the night while I held my phone screen to my face and devoured the story of Sebastian and Emir. Another Julian Winters book intertwined with a memory of wanderlust in a place I hold dear. Another book you should consider picking up if you haven’t done so already.
By the time I read Remy Cameron’s story in September 2019, I already knew that Duet Books/Interlude Press would be publishing my upcoming novel, The Camino Club. But its sale had not yet been announced. I carried that secret with me all the way across Spain in the very setting in which my novel took place! I was also unable to talk about the fact that I had miraculously become a pub-sib to the incredible Julian Winters. He is, in fact, the reason I submitted to Duet Books. Since before the Running With Lions release, I have followed Julian and his work. I noticed that not only does he write fabulous stories, but he’s also one of the nicest people on the internet. He’s friendly and supportive and always so cheerful and encouraging. I saw the way he interacted, I read Lions, I fell in love with the cover of the book. I watched him becoming. I had an idea for a book and I knew I wanted it to be placed in the same home as the one Julian had found in Duet Books.
I was looking forward to having the same experience this year–vacationing with Julian Winters reading material. I pre-ordered The Summer of Everything. It’s due to land on September 8th. A return trip to Paris on September 4th meant that I would once again be devouring a Julian Winters novel while on vacation. This is an author I’ve taken everywhere with me. This year, it’s Wes Hudson’s turn. Wes’s story contains Santa Monica, comic books, a book store, a secret crush…I can’t wait!
With the pandemic, however, plans have been sidelined. The Summer of Everything WILL land on September 8th. I, however, will not be landing in Paris on September 4th. Paris is cancelled. Of course this saddens me. But looking forward to the release of THE SUMMER OF EVERYTHING softens the blow. I will still be away, but here in Ontario…at a cottage getaway. It’s not Paris, but it’s the next best thing. A place to unwind…a place I love. And it will soon be another place intertwined with the memory of devouring a Julian Winters novel.
If you haven’t pre-ordered THE SUMMER OF EVERYTHING yet, you really should! It promises to be a spectacular ride! Check out the cover blurb below:
Adulting is hard. Just ask Wes Hudson. An avid comic book geek, Wes excels at two things: slacking off and pining after his best friend, Nico. Advice from his friends, ’90s alt-rock songs, and online dating articles aren’t helping much with his secret crush. And his dream job at Once Upon a Page, the local indie bookstore, is threatened when a coffee shop franchise wants to buy the property. To top it off, his family won’t stop pestering him about picking a college major. When all three problems converge, Wes must face the one thing he’s been avoiding—adulthood.
Here are some of the places you can pick up THE SUMMER OF EVERYTHING. The last link is for GOODREADS, so you can add the book to your shelf!
August 2018 gave the world DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY. It was a great debut by Adib Khorram…one of my favorite reads of 2018.
Here’s the cover blurb for the first DARIUS book…
Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian—half, his mom’s side—and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life. Darius has never really fit in at home, and he’s sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush—the original Persian version of his name—and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab. Adib Khorram’s brilliant debut is for anyone who’s ever felt not good enough—then met a friend who makes them feel so much better than okay.
Fast forward two years, and here we are…August, 2020! Time for another glimpse into the life of DARIUS THE GREAT! Today is the release date for DARIUS THE GREAT DESERVES BETTER!
What a great cover! Here’s what’s going down in the sequel:
Darius Kellner is having a bit of a year. Since his trip to Iran, a lot has changed. He’s getting along with his dad, and his best friend Sohrab is only a Skype call away. Between his first boyfriend, Landon, varsity soccer practices, and an internship at his favorite tea shop, things are falling into place. Then, of course, everything changes. Darius’s grandmothers are in town for a long visit, and Darius can’t tell whether they even like him. The internship is not going according to plan, Sohrab isn’t answering Darius’s calls, and Dad is far away on business. And Darius is sure he really likes Landon . . . but he’s also been hanging out with Chip Cusumano, former bully and current soccer teammate–and well, maybe he’s not so sure about anything after all. Darius was just starting to feel okay, like he finally knew what it meant to be Darius Kellner. But maybe okay isn’t good enough. Maybe Darius deserves better.
If you haven’t read the 1st book yet, pick it up…it’s a delight.
Here’s some of the places you can pick up ADIB KHORRAM‘s latest release, DARIUS THE GREAT DESERVES BETTER:
September 15th, 2020. Mark that date in your calendars. That’s the day SURRENDER YOUR SONS drops. This is ADAM SASS‘S debut novel from FLUX and it promises to be a huge hit.
SURRENDER YOUR SONS —Connor Major’s summer break is turning into a nightmare. His SAT scores bombed, the old man he delivers meals to died, and when he came out to his religious zealot mother, she had him kidnapped and shipped off to a secluded island. His final destination: Nightlight Ministries, a conversion therapy camp that will be his new home until he “changes.” But Connor’s troubles are only beginning. At Nightlight, everyone has something to hide from the campers to the “converted” staff and cagey camp director, and it quickly becomes clear that no one is safe. Connor plans to escape and bring the other kidnapped teens with him. But first, he’s exposing the camp’s horrible truths for what they are— and taking this place down.
I have been waiting for this book for FOREVER! As soon as it was available for preorder, I grabbed it! Can’t wait for it to drop.
The Muskoka Novel Marathon people are posting CHAPTER ONE previews for the first 20 years of BEST NOVEL AWARD winners, as well as honorable mentions and runners-up. A few more of mine were shared recently on the MNM blog. Here’s one from one of my published novels. I will share the others (which remain unpublished) in another post. You can pick up HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN at Amazon (link below).
Half Dead & Fully Broken was written during the 2010 Muskoka Novel Marathon. It won BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL that year. If you click on the book cover, you can go to the MNM site and read CHAPTER ONE!
Here’s the SYNOPSIS: Carter Colby is the most unpopular teen at Jefferson High. This would be easier to deal with if his identical twin brother, Marcus, weren’t the hottest, most popular boy in school. When Marcus is killed in a motorcycle accident, Carter discovers the one thing more painful than trying to compete with Mr. Wonderful: wearing his dead brother’s face. He felt invisible before the accident, but with Marcus dead, everybody turns away from him in mourning. How can he blame them? He can’t bear to look in the mirror. When Carter begins to see Marcus’ ghost, Mr. Wonderful’s quest to save the world and spread happiness may not be over after all, even in death. Marcus knows that Justin Dewar, the boy who drove the truck that crashed into his motorbike, is struggling with the guilt of taking a life. Melanie, Marcus’ mourning best friend, was also hit hard by the tragedy. Marcus wants to make things right before it’s too late. With Marcus’ help, Carter experiences love and friendship for the first time in his life. But is Mr. Wonderful’s helping hand enough for Carter, Melanie, and Justin – three kids fully broken by the tragedy – to save one another?
When I first set out to write my young adult novel THE CAMINO CLUB, I had a few things in mind. A major one was The Breakfast Club. There were parts of that (badly aged) movie that I admired. As I was a punk rocker in my teen years in the early to mid 80s, I knew about cliques and how hard it was to break free of them (or protect yourself from others). I also knew that, if given the chance, the people steadfast in their rigid clique-y groups would easily break free once they found common ground. I had experienced that phenomenon myself in high school. The other thing I had in mind was the fact that prisoners on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route has been a thing for many many years.
Essentially, what I did was take The Breakfast Club idea and spread it out over a longer time-span while moving it outside. With one big exception. I didn’t just abandon and neglect my teens and allow them to fend for themselves. I put counselors in the thick of things with them. If prisoners have walked the Camino to regain their freedom for possibly hundreds of years, then why couldn’t I create a fictional rehabilitation program for a few delinquent teens?
“Walking with them are two prison educators and a volunteer from the Father Garralda Open Horizons Foundation, an NGO that has worked for the past 30 years on social-integration programs for prisoners. Jesús Hernández, the head of the group, is a veteran expert on drug addiction and reintegration programs. He was one of the first members of the prison’s treatment board.”
This particular program is about reintegration. In the past, prisoners were sent on their way to complete the entire pilgrimage route and their stamped passport books would be proof that they walked it. And once the proof was offered, they would be free. The feeling was that walking the way of Saint James changed a person. Life affirming pilgrimages would transform them and change the course of their lives for the better.
A good walk can work as a medicine. For over a thousand years, pilgrims have been walking the Camino de Santiago, pushing themselves beyond what they thought was possible. In medieval times, many pilgrims would struggle to make it all the way to Santiago de Compostela and its shrine to St James. While most took the route voluntarily, some were obligated by a court to walk the path as a form of penance.
A lot of the pilgrims who make their way to the Camino are NOT prisoners at all, but also feel the need to break free…to change something about their life. They say that the Camino first enters your life as a word, a short explanation, something you hear about here and there, until it becomes a thunderous shout. The Camino calls to you. And it never stops calling until you make room for it. It may well be an extremely healing journey for prisoners making their way to freedom…but it is also an agent of change in anyone’s life. It’s no longer just a Catholic pilgrimage route to the bones of one of the apostles. It’s a path to walk when you have some thinking to do…when you want to break free of one of your own prisons.
I wrote The Camino Club because my own pilgrimage on the path in 2014 showed me the power involved in putting one foot in front of the other and communing with others making those same simple movements. I didn’t make the mold when I created this story…but I borrowed it for a while and made it my own. The Camino Club drops OCTOBER 6th, 2020. If you read it, you’ll learn about my six delinquent teens who were forced to walk the Camino in order to avoid incarceration. They were not the first to do so, and they won’t be the last. The Camino is a growth experience…and people have known this about the path for hundreds of years and they took advantage of its healing and rehabilitating vibes. You don’t have to be a prisoner to walk the Camino and grow from the experience. Then again, we’re all prisoners of something…are we not?
I’m thrilled to have a visitor to the blog today! Melanie Hooyenga is here to discuss her most recent series of books, including today’s release— CHASING THE SUN!
First! Let’s get acquainted with her previous body of work.
Hooyenga is fresh from her THE RULES SERIES of books that took her readers to the snowy ski slopes with THE SLOPE RULES, to the biking trails with THE TRAIL RULES, and, back to the snow for some snowboarding with THE EDGE RULES!
Melanie Hooyenga’s book series previous to THE RULES SERIES was THE FLICKER EFFECT SERIES. This series featured FLICKER, FRACTURE, and, FADED.
It looks like Hooyenga will be leading us now to the Campfire!
Melanie Hooyenga begins her THE CAMPFIRE SERIES with BOOK 1, CHASING THE SUN! Chasing the Sun drops on Tuesday August 11th, 2020 (THAT’S TODAY)! I hope you’re ready for this one!
I’m thrilled to have Melanie on the site today to tell us a bit more about this book that arrives today (AUGUST 11, 2020)!
KC: I’m so excited for the release of your next book, CHASING THE SUN! Sounds like a great concept, with the eclipse and the camping trip and the suggestion of a meet-cute romance! Can you give us a rundown on what to expect with this book? What’s the story?
MH: Chasing the Sun is a lighthearted romance with space puns, Portland shenanigans, and enough feels to totally eclipse your heart. But as my readers have come to expect, I slipped heavier issues in between the moments of butterflies and furtive glances.
The short description is “The new boy. The quiet girl. Will they find love during the solar eclipse?” and it breaks my heart a little how much of the story is hidden in there. WHY Neb is the new boy and WHY Sage is the quiet girl is really the heart of the story.
Sage and Neb first get to know each other via text, so when they finally meet in person it looks like insta-love, but they’ve known each other longer. And I love writing kissing scenes, so I promise there is lots of kissing.
Here’s the blurb:
Neb Connelly has looked forward to the solar eclipse for as long as he can remember. When his only friend in his new town invites him on a school camping trip to watch it, he’s there.And only 67% of his wanting to go is because of the quiet girl on the group text his friend started.She gets his jokes, doesn’t mind when he geeks out about the eclipse, and for the first time in months, he’s ready to chase more than the sun.
Recently single Sage Winters fears she’s too damaged for love, but her self-help-loving best friend drags her on a “path of self-healing” — which apparently includes going camping with twenty classmates to see the solar eclipse. And Neb, who she’s never met but whose silly space jokes turn her insides to mush, will be there. But when they finally meet in person, another girl stakes her claim on him. Does Sage run the other way to save her heart, or risk it all for a chance at happiness with this space boy?
KC: In the synopsis for Chasing the Sun, there’s a few signposts that catch the eye. ‘…Sage Winters fears she’s too damaged for love…’ and Neb Connelly being the new boy in town. Sounds like they’re both brimming with backstory. Did you want to share a bit about what they’re both going through personally and emotionally and what they both bring to the story? It sounds like there’s a simmering story here that goes way beyond two kids potentially finding love during a solar eclipse?
MH: The story is told from two points of view: Sage, who recently got out of an emotionally abusive relationship, and Neb, who moved in with his mother after his father’s sudden death. Both of their pasts are based on my personal experiences, and I enjoyed weaving together the darkness that comes with heartbreak and uncertainty about the future with a lot of space jokes and teens getting to know each other.
The book opens with Sage telling her best friend Naomi about an email she received from her ex-boyfriend. He broke up with her earlier that summer, and it wasn’t until she was single that she realized how controlling and manipulative he was. In the months leading up to the start of the book, Sage has been working on rebuilding her confidence and self-esteem, but hearing from her ex throws her off.
In the email, he asks several things, like ‘am I selfish?,’ ‘did I not care for you enough?,’ and ‘am I possessive?’ These are verbatim from an email my ex-husband sent me seven years after we were divorced, and within a day of reading that email, the beginning of this story developed in my head. There are scenes where Sage struggles to remember who she used to be before the person she loved twisted her into someone afraid to make a decision for herself—or question what he demanded—and all of those were based on my personal experience. I didn’t label what I went through as emotional abuse until years after my divorce, because when you’re living it, it’s just your life.
I knew I wanted to write about a character going through that self-discovery, and even almost a decade after my divorce, there were definitely times when I was rage typing.
As for Neb, his father died suddenly at the beginning of the summer and he has to move across the state to live with his mom, who divorced his father when he was in middle school. Going into the story, I figured this would be a typical “new kid in school” story, but I should have known better. My dad died six years ago, and while his death wasn’t as sudden as in the book, there were several times when the emotions of losing my father slammed me in the chest. The life lessons that Neb’s father taught him are such a part of who he is that it felt like I was weaving another living, breathing character into the book.
KC: TBH, I’m already in love with the suggestion of geeky space jokes and puns! And I love the idea of the story centering around an upcoming solar eclipse. Did you want to delve into this part of the story for your readers? What drew you to using this concept? And does this possibly point to a secret or not-so-secret fascination that you yourself might have with space and puns?
MH: Chasing the Sun takes place during the 2017 solar eclipse, back when we were allowed to touch each other without worrying about anything other than if your advance will be reciprocated. The energy and excitement that gripped the country leading up to the eclipse sparked an idea for a novel and I thought it would be fun to have a group of kids road trip to a place that was in the “path of totality”—and of course have a romance between two of them.
(Side note: I received the email from my ex five days before the eclipse, so what started as two separate ideas came together very quickly.)
I don’t consider myself to have a fascination with outer space, but my ex watched a LOT of shows about space, including The Universe on the History Channel, which is how I was introduced to Neil Tyson DeGrasse (and why I had to give him a shout-out in the book).
This book required a lot of research, both about the 2017 eclipse and eclipses in general, but my favorite part was the humor. For those who don’t know me, I am a giant dork. The cornier the joke, the better, and including tons of puns (haha) into a book has made me very happy! I did get help from Twitter with some of the jokes, and they’re all mentioned in the book’s acknowledgements.
Even some of the science came from my life. There’s a line in the book when Neb talks about celestial navigation and Sage asks if he can navigate by the stars even in the daylight. My dad became a boat captain later in life and studied celestial navigation, and this is from a conversation we had when he was driving me to Mexico and even though neither of us had ever been there, he always seemed to know exactly where we were.
(Writing this, I’m realizing just how much of my relationship with my ex leaked into this book. He and I lived in Mexico for three years and it formed a lot of who I am now.)
KC: I understand this is the first book in The Campfire Series. Can we get a sneak peek at what to expect from the rest of the series while you’re here?
MH: Of course!! I’m planning two more books in the Campfire Series—Chasing the Moon and Chasing the Stars—and as the series name implies, there will be lots more kissing by a campfire! I’m still working on the outlines for these books, but Chasing the Moon will feature Naomi and her brother Theo on a family hiking/camping trip in the Grand Canyon. It will also be dual-POV, and I’m excited to jump into another romance.
Chasing the Stars will feature another character from the first book as they canoe and camp in a dark sky park—which is a space recognized for“an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment,” according to the International Dark-Sky Association. So lots of stars to kiss beneath!
Thank you so much for having me, and letting me share the story behind the characters in my latest book.
KC:And thank YOU, Melanie! Looking forward to reading Chasing the Sun! A BIG Happy Book Birthday to you! I wish you all the best with the entire series!
I’m not sure how long it will remain available, but for now you need only click on the green Request button.
Here’s the description for the book:
After getting in trouble with the law, a group of wayward teens are given an ultimatum: serve time in juvenile detention for their crimes or walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage across Spain over the summer holidays with a pair of court-appointed counselors. Although they come from diverse backgrounds, the unlikely friends try to make the best of their situation. The pilgrims grow closer on their journey, but they may not make it to their destination—the Cathedral in Santiago. If they do, will they each find what they’re looking for, and will their newfound friendships endure?
“When you see me, do you remember the times when we traveled…?”
Yes. The answer is yes and the answer will always be yes.
May 19th marked the 6th anniversary of my first ever steps on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain. Those footsteps captured my heart. The pilgrims I walked with captured my heart. It was the end of a journey and it was the beginning of a journey. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
On this date six years ago, we walked from Cacabelos to Trabadelo. I was opening up to the Camino in ways I hadn’t imagined possible. I was also discovering it was the Wine & Food Tour of Spain. The rich mouth-watering salads and main dishes were made all the more glorious by the hunger created in us after a full day of walking across an unspeakably beautiful country. Each night we were met with delicious fare and extraordinary wine and café con leche. It made the walk easier…more hopeful.
I knew as I walked that I would write a story set on the Camino, and I knew what the story was that I wanted to write. Alas, as is often the case with me, I could not write it while I was there in that place. Being there…that was the time of percolation. I walked with my characters, I listened to their thoughts, formulated their personalities, envisioned their journeys.
Michael and I walked the Camino from Astorga to Santiago de Compostela in September of 2019. We did not stay in Trabadelo…but we walked through it and we stopped for a coke at the albergue our group of peregrinos slept at in 2014.
The picture on the left was snapped at the Trabadelo albergue in May of 2014. The picture on the right, in September of 2019. ❤
I hope I can always go back. It’s in my heart now. The Camino has made me a wanderer, a lifelong pilgrim. I hope my upcoming novel, THE CAMINO CLUB, does the sacred pilgrimage route justice. My true hope is that the story creates even ONE future PILGRIM. If it ignites one soul to put the Camino de Santiago in their bucket-list, I will feel as though I have done good. The Camino has to be experienced before one can really get a feel for how life-changing it is. And it’s not the scenery, or the people, or the food, or the wine…it’s all of those things and more.
There is something on the Camino that just grabs on to your soul and embraces it. There is a saying often heard all over the Camino, by pilgrims from every country the world over…THE CAMINO PROVIDES. When, on the Camino, you find yourself in need of something…it has a way of coming to you. The spirit of the Camino finds a way to fill the need.
Once you experience that spirit, it stays with you. It calls you back. Again and again.
PREORDER THE CAMINO CLUB NOW!
After getting in trouble with the law, six wayward teens are given an ultimatum: serve time in juvenile detention for their crimes, or walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route across Spain over the summer holidays with a pair of court-appointed counselor guides. When it becomes clear the long walk isn’t really all that much of an option, they set out on a journey that will either make or break who they are and who they are to become.