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Adam Sass Book Recs Camino de Santiago Christmas Christmas Gift Joy Llewellyn Julian Winters Melanie Hooyenga Simcoe & Co Simon Donlevy YA Fiction Young Adult Young Adult Fiction

Christmas Suggestions for Readers and Others…

I do this every now and again, and 2020 is a good year to boost books you enjoyed. It’s been a bad year for releases, as far as in-person events go. Authors have suffered, and bookstores have suffered. Here’s a few book suggestions for those on your list (Or for yourself! We all deserve to pamper ourselves after the year we’ve had!)…these are books I read and loved this year.

Before the books, though, I’d like to highlight another kind of gift! Small businesses just starting out right now are the kind of thing we need! I know just the one to support. LET’S TALK ABOUT SIMCOE & CO.! From their simple but elegant branding, to their FRESH products, I love everything about them!Click on the logo image below to head over to their Facebook page:

Full Disclosure: This brand new company is my niece’s brainchild. They’ve just released their first product in time for Christmas. If you’re in the GTA area (or even if you’re not) check them out at the link in the logo above. They’re located in Port Perry, Ontario and they’re currently featuring SUGAR SCRUBS in various delectable scents.

Their products are cruelty free and vegan. Give their Facebook page a like so you can watch as things unfold!

BOOKS? BOOKS! Did someone say books?

I’m going to suggest 5 from the 25 I read so far this year. Honestly, though, all the books I read this year were awesome. For the ones I don’t highlight here, you can check them out on my Goodreads.

(CLICK ON COVERS TO VISIT AMAZON LINKS)

For travelers and wanderlusters–or those thinking of becoming one–I have just the book! No surprise I read a lot of Camino books. I just finished two more, and I’m about to highlight both of them! First is the travel memoir…

There’s Something Going On! Walking the Camino de Santiago – by Simon Donlevy.

If I say this felt like an audio-book without the audio, you might look at me kind of funny…but that’s exactly what it felt like. Simon Donlevy is a storyteller. I felt like the author was telling me the story of the 6 month sabbatical they took. This retelling of the sabbatical not only covers their travels on the Camino, but also the decisions and planning that went into taking the sabbatical and the trip to Spain. And it covers the after-Camino experience as well. I found it well told and quite enjoyable. Wasn’t fully what I was expecting. That’s what I love about Camino books…they’re always about more than just the Camino. They’re about decisions, plans, serendipity, the unexpected. If you have walked the Camino, you’ll enjoy this book for taking you back to the journey. If you haven’t, it’s a good primer for getting to know both the locations on the Camino and its magic.

Camino Maggie: Teen Rebel Series – by Joy Llewellyn

Truth be told, it feels almost risky telling you about this one! The synopsis is close to the synopsis of my most recent release. It follows four young teens (all girls) who walk the Camino de Santiago in order to avoid the punishment of their crimes. I just found out about this book in November and read it out of curiosity. I loved it! Maggie is a rich girl who breaks into her aunt’s store out of some sense of daring…not to mention to impress the boy who sort of put her up to it. She gets caught. Her Aunt Camille suggests (gives her no option, really) she accompanies her, her friend Andy, and a small group of delinquents to Spain for the experience. The four girls bond as they make their way across Spain. I think young adults would really enjoy this book…as well as any Camino enthusiasts.

Chasing the Sun (The Campfire Series Book One) – by Melanie Hooyenga

This is also a YA book. I’ve spent most of my reading year reading YA…both for pleasure and because it’s what I write. Teens would love this book…but as with all YA books, they’re not just for teens. Anyone on your list who enjoys a sweet love story will enjoy Chasing the Sun. Here’s my review from Goodreads…

Chasing the Sun was such a lovely falling-in-love story between two extremely vulnerable teens who were both a little reluctant to do so. Sage comes to the story having experienced an emotionally tumultuous relationship with a manipulative emotional abusive partner. Neb arrives having just lost his father suddenly in an extremely traumatic way. Together they navigate a path toward each other first through texts and then in person when they finally meet at a summertime school camping trip to view a total solar eclipse together. Both are tentative but excited. Sage wants to believe in love again, but doesn’t fully trust her own judgement. Neb is adjusting to a new city…and isn’t quite sure how to allow himself to feel joy while simultaneously mourning the loss of his father. When Sage and Neb do meet in person, sparks fly immediately. But are sparks enough? This story is filled with wonderfully cute falling in love moments. The eclipse almost becomes a character as the story winds down and the tension mounts and the moment of the eclipse nears. I loved everything about this story!

Now for a book with a one-two punch!

Surrender Your Sons – by Adam Sass

I absolutely loved this book and the power it gave to gay teens! I felt like I could conquer the world after reading this heartbreaking heartrending heartracing story! Get it for LGBTQIA+ readers on your list, whether or not they’re teens. We all carry wounds and trauma that will be both re-lit and assuaged by this book. It would also be an eye-opening read for straight readers. It’s a powerhouse. I honestly thought I reviewed this on Goodreads, as I have talked about it so much and so often that I misremembered actually leaving a review. I will have to rectify that. Just take my word for it, it’s an incredible book. Follow gay teens to a formidable island of oppression as their whisked off from their lives to a disgusting conversion camp. Watch as they try to take their fates into their own hands.

Last, but not least, a book from a pub-sib! From DUET BOOKS, the same Interlude Press imprint that published my latest, The Camino Club.

The Summer of Everything – by Julian Winters

I love Julian Winters books. Like their author, they just radiant light and joy. My Goodreads review below isn’t really enough. Winters’ books are always exceptional! This one was no less so. All readers would love this YA set in Santa Monica. Here’s the synopsis:

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.

And my review: Another amazing offering from the incomparable Julian Winters. Loved, loved, loved this story! Loved Wes and Nico and Ella and Coop and the rest of the group! This so so heartfelt! Bring tissues.

That’s 5 books and 1 fantastic small business that promises to have you savoring the aromas of Bergamot, Peppermint, Maple Syrup and more!

Happy 2020 Socially Distant Masked Christmas to you all!

 

 

 

 

Categories
Book Contest Book Giveaway Duet Books Interlude Press The Camino Club YA Fiction Young Adult Fiction

Paperback Giveaway for THE CAMINO CLUB!

Just a quick post to announce a GIVEAWAY happening on TWITTER. I’m giving away ONE paperback copy of THE CAMINO CLUB!

Contest open internationally until the end of Monday November 23rd, 2020! At midnight, entries close.

The winner will be announced on TUESDAY NOVEMBER 24th, 2020!

All you have to do to ENTER for a chance to win is LIKE MY PINNED TWEET and RT MY PINNED TWEET.

Here’s the link to MY TWITTER ACCOUNT…click on the pic below:

twitter

More about The Camino Club:

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?

BOOKLIST, SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL and KIRKUS REVIEWS gave The Camino Club some wonderful reviews:

Enter the contest today, for your chance to win a paperback copy!

RETWEET AND LIKE MY PINNED TWEET!

Categories
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

Categories
Duet Books Interlude Press Kevin Craig Museitup Museitup Publishing Muskoka Novel Marathon Pride Must Be A Place The Camino Club Young Adult Young Adult Fiction

Pride Must Be A Place Review…

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:

Amazon USA | Amazon Canada | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Book Depository | BookShop | Indigo-Chapters | IndieBound | WalMart USAGoodreads

While you’re here, I did just release a novel a week ago! The Camino Club, from Duet Books/Interlude Press, is now available everywhere!

Here’s what American Library Association’s BOOKLIST has to say about it:

Pick up your copy today at any of the following links!

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 | Goodreads

Categories
Duet Books Interlude Press The Camino Club Young Adult Young Adult Fiction

Two Ways to Read THE CAMINO CLUB Ahead of its Release…

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!

Cover Design by CB MESSER.

PURCHASE THE PAPERBACK TODAY AND READ THE EBOOK PRIOR TO ITS RELEASE! JUST CLICK HERE.

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.

REQUEST THE CAMINO CLUB from NET GALLEY. CLICK HERE.

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.

Read Beth Jusino’s REVIEW OF THE CAMINO CLUB here!

Click here to go to AMAZON to read more about Beth Jusino’s book and purchase!

Preorder the paperback of THE CAMINO CLUB today from Interlude Press/Duet Books…and they’ll send you an advance copy of the ebook. Read it today!

Categories
Duet Books Interlude Press Julian Winters Young Adult Young Adult Fiction

The Summer of Everything by Julian Winters is Coming!

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!

Amazon USA | Amazon Canada | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Book Depository | Book Shop | Indigo-Chapters | Indie Bound | Kobo USA | Kobo Canada | Duet Books/Interlude Press | WalMart USA | Goodreads |

Categories
Adib Khorram Book Birthday Darius the Great Young Adult Young Adult Fiction

Darius the Great Deserves Better!

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:

Amazon | Amazon Canada | Barnes & Noble | Indigo-Chapters | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Bookshop | IndieBound

Find ADIB KHORRAM on the interwebz at:

Website | Twitter | Instagram

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY TO ANOTHER DARIUS BOOK!

Categories
Adam Sass Flux Surrender Your Sons Young Adult Young Adult Fiction

Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass is coming!

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 SONSConnor 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.

Do yourself a favor and preorder this novel!

Where to buy SURRENDER YOUR SONS:

Amazon | Amazon Canada |Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Book Depository | Book Shop | Indigo-Chapters | Indie Bound |

Don’t forget to add SURRENDER YOUR SONS to your GOODREADS SHELF!

Where to find ADAM SASS on the interwebz:

Adam Sass began writing books in Sharpie on the backs of Starbucks pastry bags. (He’s sorry it distracted him from making your latte.) Raised in an Illinois farm town, his desire for a creative career took him to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and currently, North Carolina, where he lives with his husband and dachshunds.
When he’s not dropping hot takes on Twitter, Adam is a recurring co-host on the popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer podcast Slayerfest98, alongside such guests as Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Emily Nussbaum, producer Drew Z. Greenberg, and drag sensation Trixie Mattel. His debut YA novel Surrender Your Sons (September 2020) is forthcoming from Flux.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Categories
Best Young Adult Novel Best Young Adult Novel Award Muskoka Novel Marathon Young Adult Fiction

Another Chapter One From Muskoka Novel Marathon…

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?

CHAPTER ONE AT MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON

AMAZON – HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN

Categories
Camino de Santiago Duet Books GoodReads Interlude Press The Camino Club Young Adult Fiction

Some History of Prisoners on the Camino de Santiago – And Goodreads Giveaway…

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?

CAMINO

There is a long history of prison reform programs that see prisoners walk the Camino in Spain. Spain itself has such a program. HERE’S AN ARTICLE ON ONE SUCH PROGRAM OUT OF SEGOVIA, SPAIN. In it, six prisoners complete the final step of their sentence by walking a portion of the Camino.

From the article:

“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.

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Belgium still offers 2 ‘Golden Tickets’ each year. The pilgrimage route these two prisoners have to walk is slightly different, though. Two teens set off on a 2,496 km hike to Santiago with an assigned youth worker. READ THIS EXCELLENT ARTICLE ON THE BELGIUM CONNECTION…THIS ONE ALSO DOES A GOOD JOB OF DESCRIBING MORE ABOUT THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO ORIGINS.

From the article:

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.

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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?

There’s currently a GOODREADS GIVEAWAY for THE CAMINO CLUB. CLICK HERE TO ENTER. CONTEST CLOSES AUGUST 24th, 2020 ENTER NOW TO WIN ONE OF TEN COPIES!