Set in Toronto. Set in Canada. Are These Viable Settings for Novels?

If you’re Canadian have you ever felt the shame that goes along with it? Don’t lie. It’s there. We are the country ashamed of its culture. We are the country struggling to define its culture. We are the country used to depict American cities in movies because it’s more budget friendly. We are the country that is painstakingly removed from said movies one Toronto Star box at a time. Oops…don’t get that Tim Horton’s in the shot…this is New York, people. Remove all traces of Canada.

But sometimes…sometimes Toronto IS the best place to set a thing. Think of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World. That was a delightful tour-de-force of a movie that would not have been the same in any other setting in the world. Toronto was a perfect match for Pilgrim. I’ll never forget being at the Scotiabank Theatre during the opening credits of Scott Pilgrim. The crowd went wild. That was US on that screen. Toronto. For once it was okay to be from this amazing city that seemed to require secretive measures whenever it appeared on the big screen. Toronto was a dirty little secret in Hollywood. And we all sensed it…until Scott Pilgrim.

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Yes, Scott Pilgrim wasn’t the first movie openly set in Toronto. And it won’t be the last. It did seem like a line in the sand, though. Scott Pilgrim definitely brought out our cool side. We could do this. Toronto can be a cool setting. It is a viable world city. We need to change our perceptions.

When I started writing my 2nd published novel, I knew instinctively that the perfect setting for my bohemian 1970s family on the brink of destruction was The Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto. I love my city. I love it hard. Sebastian Nelson, the narrator of Sebastian’s Poet, had to be from Toronto. Had to be from The Beaches. And no, I won’t call it The Beach. It’s The Beaches. It will always be The Beaches.

For my first novel, I intentionally avoided naming the setting. I was afraid that agents wouldn’t look at a novel that dared to mention Canada. This comes from somewhere. I didn’t dream up this self-loathing of place on my own. As Canadians, I sometimes feel we are conditioned to take the back seat. The sad part is, I think it’s mostly ourselves relegating ourselves to this stature. We have blurred lines where our nationalism is concerned. We grow up on American TV and music. We occasionally shun our own programming. We say, “That show’s Canadian” with disdain before quickly changing the channel.

I LOVE America. This is not an anti-America rant. I just wish we were comfortable enough in our own skins to not only be proud to be Canadians, but to salute our homeland in our creative endeavours. My go-to instinct, when embarking on fiction, was to never speak of Canada in my writings. I’m so glad I ignored this instinct when I created Sebastian’s Poet. Sebastian needed to be from the Queen Street East neighbourhood. He needed to know the yumminess that is THE GOOF. He needed the Eaton Centre windows at Christmas in the 70s. He needed to know Cirone’s Grocery, the TTC. He NEEDED GORDON LIGHTFOOT!

Some stories just require Canadiana in order for them to be told. Sometimes, the only place in the world where a story belongs is in Toronto. We set a tourism record here in Toronto for 2014. 14.3 million visitors. It’s time to show our streets in movies and literature. It’s time to stop being ‘New York’. We can do this. We can be ourselves. We’re good enough. We are a viable setting.

15725603My Toronto set novel, Sebastian’s Poet, is the story of a boy growing up with a bohemian father on a path of destruction in the 1970s and the folksinger who tries to rescue him from the chaos.

From Amazon:

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

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

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

LOOK INSIDE and 1-CLICK Sebastian’s Poet today at Amazon, now on sale for $2.67.

Check out the Amazing Reviews garnered by Sebastian’s Poet on GOODREADS!

Tones On Tail – The Music of Burn Baby Burn Baby…

I like to namedrop. I do, I do. Coming from a punkrock background, I often slip little mentions of gems from my youth into the pages of my young adult fiction. Burn Baby Burn Baby is no exception.

In Chapter 17, I drop a doozy. The two main characters, Trig and Francis, are at odds. Francis drops by Trig’s place to test the waters. Trig pretty much ignores him while loud music throbs from behind the safety of his headphoned-cone-of-silence. When Francis hears the music blaring out of them, he gauges that Trig’s anger must be pretty intense.

‘He’s got those massive headphones of his on and I can hear the music blaring from them. Trig’s aggressive anger management therapy in action. He’s listening to Tool. Not the best sign, but it could be worse.’

After a few minutes of waiting for Trig to show signs of softening, Francis resigns himself to the fact that he may have to be patient.

‘Nothing. Page. Page. Page. His feet are kicking wildly now. The song pounding the crap out of his ears now is a Megadeth ditty. I know the scary clowns are about to enter. This is a sign. He’s actually good at wordless communication.’

But as the music softens, Francis hears TONES ON TAIL rise up out of Trig’s headphones. He knows Trig is coming ’round!

‘I grab a pencil from the top drawer of his desk and start doodling on his desk blotter. After a smoking cat, a gnarled caterpillar on a mushroom, and a pretty pin-up girl who vaguely resembles Rachel, I assess the situation. Tones on Tail are a little less violent. Kind of dance, even, so I think he’s opening up.

“I can’t believe this crap was made before we were even born,” he says. “Can you dig that? Like decades before we were born.”

He’s not looking at me yet, but at least he’s speaking. The fact he’s shouting is kind of funny, but what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. What an idiot.

No point talking back. He wouldn’t be able to hear me with those things on.

“I mean, just listen to this, Francis,” he yells before he takes the headphones off, turns to face me and tosses them in my direction. It’s almost like I can see the thin trail of music floating out behind them, it’s so loud. “Listen to this and tell me it doesn’t sound like it could be on the radio today.”

I plug in and I can immediately feel the music in my belly. Big bass. Totally Bauhaus stuff. I don’t care who they call themselves, the roots are right there in Technicolor. That’s Bauhaus telling me to GO. He’s right, though. It’s awesome. Still.

“Shit, man,” I say. “That’s still great stuff. The one good thing your dad passed down.” I pop the earphones off and toss them back.’

Why do I do this? Because even though I place all my fiction in a present day contemporary setting, I am firmly ensconced in the 80s. The formative years of my musical listening experiences were the 70s and 80s. I like to drop breadcrumbs of the past into the present. Perhaps a reader will search out the crumb and become an appreciator of musical geniuses past. (-:

In this instance, however, I’m just gonna go ahead and share GO by TONES ON TAIL here. For your musical listening pleasure…

Burn Baby Burn Baby is getting some wonderful reviews. You can see a few of them at GOODREADS.

You can click on the book cover below to go to AMAZON, where Burn Baby Burn Baby is available in both paperback and Kindle formats. You can also pick it up as a Nook or Kobo, if you’re so inclined.

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My 5th novel, HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN hits the street January 19th, 2015. But you can pre-order at AMAZON today! Click on the book cover below to go to Amazon…

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Zuzu’s Petals! Make Your Magic Authentic to Your Readers!

Unless one has never heard of the invention of a television, it’s fairly safe to assume that we all know the reference ZUZU’S PETALS. In case one among you (AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!) has not yet seen a particular movie, I shall explain Zuzu’s Petals before going into the point I want to make about writing. (-:

ZUZU’S PETALS. They are perhaps the most glorious evidence of magic that we have in the universe today. Let’s just go right to it, shall we. Behold! Zuzu’s petals!

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ZUZU and her PETALS!

 

Aren’t they glorious!? The most beautifully gorgeous symbolism in all of moviedom! Yes…I’m excited. Of course I’m excited. I get excited every time I think about those petals. And tis the season.

In the above picture you will see Zuzu Bailey and her father George Bailey. They are characters in the movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Zuzu’s story is a sad one. But it’s also one that is, at first glance, such a small insignificant role in the vast scheme of things. At first glance. I’m going to forgo the announcement that a spoiler follows here. Because all but maybe one of you have seen It’s a Wonderful Life.

Zuzu comes home from school with a beautiful flower and can’t wait to show her father. But some of the petals have fallen off. George, in his infinite desire to please everyone–and especially his lovely Zuzu–pretends to reattach the petals. But he secretly slips them into his pocket. Zuzu’s tragedy is averted, and her love and adoration for her father grows three sizes that day. Her flower is returned to its beautiful self and her tears retreat.

George Bailey then falls into the rabbit hole. He is taken into a world that would be the world how it would exist if he had never been born. It’s a much bleaker, darker world. It’s quite frankly a terrible world. It’s also a world in which Zuzu’s petals do not exist–no George means no Zuzu. Folks, don’t ever shout to the universe, “I WISH I WAS NEVER BORN!” That’s a rabbit hole you will not want to go down, right there.

As the movie wraps up, George is allowed to reverse his error and come back into the world he left behind. He has seen the vast changes his life-force has created in the world. He knows that the third rock from the sun is a better place with him in it. His faith in humanity is restored and he feels glorious.

Of course, he must be thinking, ‘Wow. What an awesome dream!‘ Because something otherworldly like that just can’t happen, right? But lo and behold…George Bailey reaches into his pocket and what does he find there? You guessed it! ZUZU’S PETALS. They were a huge symbol the whole time. Right in front of our noses. George IS. And how does he know he is? Because ZUZU is. Because…Zuzu’s petals!

“Zuzu’s petals…Zuzu… There they are!”

Today’s lesson for writers is simple. In truth, I just wanted an excuse to talk about Zuzu’s petals. Because they’re glorious and what not.

Firstly, did you know that It’s a Wonderful Life is based on a short story called The Greatest Gift. Written by Philip Van Doren Stern, it was privately published. I have to wonder if that means self-published.

My point? I do have one. No matter what magic you write into your story, it must be authentic. I use the term magic loosely here, because this can apply to any genre…not just magical realism or fantasy or paranormal or anywhere you would normally find MAGIC. I’m talking about anything from coincidences to ghosts to flying to world-building to Zuzu’s petals. Put clues in your work to authenticate the reality you want your reader to step into. Subtle clues. Tidbits of information that they can reflect back on when they reach the story’s conclusion. Something that will make them go, “AHA!”

I don’t know about you…but I eat that stuff up. I was just a child when I first watched It’s a Wonderful Life. And, for me…the most magical part wasn’t George suddenly running through a town that was COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than the same town we were just previously shown. The most magical part wasn’t the way people who lived as adults had suddenly died as children and lived-in houses became empty haunted spaces and even the TOWN became renamed in the blink of an eye. The most magical part were those petals. Placed lovingly into a pocket in the most subtle way…so that I would both remember their significance and forget their significance. Those petals were a glorious flower themselves…planted as a seed in a threadbare pocket. And when they blossomed, when George reached into his pocket and discovered those beautiful babies…well, my world stopped.

So the lesson for writers today is this—do that! Give your readers a whole boatload of Zuzu’s petals. Be like Hansel and Gretel. Leave glorious breadcrumbs throughout your story…breadcrumbs that will validate the story itself, make it more authentic. Every reader loves a great AHA moment. Just don’t manipulate them. Your breadcrumbs can’t have huge glowing neon signs on them that scream, “LOOK AT ME!” They need only be a few crumpled petals placed lovingly in a pocket in an effort to staunch the tears of a loved one.

Bullies, Bullying and Bullied – The Real Bs Behind Burn Baby Burn Baby

WallpaperWhen I started writing Burn Baby Burn Baby I knew it would be a difficult journey. Not the writing part. I knew the writing would flow like water. The story had percolated in my head for a couple weeks prior to the Muskoka Novel Marathon, where I wrote the novel over the course of a long weekend. The story had wheels. I would just have to drive it home.

jst_burn_baby_burn_1000 The difficult journey was going to be the revisiting of the whole bully thing. I still flinch when I remember high school. Though it’s decades in my past, I just have to turn my thoughts to it for a second to conjure those sick-in-the-belly feelings. Waking up in the morning and thinking, ‘I can’t do this again.’ I had to be out of my mind to spend an entire weekend inside that bullied mindset in order to write Francis Fripp’s story!

wrapBut I did it. I had to. We are living in a world of TELL these days. With social media, we have the dangers of cyber bullying…but we also have the tools to shed light on the bullying, to stop it. SPEAK. In my day that really wasn’t an option. We suffered our bullies in silence. We ate our lunch in the bathroom stalls. We loitered near the office when we had free time, hoping the distance from the principal’s desk created a safe enough bully-free zone.

jst_burn_baby_burn_1000 I know it still exists. I know there are still people suffering at the hands of bullies. Adults and teens alike…thanks to the phenomenon of workplace bullying. But I think it’s getting better. I hope it’s getting better.

jst_burn_baby_burn_1000When I set out to write Francis’s story, I purposely steered away from the clique situation. I’m too long out of high school for that. Nowadays I see teens of different cliques hanging out together. I no longer understand that social situation. I was a punkrocker in the early eighties. The lines were firmly drawn in the sand. The punks cliqued, the sportos cliqued, the rockers/skids cliqued, the preppies cliqued. If you belonged to one of these cliques, you did not talk to people from other cliques.

jst_burn_baby_burn_1000For this reason, poor Francis needed to have a visually noticeable reason to attract a bully’s attention. I gave him horrendous scars courtesy of an abusive father. He became a burn victim struggling to fit in in a world where beauty has become a social epidemic. Sadly, those living with scars and handicaps do become victims of bullies. As hard as it is to fathom. Bullies look for weaknesses. Physical ones make their jobs less difficult.

jst_burn_baby_burn_1000In short, I created a character who was perfectly set up to be bullied. Then I moved in for the kill. I recalled my bullies, I amalgamated them into one horrendous beast with no social graces, and I set him on Francis. Why? Because I wanted to talk about bullying. I wanted to take the reader into the mind of one who is suffering at the hands of his abuser. I certainly didn’t want to beat anyone over the head with a lesson on anti-bullying. I just wanted to tell a story…and I hoped the story would somehow get the point across that the days of bullying are due to end. If we who were bullied speak up against it, we might start a dialogue that will rumble through social media and strike a chord.

jst_burn_baby_burn_1000Francis Fripp is not alone. I loved writing his story. I also had a very difficult time revisiting those feelings. But it was worth it. I hope I managed to create a likeable character…one that invokes not only your sympathy, but one who conjures a symbol of strength. Because Francis is a victim, but he’s also just a boy…trying to love and be loved, trying to navigate the complicated terrain of high school. He just happens to live with visible scars…but we all carry scars. They don’t need to be visible to be there. We’re all vulnerable and we’re all capable of great acts of heroism. I hope you find something to relate to in Francis’s story. What would I like readers to take away from it besides the obvious BULLYING IS BAD message? That none of us are ONE thing. We are not defined by one aspect of our person. Everybody has a story. What you see when you look at a person is just a tiny glittering spark of sun-caught ice breaking the surface. Most of who we are is under the surface. We are, each of us, icebergs waiting to be discovered.

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BUY YOUR COPY TODAY. WHEREVER PAPERBACKS OR EBOOKS ARE SOLD.

ADVANCED PRAISE FOR BURN BABY BURN BABY:

“Kevin Craig’s books just keep getting better & better. A must read.”

“I read this book in one evening, while sitting in my rocking chair, wrapped in a fleecy blanket, chewing on my fingernails (especially during the last seven chapters or so). Actually, I believe this is the ONLY book I’ve read during 2014 (out of 83 books so far), that I have stayed up past my bedtime to finish reading it. It was that good.”

“As you can see, I highly recommend this book for those who love YA books – I’ve been a YA reader for years and, if I don’t like a book, I’m not afraid to say so. This book ranks five stars on my list.”

“Wow! I really loved this book.”

“The characters are perfect this author knows how to write characters that are realistic yet likable! You will quickly fall for Frances the main guy of the story. The entire cast was great! I used Cast cause it played out like a TV show in my head when I read it.”

CALLER 107 Blog Tour – Catch a Glimpse of the New Matthew Cox Title!

Blog Tour

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Caller 107 by Matthew Cox is now available for purchase!

Genre: young-adult, contemporary paranormal

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

 

Description:

When thirteen-year-old Natalie Rausch said she would die to meet DJ Crazy Todd, she did not mean to be literal.

Two years is a long time to be stuck between two people that want nothing more than to destroy each other. A tween crush on the larger-than-life jock from a local radio station is the only trace of a once-happy life ruined by warring parents.

Whenever WROK 107 ran a contest, she would dive for the phone, getting busy signals and dead air every time. She never expected to get through, but at least with her best friend at her side, it used to be fun.

Before her parents ruined that too.

Her last desperate attempt to get their attention, falling in with a dangerous group of older teens, goes as wrong as possible. With no one left to blame for her mess of a life but herself, karma comes full circle and gives her just a few hours to make up for two years’ worth of mistakes–or be forever lost.

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MATTHEW COX: Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey. Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it.

And now for a sneak peak into CALLER 107! This excerpt is from CHAPTER 5 of the young adult novel:

 

The hot shower helped her mood; the wall of silence that hung over breakfast and the ride to school did not. Mrs. Mendoza was off that day, and her mother’s culinary efforts were limited to dumping cereal in a bowl and carrying the unopened bottle of milk to the table. Even toast was a challenge. Natalie kept her arms folded and her gaze out the passenger side window. After last night, she wanted to stay as far away from Etan, Kevin, and Cory… even Jason, as she could. That had been far too close. She wondered if they had gotten away. The police cruiser had come in quiet; somehow, she set off a silent alarm. If they got pinched, she had no doubt they would drag her into it. After all, she was the one that set off the alarm.

 
After that night, she wanted―needed―comforting, but the only thing Mother offered was more yelling and derision. She should talk. Why did Mother do that to their family? What happened to the woman that she used to admire? By the time the car squeaked to a halt by the private school, Natalie was crying. She did not look over before getting out. As her boot hit the street, she froze; one hand on the door and her back turned. A sense of something wafted out of the car that made her pause. If Mother apologized for being a bitch, Natalie would fall apart right there―she might even apologize herself, perhaps even hug her. Was she going to say sorry? Come on, Mom, you can do it… please.

 
“Have a good day, hon. Please think about what you’re doing with yourself.”

 
Bitch. Slam.

 
Mother had no idea how shallow she was; much less see what she was doing to the people she supposedly loved. Natalie trudged through the courtyard, clinging to her backpack, ignoring the other kids trickling in just a little late. The massive front door guard offered an honest smile as she shrugged through the metal detector. For him, she managed to brighten up. He was the only one in this entire building that did not judge anyone.

 
“Morning Darius.”

 
“You a’ight?” Buttons threatened to spring off his white shirt as he leaned forward. The security guard hat tilted at an odd angle, balanced atop thick cornrows. “You don’t look so good.”

 
“I’m okay, just a fight with the bitch.”

 
He shook his head. “Y’oughta ‘spect yo’ momma, girl. Y’only get one.”

 
She frowned. “She doesn’t respect herself, why should I?”

 
Darius leaned against the wall, folding his arms with a resigned shake of the head; the stool protested his change of posture with an audible creak. Natalie wandered through the hall, pivoting through the flood of a sudden post-homeroom crowd as she continued on her way to her locker.

 
It had been a week since she had even bothered to open it; the combination took a moment to come back. 3-14-15. Pi… You are such a damn nerd. The door squeaked to the left. You’re better at nerd than you are at street punk. She frowned at the texts and notebooks. For no reason she could think of, the sight of them made her angrier with her mother. What did that lawyer do that made her father break contact? She put a hand on a thick calculus textbook, rubbing her thumb over the spine. She could pick herself up, try to start giving a shit again, but what was the point? A yearlong deliberate slide was a hard thing to pull out of, and repeating a grade would destroy any chance of early college admission.

 

Skipping senior year and going right to college was a prospect her father had been thrilled about; now, he did not even want to talk to her. She dropped a few books into the backpack and pushed the locker closed.

BUY THE BOOK:

CALLER 107 at AMAZON

Don’t forget to add CALLER 107 to your Goodreads Shelf!

 

 

 

Matthew Quick, or Why I’m Allowed to Write for Adults & Young Adults!

When I first discovered Matthew Quick, I was at an interesting crossroads in my own writing journey. I had written a couple novels for adults and I was pondering writing for the young adult market. For some reason, I got it in my head that I couldn’t do both. One could either be an adult author OR a young adult author. I don’t know why I thought this, but I did. I’ve made it a point throughout my writing journey to always remind myself that THERE ARE NO RULES. There are guidelines, there is good advice and there is bad advice…but there are no steadfast rules. Writing is what you want it to be.

And yet, here I was…trying to make this decision. And while on the fence, I really sweated about it. I loved the darker issues I could explore writing contemporary adult novels, but I also loved the idea of exploring dark issues in a teenager setting…the coming of age in the high school environment novel. I was weighing the pros and cons of the two markets, because, as I said, I thought it had to be EITHER OR.

Enter Matthew Quick. No…I’m not going to be so bold as to call him my savior, or anything as nutty as that. I’m just gonna say that he reminded me of my own first rule of the Writer Club. The first rule of Writer Club is that there are no rules in Writer Club. He didn’t do this right away, mind you. At the time, I was mass-consuming YA novels…as part of my research in the market. Well, that’s what I was telling myself. Truth be told, I LOVE reading YA. But I was reading solely YA to get a feel for the landscape of the market. I was dissecting books for themes, formula, what-have-you.

I picked up BOY21 for several reasons. Because it seemed to have strong male and female ‘leads’. Because it was sportscentric. Because the blurb really caught my fancy. Sometimes, I’ll admit right here and now, I am sold by a cover. Or, at least, I am gripped by the cover and moved to learn more about a book. BOY21 had an awesome cover. Anyway, I picked it up and I read it. And I fell in love with it.

You know when you discover a novelist and then check out there other books and get excited because you get to spend more time with them? Well, immediately after I finished BOY21 I searched to find out what other Matthew Quick offerings there were on tap at the Kindle store.

HOLD THE PHONE!

The Silver Linings Playbook. Can it be? A contemporary ADULT novel?! Oh my God! He writes for adults AND young adults! YES!

Okay, so Matthew Quick may not be the first author in the history of authorship to do this. But he was the author I discovered doing it when I needed the permission to do it myself. When I needed to realize that it could actually be done. And not only was he writing for both markets, but it would seem he wrote quirky characters. I wrote quirky characters, too. I immediately purchased The Silver Linings Playbook. And I devoured it. And I thought it was a masterpiece!

Click on the book covers to read my reviews of these two Matthew Quick novels:

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I later went through Quick’s full catalogue and loved all his books. I eagerly await his forthcoming THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW! I have it pre-ordered. And on February 11th, when I wake up, it will have been magically delivered to my Kindle! I know what I’ll be reading that day!

Click on the book cover below to read the synopsis of Quick’s latest offering:

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Okay, so on the surface this post may seem like a commercial for Matthew Quick’s books. But I swear to you, the whole purpose of the post is to tell writers to keep reminding themselves of the fluidity of the rules they should live by. When you find yourself questioning whether or not you can do something, DO IT. Try it, anyway. Don’t listen to people who say do this, don’t do that. I was very close to saying goodbye to one of the markets in question, even though I loved both! It was through my discovery of Matthew Quick’s novels that I found the permission to carry on carrying on. Because I saw that he accomplished writing for both adults and young adults, I knew that I could take the same path. And I did. And I for one am extremely grateful for Matthew Quick.

But seriously, check out his books. You’ll love them! (-:

The Wild Side: A Life Without Wings

In the latter part of 2007, I entered a contest at the writing site, Absolute Write. The prompt was to write about a song that changed your life…and you could write fiction if you wished. I went with ‘fiction’ that was a thinly veiled slice of life. They say there is truth in fiction. We sometimes get ourselves and our own lives entwined in the fiction we create. Probably the case here. (-; I didn’t win the contest, but I did get the JUDGE’S CHOICE AWARD. I kinda think that’s a bit better than winning. (-;

As it was about Lou Reed’s wild side…I thought I would hunt that story down and post it here today. Lou was an icon of the crash and burn decade of the 70s. Loved his work. R.I.P.

The Wild Side: A Life Without Wings

By Kevin Craig

A song can sometimes bring you back down to earth. Often, it’s the songs you least expect that eventually have the heaviest impact on your life; songs that have been there all along, sitting latent in your consciousness…waiting.

When Marci came to the hospital to visit me, I had already completely given up on life. I was ready to call it quits. The purpose of her visit was to sway me away from the precipice at which I had arrived, but the moment I saw her enter my room I turned to face the wall. Making a cocoon of my blankets, I barricaded myself against her will. Had I been paying attention, I would have seen that she came bearing music. Marci knew the omnipotent power music had over my mind, body and soul and she wasn’t afraid to use it.

“Please look at me,” she said after a moment’s silence. Receiving no reply, she sat in the contoured plastic chair at my bedside. “I’ve got all day. I can wait.”

I lay there festering in anger, willing her to give up and leave like the others before her.

“I brought something for you,” she said. I heard scraping and the metallic shriek of the bedside table’s drawer being opened. The pitter-patter of things falling into the drawer followed. She was sweeping the table clear.

I then heard a barely audible click and recognized it as a ghetto blaster’s tape player being activated. The squelchy silence that followed informed me she had made the tape herself.

“Holly came from Miami, F L A…”

I arched my brows in confusion. I always liked Lou Reed, but I couldn’t figure out why she chose that particular song to play to me. Obviously she was trying to rescue me but that song held no weight with me. We had danced to it in the murky Toronto underground clubs, but it had never been more than background noise to me; excellent background noise, but noise nonetheless. I was baffled that she would pick that song to reach out to me.

She began to speak over the rumbling certitude of Reed’s hollow gothic voice.

“Remember how you used to tell me to take a walk on the wild side?” she asked. “Every Goddamn second you were saying that. Here I was looking like a frumpy nothing…no friends, no life. You saw something in me.”

I smiled, perhaps for the first time in the three weeks since Scott had jumped. I had forgotten how I had come to know Marci. How could I have done that?

I remained silent, staring obstinately at the wall. But I began to feel an awakening in my chest, perhaps a combination of Reed’s voice and the doo doo doo girls? Or maybe I could feel Marci’s reaching and an inner part of me—a hidden part not ready to give up—was reaching back?

“If not for you, I would probably still be living that lie,” she continued. “My parents always thought something was wrong with me. Imagine an artist and a museum curator having an uncultured daughter. They were perplexed until you came around.”
I thought she was trying to make me laugh. Everybody wants to laugh, even those of us who have given up. It’s an inherent trait we have no power against. But, still, I fought it.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, throwing me off. “I mean, that was the bender of the decade. You’re lucky you lived through that, man. What were you thinking?”

I fought against turning to face her, but I couldn’t fight off the tears any longer. She was getting to me. I hunkered deeper into my blankets, wiping the tears away in a way that I hoped she couldn’t tell they had fallen. But even as I wiped them, I felt myself hitching. There was no way she would miss that.

“Scott’s dead,” she continued. “I’m sorry you had to see it happen. I am. I really am. But he’s dead. You can’t bring him back.”

Through the sobs, I finally gave up my fight and spoke. “He had wings,” I mumbled through the growing lump in my throat. The explosion of monarchs in my stomach was fighting against the lethargy I had fallen into. I could feel the rumbling need to move; to flee. I edged against it, squeezing myself further toward the cold blue wall.

“It speaks,” she replied. “Your brother told me you haven’t said a word in the last week. He’s sick for you.”

“He had wings, Marci,” I said, ignoring her comment. “I swear to God. Before the truck, before the tumbling. Before the splat.”

I was screaming now.

She stood and reached over my bedrail. I felt her hands on my shoulder, at first just to be there, but then she tried to force me to face her. I fought against her tugs.

“Goddammit. Look at me,” she screamed. “I need you to face me.”

As we struggled, the song was drawing to a close. I loved the doo doo doo girls. How did he know to put that part in the song? How perfect it would make the song? How did he know? Music is just so beautiful when it’s right. The song was starting to have the desired effect on me and I resented it even more. When you’re sick, when you’re ill and wanting to die; you get so angry with anything that tries to destroy that feeling. You get so low that you like being there, you get comfortable in your misery and you kill to keep it.

“He flew,” I said. “You didn’t know him like I knew him.”

With a sudden punch to the shoulder she gave up the struggle and pushed me violently away. “You bastard!”

“He didn’t mean to do it, Marse,” I said. I had won the fight. I turned around to see her plunk back into the chair. “He was flying.”

“You can’t save everyone,” she said. Now I realized that she too was crying.

“I can’t live with this,” I said, breaking. “I see it when I’m awake and I see it when I’m sleeping.”

“He’s a rotten bastard for making you a part of it,” she replied. “I don’t care if he is dead. He’s a rotten bastard.”

The doo doo doo girls were making their final appearance. My favourite part of the song was about to play. I did love that song. I never realized how much until I found myself waiting for that part of it to come.

We looked at each other as the horns took over and rose above the rest of the music; she with her soft brown eyes, pleading, and me with a million miles of sorrow looking for somewhere to dump it.

“You’re the horns, you know,” she said as they built to a crescendo. “If anybody can be the horns in this song, it’s you.”

Sobbing, I reached out beyond my bedrails. Marci stood to receive me. She had finally breached the chasm that nobody else could breach. She had saved my life with a song. I didn’t know if I was starting my walk on the wild side, or ending it; but suddenly I felt empowered. If Scott could have wings, if only for a moment, then I could be horns. I could be lifted.

THE END

Walk On The Wild Side – written by Lou Reed

That’s that. Godspeed, Lou, baby…

 

Book Trailer as Outline!

I found an easy and entertaining way to outline…for those of us who hate outlining. Now I use hate loosely here. Whether you’re an outliner or a pantser should ultimately depend on your project. I always felt this way. I don’t think one should come to a conclusion that they are one or the other. Always be open to new ways to draft your next novel.

Anyway, as I have frequently struggled with outlining, I needed to find a way to make it creative and fun. So, no charts for me. No diagrams, no lines from one scene to another, no boxed miasma of words planned out on chalkboards waiting to be distilled into novel form. My brain just doesn’t seem to want to work that way. I am content to have a large block of clay and just pound away slowly at it and wait for the story to reveal itself to me. It’s more exciting for me if I don’t know what will happen next until I make it happen.

But this one thing seems to be working for me. With Windows Movie Maker, it’s SO easy to throw together a quick book trailer. And this is my new outline. I make a book trailer for my vision of the finished novel, prior to writing the novel. Whether or not you use live action in a book trailer, I suppose is up to you. If you have friends who are competent enough actors for the job, it would be a great idea to film something. I prefer to mix stills, music and plot points in my trailers. And once I clip them all together in the easy to use Windows Movie Maker, I simply watch it a few times to let the ‘story’ soak in.

After that, I start the writing. I have no laboured chaotic mess of an outline to sort through. Just a quick 3 minute video that was fun to put together and hopefully fun to watch. I don’t have to stick rigidly to the video, but the process of making it solidifies the story I would like to tell. You should try it. It’s a lot of fun to search for just the right pictures and just the right words to accompany them. Sometimes, the music I choose even helps me to better envision the story I want to tell.

It’s creative. It’s fun and it really really helps. I’ve tried it. I will be making a book trailer this week for the novel I intend to write for this year’s Muskoka Novel Marathon. I’m not sure yet what I want to write, but once something comes to me I’ll make the trailer and then watch it until the gaps are filled in with my imagination and the wants and will of the characters I create for the trailer.

I won’t post any book trailers I’ve created as outlines, as I don’t have permissions for the images I used…I don’t make them with the intent of showing them publicly. I do have the permissions needed for the book trailer for my latest novel, The Reasons. So, I’ll share it now as an example of what you could do as an outline:

September – #1 With a Bullet

Another hectic September. Surprise, surprise. I should have seen this coming. Not that I’m complaining!

I think this coming week is the busiest. Tonight is a committee meeting for the Ontario Writers’ Conference. We are heading into full-swing planning and organizing for our May, 2013 conference. This is a labour of love for each and every one of us on the committee. Our vision was to create an atmosphere of learning and a celebration of words. Even at our busiest, this is a wonderful project we deeply love. Look for 2013 updates to start springing up soon on the OWC website, as well as through social media.

Maybe I should have used a more apropos word when I said HECTIC. Is a string of parties, celebrations, etc. really something one could call hectic? September is always busy, but it’s also always the best time of the year. Lots of great things happening.

This coming weekend, we are off to Huntsville for the 2012 Muskoka Novel Marathon Wrap Party! Best Novel Award winners will be announced, as well as all the participant-voted prizes for things such as B.I.C. and Spirit Award. It won’t matter in the least who wins any of these things. Clearly, everybody who took part in the marathon has already won (as evidenced by the photo below!)!

$15,000 raised for literacy! From left to right: Rob Armstrong, CEO, YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka; Fiona Cascagnette, Vice President, Child Development, Family Support and Community Programs, YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka; Nancy West, Team Leader, Huntsville Employment and Literacy Services, YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka; Paula Boon, Muskoka Novel Marathon 2012 Co-Convenor; Karen Wehrstein, Muskoka Novel Marathon 2012 Co-Convenor.

Yes. That is a cheque for $15,000.00. That’s what the marathon raised this year to put into the ring and fight against illiteracy. The MNM is such an amazing event. I can’t say enough about it…but in the end, it’s the money raised for literacy that matters. Everything else is just the icing.

There will also be a workshop on Saturday, after the wrap party…and the MNM contingent will probably walk to the next leg of the three event day—Supper at THE COTTAGE. We’re a pretty big family, the MNM contingent—so I feel for the poor restaurant. They’re in for quite a swarming. (-: I do think it’s great that we will be able to break bread together again, though. A lot happens during the July marathon weekend. In 72 hours, you write a novel AND discover that you are a part of a new family—a family that eats and sleeps and laughs and cries and sings together. We probably do so much more than that also, but—it’s complicated. (-;

To explore the history and the future of the MNM, click on the chair! (-:

There are happenings right up to the end of September…some big and some small. They’re all awesome, though. Hope you’re enjoying YOUR September. Just like every other month on the calendar, blink and it’s gone. Remember to capture the moments. (-:

(If you’re in Oshawa this coming Thursday, drop into Boston Pizza on Taunton just east of Harmony. My younger brother will be jamming there in the evening. (-:)

The Summer Reading Series – Marcel

Next up to be interviewed for the Summer Reading Series is Marcel. Marcel lives in Toronto, Ontario, and you can Twitter follow him here: TORONTOHABSFAN One of my personal favourite Twitter handles! (-:

KC: Where do you read? Do you have any favourite places? Everywhere? Only in bed? On the subway? Favourite coffee shop?

MARCEL: Primarily, all my reading is done on transit. It’s my little distraction from everything else going on, but if I’m into the book I’ll read everywhere I can. Some books cannot be put down for that long.

KC: What book are you reading right now? And what are your thoughts on it so far?

MARCEL: I just started reading a book called Changing Tides by Michael Thomas Ford. I’m literally 4 pages in. So still getting into it. However I just wrapped the Hunger Games Trilogy. Such a heartbreaking, exhausting read. I really got into the books and just lost myself in them. I couldn’t put books 2 and 3 down.

KC: If you find you’re not really liking a book, do you still commit to reading it through to the end? If not, how far into it are you willing to go before putting it aside? If you DO commit, have you ever seen one through to the end to realize you were happy to have stuck it out?

MARCEL: I give every book 100 pages. If the story can’t draw me, away it goes. I have read a few books where I felt like it was going to be a chore to read only to get through and find myself liking it. Others I’ve stuck with and thought what a waste of my time. 

KC: Top 5 Favourite Novels?

MARCEL:

In no order:

KC: Who were your favourite authors as a child? Your favourite books?

MARCEL: I read every single Eric Wilson Mystery book I could get my hands on. Also read the Little House on the Prairie series; the Beverly Cleary books about Ralph. S. Mouse. And the geek in me read Shakespeare a lot too (13 year old).

KC: Your favourite authors as an adult?

MARCEL: As an adult I’ve read all of John Grisham, Michael Thomas Ford, Christopher Rice, Timothy James Beck, J.K. Rowling; Michael Connolly books. (I’m a complete-ist. If I find an author I like I read everything I can get my hands on.)

KC: Favourite book cover ever?

MARCEL: I’m a big fan of the covers of Michael Thomas Ford’s books. They are all done by a gay artist I like named Stephen Walker (and not for the obvious reasons).

However my all-time favourite “book” cover is a comic book – issue 276 of THE AVENGERS:

 

KC: I SWEAR I had that issue of The Avengers when it first came out! Thor was my favourite. Definitely a great cover! Fess up – Are you an adult who reads YA? YA is one of the biggest growing markets out there right now…and a LOT of adults are consuming YA books in large quantities. Are you one of them?

MARCEL: I hate classification. Too me a story is a story, is a story. If I’m into it, I don’t care about the target market. So yes, I do read YA novels (I’ve read the entire Harry Potter Series 4 times; Just did the Hunger Games), but I was also reading Shakespeare at 12-15; Stephen King, V.C. Andrews and Anne Rice all before I hit 16. I think we need to stop pigeonholing ourselves with classifications. Let the masses decide what they want to read.

KC: I SO love your answer to that question. My thoughts exactly! Any books you’ve read recently that you won’t tell your friends you’ve read? Guilty little pleasures?

MARCEL: Lately – no. But I’m tempted to check out 50 Shades of Grey. I have no shame when it comes to books. I love the fact that I read books and show off that I do. If I can read a book called Sluts in public, I have no shame.

KC: Do you read fiction or non-fiction? Or a mix?

MARCEL: I do tend to aim for fiction. I like the escape a story give me. I don’t need to read real-life stuff, it’s too depressing.

KC: Do you recall any book-to-movie adaptations where you enjoyed the movie more than the book?

MARCEL: More than the book – nothing jumps to mind. There are a few adaptations where I’m ok with the changes made (most of the Harry Potter series for example).

KC: Do you have favourite genres? Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Contemporary, etc?

MARCEL: I lean to crime mystery/legal thrillers

KC: Your 3 desert island books?

MARCEL:

Wow, just 3. This is hard.

KC: Do you have favourite quotes from books? Any passages you felt compelled to highlight or call/text a friend at 3 in the morning to share it with them?

MARCEL: Nothing that really comes to mind. I was a fan of that first sentence from A Million Little Pieces, but I read it long after everyone else and took it for a work of fiction. I still maintain it’s a great story.

KC: “I wake from the drone of an airplane engine and the feeling of something warm dripping down my chin.” ~ First Sentence from A Million Little Pieces by James Frey.

That is quite a compelling sentence! Thanks so much for your time, Marcel. It’s been great reading your responses. We have some new titles to check out, and reminders of old favourites. Thank you!