#FridayReads MY NOVELS…

books

 

I thought I would feature my books for Friday Reads, in case you’re searching for something to read this Father’s Day Weekend. Here’s what they are about:

THE REASONS: With a mostly absent father, one sister deceased and the other on the verge of invisibility, and a certifiably insane mother, Tobias Reason is forced to grow up fast. When his older sister Deja’s tragic death causes his mother to fall deeper into insanity, Tobias attempts to be a surrogate parent to his younger sister, Annabel. But broken mother Maggie takes up a lot of his time, causing Annabel to fall even further into the background of their chaotic existence. When Maggie flippantly hands her mother’s house over to Tobias, he sees an opportunity to learn how and why his family has become so shattered. His world begins to collapse from the weight of the secrets he un-buries, and he focuses in on a stranger from his parents’ past… a possible Ground Zero to Maggie’s fall into insanity. If Tobias can somehow eliminate the past, he can make his family whole again.

SEBASTIAN’S POET: 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.

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

BURN BABY BURN BABY: Seventeen-year-old Francis Fripp’s confidence is practically non-existent since his abusive father drenched him in accelerant and threw a match at him eight years ago.Now badly scarred, Francis relies on his best friend Trig to protect him from the constant bullying doled out at the hands of his nemesis, Brandon Hayley-the unrelenting boy who gave him the dreaded nickname of Burn Baby.The new girl at school, Rachel Higgins, is the first to see past Francis’s pariah-inducing scars.If Brandon’s bullying doesn’t destroy him, Francis might experience life as a normal teenager for the first time in his life. He just has to avoid Brandon and convince himself he’s worthy of Rachel’s attentions.Sounds easy enough, but Francis himself has a hard time seeing past his scars. And Brandon is getting violently frustrated, as his attempts to bully Francis are constantly thwarted.Francis is in turmoil as he simultaneously rushes toward his first kiss and a possible violent end.

HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN: 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 girlfriend, 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?

All are available at AMAZON, or at INDIGO CHAPTERS/KOBO, and some are available at BARNES & NOBLE. Or, wherever books are sold. Three of these novels won the MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON‘s BEST NOVEL AWARD and one, Burn Baby Burn Baby, was listed on the LIBRARY SERVICES FOR YOUTH IN CUSTODY’s 2016 IN THE MARGINS BOOK AWARDS LIST.

5 Guys In Between Days – Boys Don’t Cry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get HAPPY:

Sebastian’s Poet Now Available at AMAZON for KINDLE!

As of today, SEBASTIAN’S POET is NOW available on Amazon for Kindle!

If you have already read Sebastian’s Poet, and would like to share a review on Amazon, that would be wonderful. Otherwise, you can purchase it now for Kindle.

Read reviews at GOODREADS.

Please visit the appropriate country site listed below, to purchase:

AMAZON USA

AMAZON CANADA

AMAZON UK

Sebastian's Poet

Get it now with 1-Click on 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.

Sebastian’s Poet Now Available on KOBO! (With Reader Praise and Link to Chapter One)

 

Sebastian's Poet

Sebastian’s Poet is now available on KOBO!

Here’s what readers have said about the novel:

Sebastian’s Poet is a wonderful feel-good story that you must read!

Broken people, abandonment, longing, aching. This book drew me in with its beauty, and I shed a few tears. It was so well crafted –- a really well-written book — and I was so glad to read it. I loved this book.

Sebastian’s Poet is a wonderful contemporary work that deserves much more notoriety than it has received. More people need to know about this author. Please, please, trust me when I say that you will love every page of this fantastic story.

Oh Sebastian, your story made me smile, made me angry and made me cry. It’s not that often that a book rings this true to real life for me.
I found I couldn’t put it down.

This novel for me is a 5/5 for sure! I would suggest this for anyone who loves a novel that is going to make you feel (even if it is uncomfortable at times), and makes you think about what other people have gone through and why they may be the way that they are.

Sebastian’s Poet is a story full of heart and humanity. The characters are strong and believable and I rooted for them during their struggles, particularly the children: Sebastian and Renee. Their suffering and confusion is touchingly, achingly real. When I finished this story, on the bus on the way to work (of course) I had to struggle not to audibly sob in public.

Craig adeptly maneuvers the reader through the story that is one part a happy trip down memory lane interwoven with a heartbreaking tale of a family fractured, broken, and quite possibly beyond repair.

Beautifully written! I couldn’t put it down! Kevin is a wonderful writer – he gets you from the moment you turn the first page!

Months after reading SEBASTIAN’S POET, I’m still haunted by images of Sebby and his poet, Teal; I still smell the ashes in the ashtray; I still feel the awkwardness at the corner store.

Why don’t more people know about this author? About this book? Because they should. It’s a hidden gem.

I could not put this book down! I started it this morning and am already done reading it.

This is an excellent book about family, secrets, music, and the different kinds of love that we experience in our lives.

Kevin Craig does an excellent job of writing this beautiful, yet tragic tale through the eyes of a child caught in an unfortunate situation. The thoughts and feelings come through so well with Craig’s lyrical prose that you will instantly be drawn in and feel yourself experiencing the same emotions as the characters.

You can pick up your copy for your KOBO device or KOBO app today! For $3.75

VISIT SEBASTIAN’S POET AT KOBO.

You can read CHAPTER ONE of SEBASTIAN’S POET in its entirety at this link to an older blog post where I shared it here.

 

Sebastian’s Poet – Redo (Bringing Back the 70s)

The long journey to my second novel, Sebastian’s Poet, began in the 1970s. And it ended in a 48-hour maelstrom of a writing marathon. Sebastian has always been there. It wasn’t until I sat in front of my laptop at the 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon that his story bled from me. And boy did it bleed. In those 48 hours I was transported back to the 70s childhood I endured. And having always imagined Sebastian, the child of a down and out no-good and his hit-the-road wife, it was all I could do to keep up with the story as it came out during that marathon weekend.

I love a good story of loss and despair and, in the tiniest of ways, hope. Every good downtrodden story should offer the reader a glimmer of hope, even if it’s an infinitesimal glimmer.

And, having come to age inside a record store in the early 70s, I had to include the perennial bad-boy musician who kind of floats through the world in a cloud of smoke and philosophical optimism. Teal Landon is my favourite character…out of all the characters I have ever written. He is the kind of father figure all lost boys dream of having.

Sebastian’s Poet was originally published in 2012 by Musa Publishing in the United States. Sadly, Musa closed its doors a few months back. This made SP revert to a non-published novel. My favourite novel written by me and it disappeared. It’s very special to me…in that it came to life in a frenzy of emotion and drive and creativity. It’s not easy to write a novel in 48hrs. Until I tackled SP, I would have said it was impossible. But then I did it.

And at the time I desperately wanted to write CANADIANA. I wanted to capture Toronto, and the Canadian music scene, and what it was like to grow up Canadian in the 70s. I think I did that, though I can’t really be objective about it. What I do know is that Sebastian’s Poet won BEST ADULT NOVEL in the 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon. And I also know that it transformed me. I went away from that weekend with a feeling of euphoria. I knew I had found MY WRITING METHOD. Writing a novel in one sitting was the way for me, a flighty easily distracted person, to write a novel.

The pictures above are reflections from the 70s setting of the novel. GORDON LIGHTFOOT is actually a character in Sebastian’s Poet. He appears in the last chapter, as part of the denouement. And, if I’m being completely honest, the main character TEAL LANDON is based upon the incomparable LEONARD COHEN. I didn’t see a way to write a story based in the 70s without somehow including Carol Burnett. I loved making references to the things of my childhood…but make no mistake about it, this novel has nothing of me in it. It is not my Mary-Sue.

I don’t like SP not being out there in the world. It is, after all, my favourite. When I say my favourite, I’m talking feelings. I carry the memories of the experience of writing my novels as a way of judging which are my favourites. And the time I shared with these characters? That time is my Belle Époque as a writer. It was a moment of awakening for me. Or, should I say a 48hr period of awakening. My soul is in this book.

So I am releasing it on KOBO, for those interested in exploring the novel I wrote at my highest point as a writer. I don’t usually worry about how my works will be received. I put them out into the world and I shudder and cringe, knowing they will never be what I intended them to be…that they could have been so much more…that I fell short. I can’t expect the reader to love something I myself feel didn’t quite make the grade. Although this may sound like a bad thing, I do tend to think that it keeps me honest as a writer. If everything COULD be better, then I challenge myself always to attain BETTER.

But Sebastian’s Poet was the one novel I was SURE of…even in its rough finished draft at the end of that 48hr weekend, I knew. And here’s where it sounds like I am bragging, but I assure you I am not. It’s more the essence of the story and the feelings I had while writing it that make me feel like this about it…not the finished product itself.

SP will be available on KOBO in the next day or so. I hope you give it a go. In the meantime, here is the cover blurb:

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.

And you can also read the reviews at GOODREADS, from its original release life: GOODREADS SEBASTIAN’S POET

 

Here’s the cover of the re-release coming to KOBO soon…

Sebastian's Poet

The epigraph of this novel is “THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING…THAT’S HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN.” This is a line from Leonard Cohen’s ANTHEM. That song was the soundtrack of my 48hr weekend novel writing marathon. On repeat…it gave me what I needed to write Sebastian’s story…and the story of the folksinger known as The Poet. It was an amazing weekend…one I will never forget. If you want to take the trip, you’ll have to get the novel. (-:

Musa Publishing Closing Its Doors – Two of My Books UNPUBLISHED…

I received some sad news today. Musa Publishing is closing its doors. They published SEBASTIAN’S POET and THE REASONS. Both novels won Muskoka Novel Marathon‘s BEST ADULT NOVEL AWARD. Both are written from the POV of children growing up in chaos…my two titles that are NOT young adult, as some of the content is adult themed. I love these books. It’s with much sadness that I see them becoming UNPUBLISHED.

From MUSA:

We expect to conclude operation of our site, blog, and social media accounts by February 28, 2015.

I will become ‘THE AUTHOR OF THREE NOVELS’ overnight. Such a remarkably weird concept. From 5 to 3.

I think Sebastian’s Poet might be my favourite novel of mine. Maybe not because it’s the best, or for any other reason other than the experience I had of writing it. I wrote it in a whirlwind 48hr period. I listened to LEONARD COHEN’s ANTHEM on repeat for the entire period I wrote it. It was my first Muskoka Novel Marathon. It was just an absolute magical time in my life. Everything gelled for one weekend. Sebastian’s Poet was a movie in my head. I struggled to get it to paper as it played. It was an absolute joy to pen it. Those characters did ALL the work. Sincerely.

You have until the end of the month to get a copy of these two books before they’re gone, possibly forever. Hopefully, they find homes elsewhere…but the possibility of that happening is not vast.

YOU CAN FIND ALL MY WORKS AT THIS LINK TO AMAZON.COM

15725603thereasons-300dpi

Until the end of February, you can purchase both of these books wherever ebooks are sold– Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc. After that…they die. The rights revert to me, the covers do not. I HOPE they’ll find new homes, but the likelihood of this happening is not probable.

BOTH BOOKS HAVE RECEIVED REMARKABLE REVIEWS!

GOODREADS REVIEWS FOR SEBASTIAN’S POET – 40 Ratings with 4.6 overall rating.

GOODREADS REVIEWS FOR THE REASONS – 13 Ratings with 4.54 overall rating.

Tobias Reason, Maggie Reason, Sebastian Nelson, Teal Landen, Renee Nelson, Gordon Lightfoot…Love them all!

So long, dear friends. It’s been an absolute slice!

(My condolences and best wishes to all the authors in the Musa Publishing House. We lost dear friends in our works today. I hope you all find new homes for your babies. Best of luck to you all.)

(I’d like to add here… I had wonderful experiences with both books, through the editing process. Both times I felt the editors did great work. I wish those at the helm of MUSA best wishes and thank them for bringing both books to life. I’m sorry to see MUSA go.)

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.

Scott_Pilgrim_vs._the_World_teaser

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!

Another Goodreads Giveaway – Sebastian’s Poet – Growing Up in Toronto in the Beaches…

Sebastian’s Poet is a novel about a boy growing up in the Beaches district of Toronto in the 1970s. It follows a young Sebastian Nelson from the day he meets famous folksinger Teal Landen to the cusp of the 1980s. It’s the story of his struggles with a bohemian father and absent mother. And it’s the story of his tumultuous relationship with his younger brother, Renee, and the folksinger who blew into town one day and never left.

Goodreads is running a giveaway for a print copy of Sebastian’s Poet. You can enter by clicking on the book cover below:

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(CONTEST OPEN TO U.S.A. AND CANADA RESIDENTS)

I wrote SEBASTIAN’S POET over the course of 48hrs, during my very first Muskoka Novel Marathon in 2007. For the entire 48hrs, I listened to ANTHEM by Leonard Cohen. It greatly shaped the novel. Teal Landen IS Leonard Cohen…in many ways. I channeled Leonard to create Teal.

After the novel was completed, I contacted Leonard Cohen’s management to ask permission to use, “THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING, THAT’S HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN…” as the epigraph for the novel. I also got the line tattooed on my forearm. (-:

I also contacted Gordon Lightfoot’s management to request the use of Gordon’s character in my denouement in the final chapter of Sebastian’s Poet. His manager phoned me immediately and gave his permission…thrilled that Lightfoot could perhaps find new audiences through the book.

SEBASTIAN’S POET won BEST ADULT NOVEL AWARD in the 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon. (-:

So, there’s a bit of the history of Sebastian’s Poet. I also had a lot of fun injecting it with 70s references. (-:

HERE’S THE COVER BLURB:

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.

Enter to win your print copy today.

Looking to purchase any of my books? You can do so at most book sites, but here’s a link to my AMAZON PAGE.

Birthdays and Balloons!

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

Happy 450th Birthday, Sir William Shakespeare!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Sebastian’s Poet – Chapter One

I’m sharing CHAPTER ONE of Sebastian’s Poet here. I hope you enjoy.

SEBASTIAN’S POET – Chapter One – The Poet

I first met the poet in 1973. I was a child, cleaning up after one of my father’s infamous parties. I can still recall that encounter. I found the poet passed out on our living room couch. He was sprawled in such a way I had to move his arms to clear the mess on the coffee table. His hand was resting inside the detritus of an overflowing ashtray. Putting my collection of beer bottles down on the table, I tried to move his hand without waking him.

His dark face was serene, almost angelic in sleep. It could have been chiseled out of stone. There was something achingly familiar about the poet. I found myself compelled to stop what I was doing and examine the landscape of this familiarity. I could not place it…but something drew me to him. I sat on the edge of the coffee table and stared into his sleeping face, mesmerized.

He had a large, aquiline nose and jet-black hair. His ample mouth was open while he slept, and a tiny trickle of drool ran down the side of his face.

I watched his breathing, listening to the in-out rhythm of his sleep song. Then I noticed the record album on the table beside me. The poet’s face looked back at me from the cover. A close-up of the same face that lay in slumber on my father’s tattered sofa — a sofa that had been temporary residence to many vagabonds and drunks in the past. On the album cover, however, his eyes were fully open — great dark orbs that pulled you so far in you were afraid you would never be released. And in his face, I also saw incredible sadness and vulnerability. Something I could immediately relate to.

The picture pulled me in with painful longing. I looked at a complete stranger and thought, I wish you were my father. The poet wasn’t the first one to be treated to this wish — I was constantly fantasizing about having any father other than the one I was stuck with — but he would be the last.

As I bounced back and forth between the picture and the man in repose on the couch, I went into one of my famous zoning out moments. I concentrated so hard on him that I lost touch with everything else around me. It took me a moment to realize he was actually awake and meeting my gaze. The picture had become the man.

I quickly turned back to the album cover and read his name in the bottom left corner. His photo was so large I had to squint to make out the name. Or maybe it was just his sense of presence? Maybe his face had a habit of overwhelming everything in its proximity?

“Why is your name Teal?” I asked, to bridge the space between us and break the morning-after silence of the sleeping house.

“Because Green would have been stupid,” he said in a deep and gravelly voice that made the air between us tremble. He took another glance at me before rolling onto his side and showing me the back of his head. But just before he turned away I saw a look on his face — like this was a comeback he used often, one that made everybody laugh.

I didn’t laugh. As much as I was drawn to the man, I had already learned by then to keep a comfortable distance between myself and the people who floated through the vast wreck that was my father’s life. To laugh too early would have been giving in too easily. They had to earn that kind of familiarity.

It took only a moment for him to roll back around and face me, expectantly too. Since he was a person whose face adorned album covers, I supposed he felt it my duty to at least chuckle at his attempt at humour. We stared at each other for a moment, gauging one another’s stubbornness.

“Hmph?” he said. “Who are you, anyway? Who is this baby with the wounded wings I see before me?” Not waiting for an answer, he slowly rose to a sitting position on the couch. “Teal Landen.”

He extended his hand, like I was a real person and not just some runnynosed kid. I was too surprised not to take it.

We shook. And we continued to shake.

“This is the part where you tell me your name,” he suggested. “So we can stop shaking each other silly.”

I tried to clear my head of fog. “Oh. Sorry. Sebastian. Sebastian Nelson.”

He released my hand from his monstrous grip. “Tom’s your old man? Wow. Nice to meet you, Sebby. How about you make me some coffee? Do you know how to do that?”

I tried my best to look offended at his suggestion I wouldn’t know how to do something so trivial, but I found his personality as infectious as his face.

“Black? Or cream and sugar?”

“How about black with sugar? Two,” he replied as his hand blindly searched the floor beside the couch for his abandoned t-shirt.

“I’ll be right back.”

“You do that. I’ll be right where I am now, holding down this here couch,” he said as he looked around at the dishevelled state of the living room and pulled the t-shirt over his head. Perhaps he was trying to remember how he had gotten there. Or more likely, just how many of the empty beer bottles in his periphery could be directly attributed to him.

As I walked into the kitchen, he let out a series of coughs that convinced me he was responsible for filling the ashtray his hand had earlier been resting in.

A few minutes later, with a hot cup of coffee in my hand, I returned to the living room to find Teal doing his best in his hung-over state to make things right. He had a neat pile of beer bottles on one corner of the coffee table. He gingerly attempted to balance three ashtrays in his shaking hands.

“I could really use that java.” He coughed. “This man is too old to play these silly games any longer. Remember when to quit the party, Seb. Bow out gracefully while you’re still young.”

I set the coffee on the end table and managed to take the pyramid of ashtrays from him before any real damage occurred. Instead of refusing my help, he reached for the coffee and allowed himself to fall back into the cushions of the couch.

“You shouldn’t be cleaning up after your old man’s messes,” he said with little to no conviction. “That’s not right. How old are you, Sebby? Seven?”

“I’ll be nine in December,” I said with enough force to push him further into the dilapidated cushions. “I know how to clean up a little mess. Besides, somebody has to do it. My brother is going to be coming down here any minute. He’d get into everything.”

“Two kids, eh?” he said. He groaned and let out a long sigh, clearly feeling gypped for choosing the wrong house to crash in the night before. “And how old is your little brother?”

“He’s four. But he’s not so little. Almost five.”

“This four-year-old — does he happen to do a lot of screaming early in the morning? Running around, bouncing off walls kind of thing?”

I headed toward the kitchen to empty the ashtrays. “Lots. My dad says he’s like an elephant on an airplane.” Teal closed his eyes and took a long pull from his steaming cup.

“Listen kid,” he said from the living room while I tried to make the kitchen look more or less like a kitchen. “Why don’t you just tell your old man I had to split? I got this session thing later today and I have to get some sleep or I’m gonna die. The last thing I need right now is a Mexican jumping bean almost-five-year-old going crazy in my space.

“Besides,” he continued, now standing in the kitchen doorway, coffee in one hand and an empty beer bottle on each of the four fingers of his other hand. “I’m not even sure if he knows I crashed. I don’t remember a thing after I got here.”

I stopped cleaning the counter for a moment. “My father’s not here. He left for work before I got up.”

“He leaves you here alone, man?” Teal said as he plopped the four beer bottles into the empty Molson Export case on the kitchen floor. “That’s not cool, Sebastian.”

“He does it all the time, Mr. — ”

“Hey. No. Not the mister thing, little man. I’m Teal. There’s no age constraints with this guy.” He pointed to his chest. “I don’t go by mister, so you can forget it. My daddy was the mister in my family. Now that he’s gone, there’re no misters left. Call me Teal. Your old man can’t be leaving you here alone. You’re eight — ”

“Almost nine,” I quickly corrected. “It’s not really all the time. He mostly doesn’t work. He’s just been working some the past few weeks.”

“Yeah. I guess I should have known that. Studio, right? Session work? Well.” He glanced around the wasted kitchen then looked to the door with longing. Turning back, he looked me in the eye. One more sad look at the front door and it was obvious he wanted to run. But he just shrugged. The sigh that escaped him told me he would stay.

Not that it would have mattered. I was already pretty much on my own when it came to Renee, my younger brother. Had Teal known the truth, he would have realized my father’s presence was more hindrance than help. Even at his best, my father never made much of a parental figure. By the day the poet had pulled up on our party-contaminated communal sofa, my father was just about the farthest he had ever been from his best — if there ever was such a thing.

“Well what, Teal?” I said, more to test the feel of calling an adult by his first name than for any other reason.

“Well, what do you wanna do?” he asked. It was a strange question coming from a rumpled semi-famous stranger, who, moments before, had seemed only to want to escape the morning-after ensnarement in which he had found himself.

“I’m cleaning the house,” I said. “And after that, I’m going to make Renee his breakfast.”

“Who’s Ren — ”

“My brother,” I interrupted.

“Right. The four-year-old. Wow. This is some heavy shit. You ever feel like you fell down the rabbit hole, Sebby?”

“Huh?”

“Never mind. I’m going to make breakfast for the both of you.”

Before I had a chance to protest, he started to move around the kitchen like he knew exactly where everything was. It freaked me out. A lot of people went through that old house, but I got to recognize their faces. This was the poet’s first visit. Goose bumps bloomed on my arms as I watched him. Time stopped. My world went slow-motion on me as I took him in.

The way he moved, too. It was an extremely familiar dance he made from the fridge to the stove to the cupboard. He had a precise synchronicity of movement I recognized, but I couldn’t place where I knew it from.

It was comforting to see an adult move with so much determination. The ones who normally crashed through our house were drunk and disorderly. For the first time in forever I felt like I could sit down and let somebody else take care of business. I sat at the kitchen table and watched Teal while I dreamily traced the many circled design on the table’s surface with my finger.

“How do you like your eggs?” Teal asked as he cracked four of them into the cast iron frying pan that had magically appeared on the front burner. He began to beat them vigorously with a fork.

“But you’re already mixing them scrambled?” I asked, smiling.

“Yeah, I just like to ask so it appears like I know what I’m doing. It’s the only kind I know how to make.” He walked toward the fridge. “Hey. Do you have any buttermilk? It’s so much better than milk in scrambled.”

“I don’t even know if we have milk. Dad didn’t give me any money this week.”

He stopped and looked at me. A troubled expression washed over his face.

He did his best to make it disappear before I caught it, but I saw it. I never miss those looks. It was a mix of disgust and pity. I could read him loud and clear.

He did not approve of my father’s parenting skills. He reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out a pile of crumpled bills. Tossing them on the table in front of me, he went back to the stove, removed the frying pan from the burner and turned the flame off.

“How about you run to the corner and grab some milk — and buttermilk if they have it — and I’ll wait here. I’m sure I saw a store down there somewhere last night. Oh, and while you’re at it, get some orange juice. I bet Renee would be happy to see a tall, cold glass of orange juice when he finally gets down here.”

I grabbed the money and put it in my pocket. “Okay, but you have to watch for him if he comes down before I get back. He gets into everything, Teal. I mean everything.” I walked to the side door and left him to the solitude of the kitchen.

The corner store was only three houses down from ours. The only tell-tale indications that it was more than just another house were the sign above the eaves and the glowing Coke machine on the front porch. The Coke machine was empty. You actually had to go inside to buy a Coke. Mr. Clarke didn’t trust anyone enough to keep the machine loaded.

The Clarkes had run the store since before I could remember. They were always happier when I came in without my brother. Renee never got out of there without knocking something over or causing some sort of disturbance that weakened the already frail, elderly Clarkes. When I went there without Renee, Mrs. Clarke always slipped me something on the sly so Mr. Clarke wouldn’t see her doing it. It was my reward for showing up alone.

“And where’s Renee this morning, Sebastian?” Mrs. Clarke said when I walked into the store. “Don’t tell me your father is home again. Lose another job, did he?” She said this with much scorn, making sure, once again, I knew exactly how she felt about my father.

“No, Mrs. Clarke. He’s gone to work. His friend is home with Renee.”

“Well, good,” she said. “No need of you dragging that poor little boy from pillar to post and back, him getting into everything and causing such a stir.”

Her skin was losing its noble fight with gravity, pooling at every dip and dive of her heavy frame. Mrs. Clarke was as big as a house, but sinking with age like a mansion in ruin. I always imagined I would come into the store one day to find a pile of old bones in the spot behind the counter.

Renee and I were afraid of Mrs. Clarke. She was harmless, just a miserable old woman who had no time for rambunctious children. That was the word she used for Renee: rambunctious. She said it so many times in his presence that he cringed in anticipation every time he walked into the store. His loathing of the word didn’t stop him from living up to its meaning, though. Renee just couldn’t help himself. He left a trail of destruction behind him after each visit.

I placed a carton of buttermilk on the counter beside the bottle of orange juice I had just deposited there.

“What’s this, Sebastian?” she said with surprise. “I don’t recall you ever buying — ”

“Teal asked for it. For scrambled eggs,” I said.

“Teal is a colour, my child,” she said as she rang up my things. “Have yourself some Bottle Caps, Sebastian. They’re your favourite, aren’t they?” Mr. Clarke was nowhere to be seen, so there was no need to be surreptitious.

“Thank you, Mrs. Clarke.” I grabbed the package of Bottle Caps before she had time to change her mind. I think Mrs. Clarke might have secretly liked me a little bit. God knows I was there often enough. We never really did groceries in our house. It was more about picking up a couple things at the corner store, just enough to get by on a daily basis. I never knew when my father was going to have money, and he wouldn’t let me walk all the way to Cirone’s Grocery by myself.

Just before the door closed behind me, Mrs. Clarke mumbled, “What kind of a name is Teal?”

I had pondered that myself in the time between reading Teal’s name off the album cover and saying it aloud to its owner. Since mulling it over, though, I came to the conclusion his was the perfect kind of name. Better than my name, that’s for sure. Almost all the kids at school made fun of mine, and not very many of them could even pronounce Sebastian. Renee, back then, managed only Bashtin, so that was the name I answered to most. Outside school, I spent most of my waking life with Renee.

I heard them laughing before I even got back to the house. A pang of jealousy shot through me before I had a chance to squash it. The second thought that came to mind, though, was why shouldn’t Renee get to have Teal too? In the five minutes I’d known the man, I liked him more than I had ever liked any other human being. The excitement of his newness put him miles above my father, which, admittedly, was not much of a feat.

I walked into the kitchen in time to see Teal swinging Renee like an airplane in his outstretched arms. Renee’s thick black hair blew out behind him, and his head was a mere inch from brushing the ceiling.

“Careful, Teal!” I said. “He’s the only Renee we’ve got. You can’t break him on us.” Renee squealed with pleasure.

“Hey, Bashtin!” Renee said, giggling. “You see Teal flying me?” I didn’t like how comfortable he was with Teal already. Given the assortment of strangers who wandered in and out of our lives, though, it didn’t surprise me.

“Yes, Renee,” I said. “But you better come down from there now. You have to get dressed before breakfast.”

His laughter stopped. “But Renee don’t like breakfess. I wanna fly, Bash. Teal’ll fly me first.” All the while, Teal continued to fly him around the room. I was amazed he didn’t fall flat on his face. I don’t know what I missed while I was gone to the store, but I had a feeling the flying was Teal’s way of distracting Renee from being his normal boisterous self.

“Come on down now, Renee. I need your help, big boy,” I scolded. I looked directly at Teal as I spoke. He pouted just as much as Renee. But he managed to make the landing as enjoyable as the flight. Renee went giggling up the stairs to get dressed while Teal went back to the stove and returned the eggs to the burner. Turning the burner on, he took a step back as the bluish flame beneath the pan popped into life.

“Were you always a party pooper, Mr. Sebby?” Teal asked, as he gestured for me to bring him the buttermilk. I handed it to him, and he pried it open and poured some into the pan, whisking the congealing eggs up into something closely resembling scrambled.

“Renee would have let you do that for hours. But I know what’s best for him. He should only get excitement in small quantities.” I began to set the table.

“Small quantities of excitement! Whoa. That’s harsh. How old did you say you were? You are way too old, man.”

“I’m almost nine,” I said defensively.

“Oh yeah. How could I forget? There are a lot of almosts around this here house, Sebby. I’d say your father is almost a father. Renee is almost five. You’re almost a kid, but almost an old man. You have to let your hair down, little man.”

He kept whisking those eggs like he wasn’t quite sure they were dead. He was a hundred percent right: I didn’t do the kid thing. He made me feel like a kid, though, so his words didn’t make sense.

“You don’t get it, do you?” he asked, stopping his massacre on the eggs just long enough to stare me down. “Sebby. You should have come in here hollering that you wanted a turn. You’re eight, for Christ’s sake! What has your father done to you?”

It was my first uncomfortable moment with the poet, but not my last. He had the ability to make people re-examine themselves. Even though I was only eight, he was able to make me question myself. Perhaps especially because I was eight. I shrugged. I had no defence, really. I had stopped being a kid long before Teal woke up on our couch. But somehow I was okay with being the grown up. I hadn’t really thought about my lost childhood. It just sort of happened.

Somebody had to keep our house moving. If I stopped doing things, everything would grind to a halt and what little semblance of normalcy we had left would instantly evaporate.

He acknowledged my shrug with one of his own, moved to the bread box and hauled out the half loaf of bread he found inside. He put two slices into the toaster. I felt the vibes coming off of him, those thinking vibes people get when they’re deep in thought and your brain feels all icy and fuzzy at the same time — like when you eat ice cream too fast.

He looked at his watch, his eyebrows arching in concentration.

“You know what? I should call off the studio thing today. I have this hangover and it feels like it’s going to be an all day thing.” He held his temples and watched the toaster with exaggerated intensity. “The last thing I need is to surround myself with loud music and even louder musicians. Why don’t we take Renee to the beach after breakfast?”

I looked at him like he had suddenly sprouted a third eye. Who was this man who thought he owed us his time? Usually when the strangers woke up around our house they couldn’t get out fast enough. And here was a man making breakfast for us — buying breakfast for us — and offering to take us to the beach?

As much as I felt myself being taken in by his charms, there was also a feeling that things weren’t quite right. Fighting with this was the familiarity I felt when he started working his way around the kitchen. Not for the first time I wished we could go back in time and he could miraculously become my real father.

But it was wrong to feel that way. He was just a guy, a drunk who happened to wake up on my couch.

“Shouldn’t you be going?” I suggested. “My father will be home at lunch. He’s gonna wonder what you’re still doing here, Teal. He usually — ”

“Oh, to hell with your father. I can deal with him. I’ve known him long enough to know how he shuffles his cards, little man. You leave that to me.”

For someone who claimed to know my father well, he had appeared pretty shocked to find out the man had children. Nonetheless, I wanted to take the gamble.

“We eatin’ eggs, Bashtin?” Renee asked as he bounded into the kitchen, nearly knocking over the cup of orange juice I had poured out for him.

“Yeah, Ren,” I said. “Teal wants to take us to the beach after. You have to eat all your breakfast, though.” I had given in that easily. Telling Renee about the beach had instantly solidified my decision.

“I’m eatin’, Bash. I will. And in the beach we can splash?”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Renee.” Teal laughed. “But maybe we can fly like airplanes again, eh? If it’s okay with Sebby, that is.” He turned and batted his eyelids exaggeratedly in my direction. The orange juice almost went over again, as Renee twirled around to see if I’d agree.

“Yes, Renee. But you have to eat your breakfast.”

“Good deal!” Teal brought the eggs and toast to the table and started divvying them out between the three plates I had set out.

“Yeah. Good deal,” Renee chimed.

And that was how Teal Landen seamlessly wormed his way into our lives. A stranger from one of my father’s all-night parties who had found himself accidentally abandoned to our living room sofa. And, as he was perhaps just as broken as we had been at the time, he decided to stay. Not that he moved in. It was never as official as that. But he never quite left, either. He became as permanent a fixture around our house as beer, women, and loud music. And somehow his presence made all the rest seem just a little more tolerable than it had been without him.

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