Monday, March 9, 2015

Book News

I've got some pretty big news, and I can't keep it under wraps any longer. I have a book contract for my debut YA novel, THE PACKING HOUSE. It's going to be a published book, maybe even this year, 2015. My publisher is Booktrope, a hybrid publisher.

Right now, I'm busy assembling my team of professionals to help me get my book from a manuscript to a final, polished, and published book. I've got an editor, who has already given me edits on chapter one, the same chapter that is posted as an excerpt via the tabs at the top of the page. I've got a proof reader, who will read through once I've done final edits on the book from my editor's notes. Once that step is done and I've made sure all grammatical edits are done, I'll turn in the book for interior layout and design, while the cover artist does amazing things with my cover.

I'll also be working with my book manager and marketing manager to help get The Packing House ready for book launch. This will include a cover reveal, a blog tour full of interviews, giveaways, and fun galore. Next, I've got some behind-the-scenes stuff in the works that will truly be unique to the launch of this book.

What's amazing to me is that through this whole process, I'll have a published book at the end of it all, and a second book to complete the series. I've even got a tentative title for it, but maybe I'll do a blog post on possibilities and let you help me name book 2.

Along the way, I'll post updates about some plans that will be happening with the publication of this book, for those of you who pick up a copy, so you'll know what happens when you buy one. I welcome your input regarding this process, and I will do my best to respond to your comments and questions.

I must tell you, though, I am working full time in my day job, have a wife and four boys who keep me plenty busy, and I'm a graduate school student working on my master's degree in clinical mental health counseling. So, while the news of my book being published is thrilling, I'm not so keen on how the timing of it all is working out. But, I'll figure it out. I'm not ever going to complain about working on my book. Because, not everyone gets to have a published book. I'm humbled and grateful and honored to have been trusted with the task of sharing these stories, and I truly hope they bless you as you read these stories that came from my heart.

I am also eagerly anticipating when I get to thank every person who helped me along the journey from the first draft to now, and beyond, when it's finally born and out there for all of you to read. I will remember this when I get bad reviews, and (hopefully) good reviews. I will marvel at the magic that happens when a book isn't the author's property anymore, it's the property of the readers. They make it come alive. And, if I can achieve that, I'll be profoundly grateful.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Joel and the Mirror by Crystal Smalls Ord

Just received the most amazing, cover-worthy commission for my YA novel, THE PACKING HOUSE from the incredibly talented artist and author extraordinaire, Crystal Smalls Ord.

This image perfectly captures the tension and the emotion of Joel and his nightmare self, trapped in the mirror with the demon who torments him. The spiders crawling out of the mirror into the real world represent how the nightmares plague Joel during his waking hours, until the next time when he's dragged back down again, beneath the surface. I love how Crystal captured the detail of Joel's nightmare self having bandages wrapped around his hands. So many feels for this artwork. Thank you, Crystal for capturing the emotion in the eyes.

Check out an excerpt of Chapter 1.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Countdown to New Year's 2015: ...10...Catch Up On Reading

As a part of a new feature here on the blog, I'd like to take some time reflecting back on 2014, and all the great things that inspired, delighted, and challenged me as a reader and a writer. Therefore, it will likely come as no surprise that my book-themed "Countdown to 2015" is riddled with books, authors, and treats for the avid reader and author aficionado alike.

Without further ado, let's begin with our countdown at #10:

Catch Up Reading All the Books Written By Authors You Love. This is an easy, no-brainer. Begin by making a short list (this can occur in your brain if you like, no need to be literal here) of authors you love, whoever that is for you that springs readily to mind, and go find out if you've read EVERY book they've ever published. If you haven't, now's the perfect time to catch up on your reading, and enjoy treating yourself as a way to finish out 2014. Plus, if you're like me, you're trying to finish out that reading goal for 2014, and you might (ahem) be one or 3 books behind schedule. Here's an easy way to achieve that 2014 goal, check another item off on your 2014 To Do List, and begin fresh for 2015 ready to raise that reading goal by 5 or 10 more books than you read in 2014. Who's with me?

Just to make this fun, answer any and all of the below questions in the comments. Who knows, you might mention one or two I'd like to add to my To Be Read pile, and vice versa. Let's see what everyone's reading:

1. What book did you just finish reading?
2. What book are you determined to read before the end of 2014?
3. What book(s) did you specifically ask for on your Christmas list?
4. What book(s) will you buy immediately if you get a gift card for Christmas?
5. What are your top must read books of 2015?

Thanks for sharing and happy reading!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Blog Tour: BURN BABY, BURN BABY by Kevin Craig

12/18 Blog Tour Stop: Excerpt and Giveaways

We've got an important EXCERPT on today's Burn Baby Burn Baby Blog Tour Stop. This is the scene where Francis Fripp meets Rachel Higgins, all the while trying to avoid setting off his rival, Brandon Hayley from bullying him again.

I'll also be posting my review of Burn Baby Burn Baby on my blog. I hope you'll check out what I had to say about it, and I hope you'll enter to win via the links below, and snag yourself a copy of Kevin's latest book, too. Thanks for stopping by. Have a look around while you're here.


Kevin Craig is the author of three previous novels; Summer on Fire, Sebastian’s Poet, and The Reasons. He is a 4-time winner of the Muskoka Novel Marathon’s Best Novel Award. Kevin is also a playwright and has had eight 10-minute plays produced. His most recent plays were included in Driftwood Theatre’s Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festival and the InspiraTO Festival at the Alumnae Theatre in Toronto. Kevin’s poetry, short stories, memoir and articles have been published internationally Kevin was a founding member of the Ontario Writers’ Conference and a long-time member of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR). He is represented by literary agent Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary Group.


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.


I’m on my own in the morning. Trig has all advanced classes. He’s perfect in every way. I’m a slacker on Day Two of our schedule. Easy math and art in the morning. We’re probably going to be building houses with pipe cleaners, or something just as lame, in art. And math? Whatever. One plus one equals I don’t give a crap.

In math, I feel something hitting my back and I turn around to see Brandon Hayley smiling at me with his oversized pearly whites. His cohorts are laughing, egging him on. He shrugs as if to say, What? What’d I do?

I turn back and try to look like I’m interested in the mathematical equation that Mr. McDonald is scribbling on the blackboard in hieroglyphs. I’m a really bad faker.

Soon it starts hitting me again. I know what it is without turning around. Spitballs. And they’re sticking to the back of my shirt, skeeving me out. If Trig was here, it wouldn’t be happening. But he can’t be everywhere.

I hear an argument break out behind me. By the time I turn around, everybody’s pretending to be interested in the blackboard. But I see Rachel Higgins, the new girl, in the corner, looking really pissed off. When she sees me, she smiles lamely.

Like a retard, Brandon waves at me. I blush and turn back toward the board, but not before realizing how intently Rachel is looking at me. Did she stop them?

“Okay, my little piggies,” Mr. McDonald says as he finishes scribbling his meaningless gobbledegook. “Who can tell me the answer to this one? Don’t go blowing your brains out over it. Take a few minutes. Look at it. I promise you, it’s an easy one. And everybody here should know it. This is review. It’s June next week. Come on, now.”

His voice begins small, but climbs to a near yell as he gets to the end of his little spiel. He’s looking at us. Thirty faces staring back at him, all seemingly clueless. Some, like me, really don’t have the foggiest idea what’s going on in his chalk mess. But others, I’m sure, just don’t want to be called upon.

“Mr. Hayley,” McDonald says. “Come on, my pretty little piggy. Give us a breakdown. What’s the answer? I think I heard a rumble from you while I was jotting that down. Why don’t you come on up to the board and give us a run through?”

“No,” Brandon says. “I’m good, sir. Thanks, though.” There’s a little burst of laughter. Quiet, nervous laughter.

“Oh no, Mr. Hayley,” McDonald says, raising his voice again. “I don’t think you understood me there. That wasn’t a request. It was a demand. I’ll have you come up to the board now and walk us through this excruciatingly difficult equation. Come on, now. That’s a good little piggy.”
Now everyone is giggling under their breath. Everyone but me. I know not to rock the boat where Brandon Hayley is concerned. He could probably crack me open like a walnut.


Goodreads Giveaway: 12/11/14 to 1/11/15

Twitter Giveaway: Follow the link and Retweet (RT) to be entered to win

Book Review: BURN BABY, BURN BABY by Kevin Craig

Burn Baby, Burn BabyCheck out my other reviews for Kevin's books: Summer on Fire, Sebastian's Poet, and The Reasons.

Burn Baby, Burn Baby by Kevin Craig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Francis Fripp, the self-loathing MC of BURN BABY, BURN BABY by Kevin Craig will singe you. After all, he's dragging along the haunting memories of what his father did to him scarred across his face. Francis sees his life like a movie, panning in and out of scenes as if he's not even there, or maybe just an unimportant prop in the action of his own life. The voice of Francis is spot-on, sarcastic and cynical teen boy. As you keep reading, you'll understand why he's so calloused and hardened.

With each page, I felt the tendrils of smoke curling upward, which may have caused me to tear up a few times. Having read all of Kevin's books, I'd say BBBB captures the real-life quality of fully-realized characters as seen in Kevin's brilliant debut, SUMMER ON FIRE, and brings the emotional fortitude of THE REASONS, Kevin's strongest work thus far, with an ease only a seasoned writer could bring. This makes me incredibly excited for Kevin's upcoming book, HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN. I love reading his male-centered YA books, since YA is primarily female-driven MCs, and Kevin is an author who landed on my auto-read list of authors. His contemporary is page-turning, richly-developed characters, and stories with twists and turns that leave the reader gasping for breath. I find myself reading most of his books in a single sitting. I can't wait to read every word, and BBBB is no exception.

I loved the relationship between Francis and Rachel. It reminded me of Eleanor and Park. They seem to be such opposites at first, but as you read, you'll understand their attraction is much deeper than their affinity for Shakespeare in the park (a section I absolutely loved!).

Trip was an interesting and complicated choice for Best Friend. He's Francis's protector when it comes to his nemesis, Brandon, the boy who named him Burn Baby. But that same fierceness comes with a price. He's often seen lashing out at those around him, with an aggression that goes largely unchecked, and which could turn on you in an instant. I found myself making comparisons with Francis's father (shudders) and Brandon. This makes Trip the kind of foil character that only an expert writer could pull off. The way the plot weaves together, I found Kevin's use of his characters such an enjoyable part of the experience.

Francis was right. It reads like a movie, and I hope Hollywood is paying attention. With so many other fine YA books going to the movies, I hope we get to see one or more of Kevin's works up on the big screen, big as life.

As Francis slowly comes out of his shell, with the patience and coaxing of Rachel, who sees past his scars to the boy inside and out, he must decide if he can finally let his past go, or grip it with both hands and light it up to burn for a world in need of a survivor as strong as Francis Fripp. The ending left me wanting more, and I hope we'll revisit Francis and Rachel and the others soon.

Highly recommended. A fast read that will make you feel for those who face bullies every day, and still manages to warm your heart despite these hardships.

*Thank you to Curiosity Quills Press for providing me with an eARC in exchange for a honest review.

View all my reviews

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cover Reveal: Half Dead and Fully Broken by Kevin Craig

Once again, Eugene Teplitsky has done it! Eugene, from Kevin Craig's publisher, CURIOSITY QUILLS PRESS, has created a stunningly beautiful cover for Kevin's 5th novel, HALF DEAD &  FULLY BROKEN!
Half Dead releases JANUARY 19th, but you can pre-order it today on #Amazon! Simply click on the link below!


Now, without further ado, the cover!

Half Dead & Fully Broken Synopsis:

Carter Colby is the most unpopular teen at Jefferson High. This would be easier to deal with if his identical twin brother, Marcus, weren’t the hottest, most popular boy in school.
When Marcus is killed in a motorcycle accident, Carter discovers the one thing more painful than trying to compete with Mr. Wonderful: wearing his dead brother’s face.
He felt invisible before the accident, but with Marcus dead everybody turns away from him in mourning. How can he blame them? He can’t bear to look in the mirror.
When Carter begins to see Marcus’s 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’s mourning girlfriend, was also hard hit by the tragedy. Marcus wants to make things right before it’s too late.
With Marcus’s 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?


Kevin Craig is the author of four previous novels; Summer on Fire, Sebastian’s Poet, Burn Baby Burn Baby, and The Reasons. He is a 4-time winner of the Muskoka Novel Marathon’s Best Novel Award. HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN won their 2010 Best Young Adult Novel Award. Kevin is currently finishing Book #2 of The Carter Colby Series.

Kevin is also a playwright and has had eight 10-minute plays produced. His most recent plays were included in Driftwood Theatre’s Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festival and the InspiraTO Festival at the Alumnae Theatre in Toronto. Kevin’s poetry, short stories, memoir and articles have been published internationally. Kevin was a founding member of the Ontario Writers’ Conference and he is a long-time member of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR). He is represented by literary agent Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary Group.

My Amazon Page - Check out Kevin Craig's novels!


Find Kevin Craig OnlineWebsite | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Book Review: FAKING NORMAL by Courtney C. Stevens

Faking NormalFaking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the kind of brutally honest that reads like brave and a hug all rolled into one, which is odd. Hugs aren't brave. Somehow this is: a brave little hug, and I needed that.

Alexi and Bodee were perfect and created a nice foil to Alexi's sister Kayla and Kayla's on again off again boyfriend, Craig, who's practically family. I also enjoyed the well-developed friendships between Alexi, Heather, and Liz. Their car and classroom banter made for great reading and kept me turning pages.

This book is not afraid to face tough subject matter. It starts with a funeral. Alexi can't stop from scratching at her neck when she's overwhelmed by memories from what happened this summer, and she'd rather do anything than talk about it with anyone. So, instead, she counts the space between the vent above her bed, writes song lyrics on the desk in 4th period and waits for "Captain Lyric" to reply. She might even be falling for him, which is a whole lot better for Alexi than the line up of boy bait Heather keeps parading before her. Dane, Hayden, the football team. Or maybe she'd be more comfortable with Bodee. After all, she can't seem to lie to him, even when he notices things no one else does. And when Bodee moves in as Alexi's mom's pet project, things between Alexi and Bodee are all kinds of awkward and extremely close at the same time. They've got a great friendship going, and if Alexi isn't careful, she could ruin everything that's working for her.

As bits and pieces of Alexi's past unfold, several possible suspects come forth as the likely culprit of who hurt Alexi bad enough to make her want to keep hurting herself for not stopping him. Why can't she say no? Why can't she speak up for herself? What's beneath the surface, that she keeps trying to scratch at to come out? Will we ever figure out the truth?

Well, truth does have a way of working its way to the surface, but not in the way you'd think. The special code language of song lyrics is one avenue. It's somehow safe to use what's said (and especially what's unsaid) in song lyrics, that allows Alexi and Captain Lyric to discuss these unspoken matters that trouble her so, and on the top of that list: Who is Captain Lyric? So, we've got to figure out who hurt her, and who Captain Lyric is, and while we're at it, which boy is right for Alexi? Who should she got to prom with? This is where it all gets good.

Alexi can put on a good front. She "Fakes Normal" with the best of them. But underneath the veneer, she's got a lot to sort out and face, if she can channel brave long enough to find her voice and speak the truth. As Alexi and Bodee grow closer, they help each other to find a way to speak to those dark places neither wants to face, and Alexi's tree fort is a great and safe place to start.

I was shocked by the ending, and found the way the story resolved hugely satisfying. I am amazed by this debut, and I've added Courtney Stevens to my short list of "auto read" authors. FAKING NORMAL is a must read, and should be required reading for high schools, who need to talk about this important topic.

I think my heart was stabbed with knitting needles a few dozen times by all that happens between Alexi, and Bodee, the KoolAid Kid, named for the way he changes hair colors like jeans. I sure hope we're not done with these characters. I see there's a prequel, but I need a duology to find out what happens next. There was a start, but definitely not a finish. So much left wide open to figure out, and I'm betting on a slightly different response from Mom and Dad, so there's that. What a stunning and well-articulated debut, full of subtle nuances, and brilliant characters I won't soon forget. Breathtaking and beautiful.

View all my reviews