Smile for the camera. Wait…don’t.

I had my first professional photo shoot, and it was nothing like the school pictures and family photos I’ve posed for throughout the years. No, this was all about me, my image and the tone I want to set. It was thrilling and awkward at the same time. And of course, there was no smiling.

Meaghan Carney shot my pictures and couldn’t have been more exacting. From the moment we hit the street, she had a sense of where I needed to be framed. Within moments a small city I’ve known for years came alive with compelling backdrops.

Meaghan understood what I wanted: bad-ass. I write primarily dark and violent YA literature, and I believe my picture should offer a sense of where my fictional worlds come from. The cracking stone walls, graffiti-strewn bricks, and time-worn church door, all set beneath a gray sky couldn’t have been more appropriate.

I cannot wait to select from the 300 pictures taken the one that will appear on the jacket for Tap Out. Meaghan made me feel as if I were in one of my own stories. Therefore, I know the images that emerge will be accurately reflective.

Thanks Meaghan.

Thankful?

I had a colleague say to me yesterday, “All right, four things you are thankful for…go!”

I couldn’t answer. Not on the spot like that. And not in such an offhand manner. I’m not one for the casual when it’s truly personal. I told her I’d get back to her. I never did.

I did think, however. And my four are as follows: My wife, my children, my health, my writing.

Now, I probably could have answered with those four yesterday, easily. But each deserves a bit more depth.

My wife: No one else besides a writer’s spouse or partner knows how much a struggle this choice is, how much we question ourselves. No one else is close enough to see all the revision, both internal and external. Yes, writing is a craft, but done well, and with purpose, it is more. it is revelatory and can change you. Having someone willing to accept those changes is a godsend.

My children: I’ve heard from many about how children can “get in the way” of goals. Sure they can, and that’s okay. Sometimes life asks you to think about your direction and alter. Fortunately, my children have provided me motivation. I began writing for myself. I wanted to be able to say, “I did that. Check me out.” Not anymore. My children have humbled me, and in the process have given me more inspiration to write than any agent or contract could. I need to make good on this time I spend, because all of it is time away from them. It had better be worth it.

My health: I have a laundry list of medical issues–type 1 diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, allergies and a broken back. Yesterday, at my allergist, the nurse took my vitals and then asked me, “Are you a runner?” I’m not. CrossFit keeps me in all-around shape. I said, “I workout. Why, what are my numbers?” My Blood pressure was 102/60 and my pulse was 50. In spite of my hurdles, I maintain. “Health” is a relative term, and so far I’m managing to keep it in check. Without it, I would not be able to do all of which I am capable.

My writing: I am still over the moon about Running Press publishing Tap Out. It is difficult for me to conceptualize that next year at this time my novel will be on the shelf. Unreal. But more than the contract, my writing expresses how much I’ve grown. I’ve been trying my hand at writing seriously since I was in my early twenties. Over ten years later it makes sense that with diligence I’ve improved. Thank you Kate McKean and Lisa Cheng for seeing this.

There are my four. I think this answer is better than what I could have shot off yesterday. I think I’ll send this link to my colleague. Her interest was genuine and I appreciate the prompt to take a moment and reflect. We all should.

Happy Thanksgiving.

In Between

I’m in between projects right now, waiting to revise my MS under contract and not yet ready to revise my recently finished WIP. How I should spend my time now is a concern.

I typically jump into any writing with the notion that the piece is going somewhere, either into a flash work or a short story or a novel. I don’t often afford myself the luxury to just grip the keyboard and go, to see what comes. This has resulted in more unsuccessful works than worthwhile ones, but that’s fine by me. It’s all a process.

However, the other morning I went Googling for some inspiration and I came across a Wikipedia entry on archetype plot lines in YA novels. The article was mostly an excerpt from a larger work by Sarah K. Herz and Donald Gallo. The authors deduced archetypes into one line topics and then provided summaries and titles of both YA and Adult fiction that fulfilled the concept. Example: The JourneyThe Crazy Horse Electric Game by Chris Crutcher and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

I know this isn’t earth-shattering by any means, but it has been a fun springboard for me. I’ve written in response to four of the categories, and now have three solid story beginnings and one fully fleshed short story. I’m keeping the file for future reference, because the classic themes never die. It is our job, as writers, to keep them fresh and connected to the here and now. Of course we all get this, but it’s fun to purposefully set out and see if we can.

A signed contract and MMA bare knuckle brawling

Two completely disparate topics, I know, but not necessarily for me. My world is all about my forthcoming novel Tap Out, but because of its focus on the world of MMA, included in that scope are all things related to the sport.

Therefore, I was beyond excited when my contract came in last Tuesday. I read all 14 pages, shot an email of questions to Kate McKean the next morning, who promptly answered them with her typical astute brevity. I signed and sent the copies to Kate on Wednesday. The rest is now behind the scenes. Until the first half of the advance comes that is. Then I might pass out. All good, though. I’ll take a header over something this significant.

Someone who won’t dive is Dada 5000. I came across an article in Maxim, titled “Knuckle Up!”, and could not have read it with more interest. Dada 5000 has parlayed a backyard, bare knuckle fighting circuit, into a chance at an MMA career via YouTube, his charisma and a forthcoming documentary, Dawg Fight. He’s set to fight Kimbo Slice (ironically, a neighborhood friend) and the bout will be an epic brawl. I’m following Dada on Twitter, looking forward to Dawg Fight, and am thrilled that the proliferation of MMA continues.

Tap Out speaks to the absolute core of this world, and I am so thankful to Lisa Cheng and Perseus for affording me the opportunity to unleash it.

Quick Rejection

I submitted “Snow in October” to The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts (http://matterpress.com/journal/)  and they rejected me within a few hours. It’s all right. Rejections happen.

The email did indicate that they enjoyed the piece, and I appreciate that. I’ve been told far less on so many rejections. In fact, I’ve given presentations that have included a board littered with a sampling of rejection letters I’ve received over the years. It is always eye-opening to witness the reaction of others, those outside of writing, who cannot fathom how I (we) continue to write, in spite of such a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

Eh, it’s what we do.

And so I’ve submitted “Snow in October” elsewhere. Why not? It may take, or it may not. Either way, I’m still challenging myself. That’s the true purpose of writing for me. To see if I can. And then to see if I can go one better. Typically, that’s the draft that gets accepted, or at least a kind rejection.

Snow in October

I admit it, I’m not tech savvy. If it weren’t for my wife, I don’t even think I would have a facebook page. I don’t tweet (yet). I’m probably not even using this blog correctly. No doubt I could simultaneously tweet, text, blog and vlog this. But I’m not there yet. I am trying. And even though I’m trying to tackle this and not write, I’m still writing. I wrote a flash fiction piece about teenage suicidal ideation. I know, not fun. But the title came to me because of the weather: Snow in October. Something about the premature nature of such fused the theme of the story. Maybe I’ll post it here. If I do that, then I’ll definitely make sure I tweet and digg and all the rest.