Week-to-week

This has been a good week for me. And it’s only Wednesday.

On Monday my youngest turned five and we brought her breakfast in bed (chocolate-chip pancakes and fruit on the side). Then, at her request, we spent the day at a local beach, followed by dinner and presents that evening.

On Tuesday, I finished my work in progress, a 93,000-word novel. I love it, not just because I’m finished with the initial draft and that feels awesome, but because the story is solid, the investigation into adolescent life engaging. In short, I’ve got a good feeling.

Also on Tuesday, I booked a television interview with my local ABC affiliate (details below), secured a bookseller for one of the two events in which I need them, and began prepping my classes for the school year.

It’s quite a bit for just two days, but nothing compared to how my year is going to play out. September is going to be pandemonium, with a second grader and a kindergartner in the house, my wife and I back to teaching, and Tap Out hitting stores.

However, amidst the chaos, we’ll settle into our routines of the fall and I will begin work on revising my next novel.

That’s how this cycle works, and I love it. My life is overflowing and daunting, but I would have it no other way. Crazy weeks, slow weeks, stressed out weeks: that’s life. And life is my subject matter, regardless of the story, the characters, the setting.

Next week brings the universally exciting and anxiety-producing return to school. It is, by far, the most intense time of year. For me, it’s another story, one with a forceful beginning, and one, of which, I know I’ll enjoy every last page.

Schedule of events (look for more, because who knows?):

9/8: WNYT (Channel 13) interview with Beth Wurtmann @ 8:30 am. Tune in.

9/8: Kaged Kombat at the Saratoga City Center. Doors open @ 5:00 pm, fights begin @ 6:00. I will be with Legion Training Center distributing promotional material for Tap Out

9/11: Tap Out releases. Pre-orders will be shipped. E-books should be available. Local stores will have copies. Please use the Tap Out: Find a Seller or Store via Running Press link if you are looking.

9/25: Now that you all have read 😉 come see me at the Clifton Park Library from 7-9 pm and I’ll sign your copy. We’ll also have The Open Door Bookstore on hand for purchases.

9/29: If Albany is more convenient, I’ll be at the Book House in StuyvesantPlaza from 3-4 pm

10/6: Release party and signing at Legion Training Center. *I still need a bookseller for this event. Please contact me if you have connections* come out and let me sign your copy of Tap Out in the cage of the best MMA gym in the area. Not only will books be available, but you’ll receive 20-30% of merchandise and memberships. If you have any interest in MMA for conditioning or for self-defense, this is THE place to be. For all ages and ability levels.

Is there anything you want to say?

I recently answered questions for a book review blogger and was struck by the last one. To paraphrase: Is there anything you want to say to your readers?

Yes. More than you can imagine.

But I knew I needed to be succinct, and I gave a response that I believe is both pithy and intelligent. We’ll see when the post runs. However, since I have plenty of space here, I thought I might answer with a bit more breathing room.

To the parents/guardians/aunts/uncles/teachers/librarians/inquisitive adults:

You will see the cover of Tap Out and will be intrigued. It will draw you in and you will want to know about the boy on the cover. Then you’ll read the first line. And if you don’t put it down (please don’t put it down), you may just read straight through the first chapter. And then you’ll have a choice. Are you willing to go down this hole with Tony, to see where and how he comes out? To let the child you’re purchasing for do the same? Because the only way is through, and Tony goes to Hell and back.

Are you willing to go there, to allow yourself, or your child, to enter a world that is not apologetic, does not hold anyone’s hand, and may just leave you looking at life a bit differently?

I hope you are. Because the violence and the vulgarity is not a veneer. It is not a macho screen without roots. It is a direct manifestation of suffering and a lack of acceptance that such suffering is okay. The road of Tap Out is not an easy one to walk. But ask yourself: Aren’t the best stories a little dangerous?

To the teens:

This is for you. This is not my story or any one person’s story. It is Tony’s and he is a compilation of my decade of working with teens and listening to them and appreciating lives that are so often dismissed. Read and learn.

This story is about MMA and poverty and meth, but it is more about choices than anything else. In this world, the greatest power we have is choice. Unfortunately, the options are not always the ones we’d select for ourselves. That doesn’t matter. We still must choose. Allowing someone else to do so for you is no different than making the decision yourself. That is a bitter pill to swallow, but let Tony show you how it’s done.

And when you finish Tap Out, pass it along. Give it to someone who you know is having a rough go of it, or to someone who could use a little perspective, or to someone who you know will relate more than you ever will. The power is in the story, not the words or the action, but the impact. What have you learned about standing up for yourself and about how the world can work? Your answer is vital.

To all:

I love this story. I love these characters. Not because I love violence and vulgarity, but because I embrace flaws and complicated existence. I don’t know a single person who isn’t more or less than what he or she appears to be. We are a muddled mess, and that view, to me, is the most intriguing. Enjoy.

No Calm Before the Storm

Tap Out releases in twenty nine days. My world may flip on its head. Or not. I have no idea. And that fact scares me.

I’ve been doing well, keeping my emotions at bay. I’ve kept busy this summer, vacationing and writing and working on my local markets for promotions and signings. But now that I’m a month out, I feel as if I’ve run out of time.

I’m misinformed and I’m well informed, all depending on which topic of the publishing industry is being addressed. Examples: I had no idea how important the first two weeks of sales are until two days ago. I also didn’t know pre-orders don’t always work in your favor, depending on when the books are shipped to the distributor.

I did know to set up both newspaper and television interviews, as well as three signings. I have additional plans, but are they enough? Probably not.

There’s always more that could be done, and I’m sure there’s always more that should be done. Up until now it has always been about the writing. That is literally all I have ever cared about. Now, it’s so much more. It’s business, a word in this age that has a multitude of meanings, because everyone is vying for attention, and trying to figure out how. I have no fear of hard work, but misapplied labor, fruitless endeavors and missed opportunities unsettle me to no end.

So I’m not calm. Far from it.

September will arrive, and with it a return to school and work and schedules. Amidst that chaos, Tap Out will emerge. Somehow this is fitting for a novel that is about a world of struggle, born out of my own desire to be where I am.

My wife asked the other day if I am happy now that the realization of this hard work is almost here. I had to be honest. I said, “No, I’m nervous.”

The joy is in the writing. And I believe that will be amplified by the reaction of those who read and respond positively. But until then, I’m on tenterhooks. Come see me on them at any of the dates and events below:

 

Tap Out will be available on 9/11 via all major online retailers and through my publisher, Running Press. It will also be available locally at The Book House in Albany, Market Block Books in Troy, The Open Door Book Store in Schenectady, and Barnes and Noble in Colonie.

9/25: signing at the Clifton Park library from 7-9 pm (books will be available for purchase)

9/29: signing at The Book House from 3-4 pm (books will be available for purchase)

10/6: release party/signing at Legion Training Center: 1208 Rt 146, Clifton Park (next door to Northern Lights) from 2-4 pm (books will be available for purchase and there will be discounts available on MMA merchandise and various training packages–for all ages)

The first two chapters of Tap Out can be found included in the free online download: Buzz Books 2012

Lucky

Yesterday I was cleaning out my office and came across a manuscript of mine that did not sell. I flipped through the pages and was astounded by the copious notes from my agent, Kate McKean. It felt like I was looking at one of my student’s papers, complete with suggestions for how to revise–truly, how to write better.

I was struck by how much time and effort Kate had put in on this project, which ultimately failed. How awful for an agent. Yet, at the same time, I realized just how lucky I was to have someone willing to guide, to nudge and to be patient enough to see if I would follow her advice, and even more, if I could put it to good use. How often does life hand you that kind of opportunity?

If you’re lucky, at least once. And I do mean luck. Because I’ve been rejected hundreds of times. Looking back, I don’t fault any agent or editor who passed on my work. It wasn’t ready. With time, however, and great diligence, it now is.

Tap Out and whatever I publish next–more on that soon–are an outcome of my luck in finding an agent willing to see past the rough edges. I believe that success does not end there, however. I worked my tail off after being given an opportunity.

Recently, Patton Oswalt sounded off on this issue of luck and success in his industry, and I believe his speech applies to any creative endeavor in which there are gatekeepers. The key point is that one should not rely on luck, but believe that it exists, and know that it is only a fragment of what is needed to succeed. The rest is good, old-fashioned hard work. As it should be.

So I thank Kate, Howard Morhaim Literary Agency, Lisa Cheng and Running Press for the luck they have bestowed upon me. If you would like to read a little background on how I am in the position I am, please check out my interview with Beth Fehlbaum, author of The Patience Trilogy.

And may luck guide you where you need to be.