Dare Me Events

The release for Dare Me is fast approaching and I wanted to give you all as much advance notice of events as possible. Therefore, below is the flyer that will be circulating around our area. You’ve got from September through December to come out, say hey, get a copy signed, and depending on the venue, have some drinks and free food.

For those of you that are not in the area, or who just can’t wait to get a copy, pre-order now and your copy should be sent on 9/17. Stores that pre-ordered will also be stocked, but any that did not may not have copies until 10/8. 

I look forward to all of the fun and festivities. Last year with Tap Out was a blast, and I can guarantee this year will be as awesome, if not more so.

Thanks in advance.

TAP OUT named a Booklist Top 10 Sports Book for Youth

Cover image

I haven’t mentioned Tap Out in a while because I’m gearing up for the release of Dare Me, but that gritty novel is still gathering attention. Booklist just named Tap Out a “Top 10 Sports Book for Youth: 2013.”

That makes two lists for Tap Out, with the 2013 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers and now Booklist. If you are a teacher, librarian, parent, uncle, aunt, whatever, of a teen who likes dark material, who is a reluctant reader, who may like sports, I think it’s a safe assumption that you will succeed in putting Tap Out into your reader’s hands. 

And remember, Dare Me is still on the way. Who knows how many lists this title will find its way onto?

YA Historical Fiction Meets YA Dystopian Novel


Good news from another Uncommon YA author:

GRAFFITI KNIGHT by Karen Bass arrives in Canadian stores!

In a market flooded with dystopian novels, award-winning author Karen Bass brings readers a fast-paced story about a real-world era of censorship and struggle too often forgotten by history: Soviet-controlled post-World War II East Germany, where one boy fights for self-expression and the freedom to build his own future.

Speaking out in East Germany is forbidden, but sixteen-year-old Wilm has found his voice. At night he wages a graffiti campaign against the police, who answer to the Soviet Army that controls the country. “Marionetten,” he writes—puppets. And Wilm’s war of embarrassment feels good. It feels powerful. If only Wilm can keep that power he won’t ever end up weak like his father. And he won’t ever stand by and let Soviets—or anyone—hurt his sister again.

But to keep his newfound power Wilm has to become more and more like his adversaries. And when he crosses one line too many, the victims may be the very people Wilm wants most to protect.

Read the first chapter here. (http://www.karenbass.ca/graffiti-knight/graffiti-knight-excerpt/)


Helen Kubiw of “CanLit for Little Canadians” gave Graffiti Knight a 5-star rating and said, “Bass provides enlightenment via a new perspective.” (http://canlitforlittlecanadians.blogspot.ca/2013/07/graffiti-knight.html)

John Wilson, YA Canadian author, reviewed Graffiti Knight for Canada’s book and publishing news magazine, Quill & Quire: “Bass has artfully recreated an historical time and place peopled by realistic, three-dimensional characters grappling with their own emotions and global forces they can only barely understand.” Full review here. (http://pajamapress.ca/news_reviews/?p=1980)

Pick up a copy!

Find Karen online:

Website (www.karenbass.ca)

Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/karenbassYA)

Twitter (https://twitter.com/karenbassYA)

Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1370935.Karen_Bass)

I Write Like

I Write Like

I have enjoyed Chuck Palahniuk’s work for quite some time. His twisted tales are vast, even though he is primarily known for Fight Club, and possibly Choke. But Lullaby is frightening in its own way (be careful reading if you’re a parent to a newborn), as is Haunted (whose cover glows in the dark–try sleeping with that image on your nightstand). I could go on with his other titles, but this isn’t a post about Palahniuk’s writing, per se. It’s about my writing, and how it’s like Chuck’s, and a way you can test this and your own.

I Write Like is this great website that allows you to plug in your writing and have it compared to the writing style of famous authors. Once analyzed you can get a digitally sharable badge declaring that you write like a particular icon.

I’ve used it with students, and the results have always been intriguing. There’s an adage in writing that you should copy your favorite author’s voice until you find your own. I find that the authors students read (a ton of Nick Sparks) bleeds onto the page, but only at a level of their ability. Therefore, even though they’ve all read the Harry Potter series, I have never seen J.K. Rowling pop up via I Write Like. Hence, the aforementioned Nick Sparks.

It’s fun and intriguing to consider why you may write like a certain author. I had a colleague try it and he found his style was similar to David Foster Wallace. He was both pleased and concerned for his mental state of being. I think Palahniuk is a credible parallel to my work because of the obvious darkness, violence and vulgarity that permeates both of our stories. I won’t go so far as to say I sound like Chuck, but there certainly is a similarly to the rhythm of sentence structure.

Beyond that I can only hope to continue to emulate his style–unknowingly or not–until some day I Write Like spits out my name to someone just getting started.

For Fun:

Here is my badge, proclaiming what I’ve stated. Feel free to plug in the samples on the homepage from either, Tap Out or Dare Me and you’ll get the same result. Then go and find out who you write like. I’d love to know.

I write like
Chuck Palahniuk

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

William Hazelgrove’s THE PITCHER ebook for FREE!


Wiliam Hazelgrove, one the Uncommon YA authors, has a sweet deal for you. Starting today, and running for the rest of the week, you can pick up a free copy of his ebook The Pitcher.  A synopsis is below followed by a link to the giveaway. Enjoy.

Ricky Hernandez is a pitcher. He has an arm like a rocket and dreams of making the high school baseball team. His dying mother enlists the broken down World Series pitcher who lives across the street to coach Ricky. He shows him how to achieve his dreams and break through the hell of organized kid sports. 


You Just Gotta Go There

Bennington Battle Monument Photo, Click for full size

My wife and I had a date night over the weekend. This is a rare occurrence, made all the more so by the fact that we traveled close to an hour to get to our destination: Bennington, Vermont.

We went to a local brew pub, had dinner, saw the sights of downtown, checked out the battle memorial and then made one last stop at a classic dive before heading home. Nice, right? But what’s the connection to writing?

Five years ago I joined a critique group based out of Bennington. I stayed with them for over two years, traveling close to an hour each way, twice a month (weather permitting). This was back before I had anything published, before I had an inkling that I was even good enough to seek publication.

As my wife and I traveled and saw the sights, I remarked about the time I spent with the group. It was well worth it. They brought my writing to the next level, and without them I don’t think I would be published. But at the time, my wife admitted, “I feared for your sanity.”

And she was right. I was spending time and gas money we didn’t have, chasing down this elusive dream on dark back roads between New York and Vermont. The commitment was exhausting because of the demands of my young children, my full-time job and life in general. But still, I went there, as often as I could, armed with whatever I was working on, prepared to be cut down and prepared to provide as much constructive criticism as I could muster.

I don’t offer much in the way of writing advice, here–unless I do and don’t realize it. But this trip suggested to me the most valuable I unconsciously pursued: Go there.

There doesn’t need to be an hour away. It doesn’t even need to be outside your home, but I suggest it. For any craft, for any business, for any career you want to advance in, you must sacrifice. The same holds true for being a good parent, educator, human being. If you want to move from writer to author, I believe you must make a concerted effort to become that idea, and that takes a willingness to get outside your comfort zone, and to allow yourself to be vulnerable.

Now, this doesn’t mean you throw yourself on the altar of writing. Don’t be the sacrifice and have nothing left of yourself, but put up your ego, your preconceived notions of your talent, your whatever-stands-in-the-way and let others have a look see.

If you intend to write for the public, critical feedback is inevitable. And often there is too much of it. But if you went there and you became accustomed to such, you’ll come to understand what voices to trust, especially your own.

P.S. Thanks, Carrie, for taking me out. I can’t promise I won’t turn our next date night into a blog post, but I’ll try not to.

P.P.S. The most recent review of Dare Me, from Publishers Weekly.

The Experience, Not Only the Results

August is the Sunday of summer. The days are shorter and already we’ve had nights that whisper about fall. And in those whispers I hear too much, because so much awaits me as I turn the calendar a find that gleaming September staring back, asking: You ready?

I don’t know.


Every September requires I go back to school. It’s a right of passage that most of us are glad to have outgrown, but that’s not an option for me. Nor is ignoring the changes in education: the Common Core State Standards. They exist and are being implemented with begrudging fanfare. However, I do consulting work on the side, and I have created numerous ELA lessons that align with the CCSS. They are, in a word, boring.

That’s not to say educators will only use the types I have seen and won’t create dynamic opportunities for their students, because that always happens, regardless of the mandate. The difference with this reform is the unspoken message that the standards are more of a curriculum than a series of benchmarks. Therefore, teachers are looking to deliver content in a method that addresses the tenants of the CCSS first, and the needs of the students, second. And therein lies the problem. When you move the content to the front of the classroom and place the students behind, you’ve already failed. I can teach an unengaged teenager almost nothing. But I can teach an engaged student anything. Good teachers find a way to reach the individual.

Now the struggle will be how to do both effectively. Those CCSS results are measured, and they count. But the immeasurable experience of the students matters even more.  Therefore, I posit that educators start by asking the students what they desire from their education and build from there. That’s pretty much how I go about writing.


Speaking of which, have you heard I have another novel coming out in just over a month? Seriously, if you pre-order Dare Me, it releases on September 17th. The thought of this makes me ill. Not because I don’t love this work. I do, and reviews are indicating that readers will, also. Really, my anxiety is similar to my issues with the CCSS.

As an author, I have to entice. The work must be strong, but so must be the delivery. I have to inform people that Dare Me exists without being an annoying beacon sending the message: Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book! Who listens to that guy?

Which is why I had the trailer created (below, in case you missed it), am lining up events (more on these, soon) and am harassing the local media for interviews. It is my hope that I am doing this well, am being creative and not annoying, and mostly, that I am engaging my audience, not shoving my work at them. Fortunately, I’ve had practice. Anyone who says teaching is for those who can’t, has never asked an educator to step into another set of shoes. That classroom is an unbelievable training ground.

What to do?

I promise that my students will be engaged with English education this year and that my readers will be engrossed by Dare Me. I will be behind the scenes hoping I’ve done a good job, but all the while knowing that regardless of the outcome, I’ll continue to strive for better. Not only for results (test scores and sales figures), but the experience.

Life is something to enjoy, not something to get through. Sadly, education and reading for so many are the latter, not the former. I am not comfortable with that idea. In my work as an educator and as an author, it is my intent to make the most of the time. Not only mine, but for those with whom I have contact. Because when those whispers start next summer, I want to be right here, preparing for another year, and another novel, knowing I’m doing the best I can with my time by providing education and stories that matter.

The Pink “Lunch Box”


When I’m out with my youngest I get this line all of the time:

That’s such a cute lunch box.

The variations:

Pink is such a good color on you.

Are there princesses on there.

Why are you wearing that? *defensive glare*

Every person who delivers his or her gem of a line kills me a little inside. Fortunately, my youngest doesn’t notice. My eldest, however, she now turns to me and shakes her head saying, “Daddy, it’s not a lunch box.”

“I know,” I tell her, but I really don’t.

Because it’s not a lunch box, even though it looks like one. That’s the point. Sure, it would be easier for people if the bag were bright red and had DIABETES stenciled on the front, so it was clear that this child-size bag I’m toting has a medical purpose. But I’m not so concerned about making things easy for other people. I have one person whose life I’m trying to make easier, and if that means slinging her pink, white, and blue camo around my shoulder, then that’s all there is to it.

For my critical audience, please note:

  1. It’s not a lunch box
  2. I’m not trying to be cute
  3. The color pink is not a barometer of my sexual identity (and if you honestly still think this way, grow up)
  4. My daughter can hear you

That last point is the most valid. Because even if this were a regular lunch box, wouldn’t it stand to reason that I’m carrying it around for a purpose, and that the purpose may have something to do with the small female who is with me? And if that’s the case, then making a crack about me helping my daughter is a bit unnecessary.

Sure, I could save myself the trouble of these intrusions by having my daughter carry the bag or by getting a neutral color. But she’s three-and-a-half feet tall, weighs a little over forty pounds, and LOVES the color pink. She’s already carrying around the burden of this disease. Do I want to load her down with more, or tell her she can’t like what she does? No, no I don’t.

And this drives me a bit crazy on a personal level as well. I’ve dealt with the same as a teen and as an adult. People still ask about my “vanity bag” or “shaving kit”. Always with a wink and a smile as if this is the funniest damn thing that has ever occurred–a male, with a bag. It’s mind-boggling to me that anyone feels comfortable enough to say something. I’ve always been instructed to mind my own business, and I guess I’m just looking for the same in return.

Because if this continues, I’ll stop wanting to be polite. I’ll stop responding with my trite answers:

“Why, thank you.”

“Yes, pink shows up my eyes.”

“Of course princesses, what else?”

“It’s beautiful.”

I’ll slip in a jab: “Would you prefer if I keep her alive while wearing another color?”

But I know it will be at that point, when I slip, that my youngest will turn to me and say, “Be nice, Daddy.” Because she’s been listening the entire time, and she knows to mind her own business and to be kind to others. She’s been to Kindergarten, and therefore, knows everything.

I only wish others would remember.

*If you know someone with a young child with diabetes, share this article with them, and then the next time you’re out together, shoulder the bag. You’ll see.*

open bag