How much writing have you done under quarantine?

Stocked up on food (this is a recurrent theme)

I have been asked the question from the title by so many well-meaning people these past couple of months, and I always feel bad about my answer because it’s been, “Not much. It’s difficult to write at this moment.” And that’s the truth. It’s difficult to spin fiction when the world’s story is the most compelling. However, I have been up to quite a lot in my afternoons, when I’m done with teaching virtually for the day. The hours I typically devote to writing have been spent in some interesting ways.

 

Received an A in my School Law class.

Celebrated one of my favorite holidays virtually.

Figured out Zoom.

Celebrated another holiday virtually

Stared into the void of Covid statistics and projections.

Did a little landscaping to prep for…

…these crazies.

Fell in love with this adorable picture.

Oh, yeah, released a novel.

Took adorable pics of my dogs.

Started rooting avocado seeds (I used to do this with my grandmother)

Found life was starting.

Stocked up on food…again.

Celebrated Mother’s Day.

Picked up a new car.

And, you guessed it…kidding. This is the same pic as the first. But I did stock up again 😉

The point of this is not that I’m avoiding writing or have no intentions of getting back to it, but that I’m the same as everyone else. I’m looking for the good during these crazy times. I’m living my life under restrictions and am finding ways to keep my mind occupied so that when I return to the page it is not all about pandemics and sorrow. That reality must unfold on its own, and it is our job to play by its rules, be careful, stay healthy, wash our hands, and wear our masks. Then we can think of creating stories, of something new. Unless we’ve already begun, while toiling away under quarantine.

Please take care of yourself and others. 

 

The Two-Week Cliff

Hey! How’s everyone doing out there? Now that schools in New York State are closed for in-school learning for the year, I am sure some of you are a little on edge. I don’t blame you. But soon enough, it will be summer, and then… I really have no clue. I’m not psychic. I write stories and teach English, so I’ll stay in my lane.

Which brings me to the cliff. Today One in Ten has been out for two weeks. Therefore, on Amazon, it’s about to fall off the cliff, or keep the earth below its feet. The algorithms that drive the almighty Amazon are ruthless and will let One in Ten fall and then move onto the next similar title. Unless.

Unless there are sales and/or reviews. So, if you have not reviewed, pretty please, do. If you have been on the fence about reading, pick up a copy. Tell a friend who you think might be interested. Heck, buy one for your mother for Mother’s’ Day 😉 

In a sad turn of events, much like those Murder Hornets, One in Ten is incredibly relevant right now. While we are squirreled away, those who are addicted to opioids are dying. Based on the lack of empathetic response from our federal government to the pandemic, I can imagine an approach similar to that found in One in Ten for those suffering from addiction. Give it a read, you’ll see what I mean.

Thank you for your readership these past two weeks. It’s been fun to see the purchases, library loans, and reviews in real-time. Please keep up the effort and help keep One in Ten from falling off the cliff. I don’t think Amazon sells a rope long enough to save it.

One Week for One in Ten: The Necessity of Reviews

Hey, everyone. I hope you are well and are taking on another week week at home with gusto. All right, maybe not gusto, but positivity 😉

I also hope you had the opportunity to download a copy of One in Ten last week. If not, the ebook is only $2.99. If a physical book is more your thing, the paperback is $9.99 and the hardcover is $15.99. Therefore, if you have read, are reading, or intend to read, I ask that you take a moment when you are finished to review on Amazon.

This novel is all on me, so the only way I can expand the reach is for Amazon to sprinkle its magic dust on the title and share it with others. They do this in a variety of ways, but all boil down to having reviews. There are other marketing services that I intend to use, but guess what, yeah, they also need to see reviews before I can use them.

So, if/when you have the opportunity to fill out some stars and write a sentence or two, I so very much appreciate it. Meanwhile, happy reading, and please stay healthy. 

You Are Prepared for Today

 

Today is release day for One in Ten! Feel free to go snag an ebook, paperback, or hardback copy now, and then come back and read the rest of this post (the ebook is free all week). I’m not going anywhere. Many of us aren’t going anywhere. 

Normally, I’d be writing about all the reasons why One in Ten is awesome and how you should tell everyone. But today is not a normal book release day. No day, recently, has had much normalcy. Therefore, let me suggest that in One in Ten, and in fact within all of my novels, you will see characters who could handle today, the today of our new world, and it is my belief that if they can, you can, too.

I don’t write about well-adjusted teenagers dealing with run-of-the-mill conflicts. My characters are flawed and facing insurmountable challenges. Yet, they rise to those challenges. Tony, in Tap Out, faces a homicidal biker gang. Ben, in Dare Me, faces his own ego and fear of death. Greg, in Press Play, faces a corrupt and violent athletic system. Avery, in Look Past, faces a town’s loathing and a killer’s desire. And now we have Kenny in One in Ten. He faces a government seeking to erase him.

My purpose with these stories is to demonstrate that life doesn’t wait until you are ready to throw itself at you. It does so whenever and however it wants. I force my characters to understand that no one can control this fact. All they can control are their reactions to whatever has been thrown at them. My characters, for all their flaws, embrace this, lean into the mess, and seek to find a way through. Let them be examples for you. Right now, especially Kenny.

In One in Ten, Kenny is an addict who has all of his choices taken away. He has nothing left, except a desire to see the truth of the rehabilitation program he’s been tossed into. He trusts his experience to know something isn’t right, and because of this he takes on the impossible.

Right now, all of us are struggling to know what to do with the world, our country, our state. We don’t know if we have the ability to handle the next turn. You do, though. You are prepared for this day. And for the next. Because there was no way to prepare, and so you already have all that you need. You are now like my characters. Therefore, trust yourself. Be resourceful. Recognize what is true and what is false around you. Protect who you love. Do not give up.

I hope in reading One in Ten you see the strength in Kenny, not in spite of his faults, but because of them. You have to get knocked down to know how tough you are, to know whether or not you can get back up. We have all been knocked down recently, and I hope you have all found your way back up. If not, don’t fault yourself. Instead, respect yourself, who you are and what you need. And if that need is strength to carry on, feel free to look to my characters, who are the embodiment of the human spirit, which rises up, regardless. 

I hope you are all well. I hope you all weather this storm with the least amount of harm. I hope you find the will within yourself to forge through wherever this path is leading. I hope your hearts aren’t hardened toward one another. This is not a zero sum game. So, stay at home if you can, work, stay informed, binge, read, stay healthy, and know you are prepared.

One Week

One week from now, One in Ten will be out in the world. Technically, the ebook will be available on 4/20, but hold off on that. Wait for 4/21. It will be free on 4/21 and the paperback will be available for purchase 😉

It’s a lot to ask anyone to pay attention to anything besides the bare necessities right now. I know that in the face of our current world, a novel might just be more noise. I know that we are losing loved ones at an alarming rate and the end is not in sight. But there’s still reason to hope, and I think you will find a surprising amount of hope in One in Ten.

If you’ve read my other books, then you know I write bleak stories (just think of the ending to Tap Out). While One in Ten is similarly dark, those who have read it tell me it has one of the more hopeful messages I have ever written. I am glad that’s the case, especially right now. We all could use a little hope, some light amid this darkness.

Therefore, between now and 4/21, pre-order if you’d like, or simply wait for Tuesday. If you want a really great deal, then definitely wait for Tuesday and download for free. At some point, when the world is a bit more accessible, I will sign copies of paperbacks and hardbacks. We will party again.

I appreciate all of you who care enough to read my work and purchase copies. You are my light. So, get ready to read about Kenny and his addiction and the way that he faces the darkness in his own life by holding on and having hope.

Be well. Stay healthy. See you in a week.

Preorder now:

One in Ten ebook US

One in Ten ebook UK

One in Ten hardback

Free. Free, Free, Free.

Hey, everyone! I hope you are all managing to stay well and have adjusted to life in quarantine. You may have already exhausted the movies and series (Tiger King) you planned on watching on Netflix, and have possibly burned through your To Be Read Pile. Now you need something new, but money is tight, and going to a store is not ideal. What to do?

In two weeks, One in Ten will be out, and it will be free to download for the first four days of its release. I know right now the ebook is listed for $2.99. Well, on 4.21 that price will get knocked to nothing, and it will stay that way until 4.24 at 11:59 PM. 

Therefore, set a reminder, or put the date on the empty calendar we all have. I hope you enjoy and I hope my work provides you a bit of escape. It’s an engrossing tale, and one that sees a government ask, How to best deal with this medical problem, and then come up with an unsettling answer. Are there parallels to today? You read and tell me. Better, you read for free and then tell Amazon.

For now, stay at home, if you can. Stay safe when you’re out. Take care of one another. Take care of yourself. And if you’re not in the mood for a story like One in Ten, right now, download it anyway. You will in the mood for it in the future. And we will see that future, however changed it will be.

Be well.

Release Status: It’s Your Choice

I’ve never loved self-promotion, and I like it a heck of a lot less during a global pandemic. However, I also understand that people would like a distraction during this time, and books offer an escape that is welcome. Therefore, I still intend to release One in Ten on 4/21. Pre-ordering is still available now. I can change the release date, but I’m not sure if that’s best. Here’s why.

In order for the world to even recognize my book, I had a plan in place. Students in the area and beyond are currently reading or have read One in Ten. The intent was for them to write reviews on Amazon during release week, 4/21-4/24. Amazon sees those reviews and starts suggesting my book to others, and then digital word-of-mouth grows. Well, all of those students are home now. I don’t know how much interaction they will have with the English teachers and librarians who set up this process. Therefore, release week may come and go without much in the way of reviews. Which, obviously, is not ideal.

However, I have options. One, I can send the manuscript to anyone who wants it right now. Send me an email and it’s yours. Two, I can release early, make the ebook free for  a week and you will all have the same access, just via Amazon. So, here’s the contact link. Let me know which you would prefer, me to send you a PDF now, or for me to release early. Either way, you’ll get the novel for free. Then, if you review, many many more people will realize it exists. And during this time, I think you will absolutely enjoy the escape One in Ten provides. It does, ironically, demonstrate how a government deals with a healthcare crisis. Therefore, it may also be particularly relevant.

So, reach out. Let me know what you’d like. I’m here for you.

Be healthy. Stay well. Happy reading!

Life in the Time of Corona

I am not a scientist and so I will not provide any insight into our current medical crisis. However, I am an author and an educator. I create stories and I explore them with students. We are not living in a tale. This is not a story of a fictional monster. The threat is real, and as adults we need to accept that and move on, appropriately. Arguing over whether the steps taken are “too much” is not the point. Moving safely along the path is. Wait until the dust settles before saying, “I told you so.” Better, when this is all over, just let that statement go. In the meantime, we have work to do.

Today, on this forgotten Saint Patrick’s Day, I begin teaching remotely. I’m prepared, but I know some teachers are not. These are new and uncharted waters, so please have patience as my colleagues begin navigating. The same goes for all of the students out there. Some of you are good to go. Some aren’t even close. Reach out. Let someone know you need help if you do. Trust me, there is a desire among educators, desperate to help. You are not alone in this.

I would normally be touting some facet of One in Ten in order to get you to buy it on 4/21. However, I have no idea if that release date will change or stay the same. It’s currently not my top priority. Helping out is. Therefore, if you are a teacher, and you need something engaging for your students to read, let me know. I will gladly send you the PDF of One in Ten. Certainly you’ll want to read it first, but it’s a quick read, and I think you’ll find it more than suitable for your students (here’s Ch.1 and Ch. 2 if you need a sneak peek). It’s the least I can do. And if this stretches on and you’d like me to Zoom into a class, or record myself answering questions from your students, let me know. I am here and available.

Again, no science advice from me, just one suggestion. Be kind to each other in these ensuing weeks. Yes, it’s going to get worse, and yes, there will be a lot of blame going around. Avoid that and focus on what’s under your control. You cannot control what is going on around you, but you can control how you respond to it. How do you want to be remembered as we lived through Corona? Embrace the obstacle and come out as the hero.

One in Ten, Chapter 2

I hope you enjoyed the teaser video above. Now, if you’d like to read all of Chapter 2, please do so, below. However, if you need a refresher about where we left off with Kenny, click here for Chapter 1. Six weeks until One in Ten is available!

Chapter 2

The party ends with my relatives taking just enough leftovers so that we still have food for tomorrow. Dad walks Theo out. He squeezed my arm before he went, but fortunately didn’t offer any more advice. I don’t think I could have handled it. About all I can handle right now is the sensation of this bag in my pocket. I have to do something with it. This is not a choice. This is addiction in the real-world, not some stupid treatment center where there aren’t any drugs.

Mom’s in the kitchen, tidying up. The sound of the Tupperware lids snapping into place is comforting. I worked in the kitchen at my second treatment center. We packaged a lot of leftovers, and I scrubbed a lot of Tupperware, but I loved that place. It was the cleanest, with the best-looking staff. Strange details like that matter. I was willing to do anything for this one, smoking hot counselor, Hannah. I was fifteen and she was probably in her twenties, and holy hell, every time she smiled, I melted a little. It was like the tiniest bump of H, but it did the trick.

Only for so long, though. The memory of her faded not long after I got home and I needed real drugs, not smiles.

“Do you need any help?” I ask, while holding onto the wall leading into the kitchen. I want her to say no, but I’m trying not to live like the asshole I usually am. Or maybe I’m stalling, trying to stifle the baggie’s voice.

Mom looks around the room. “No, I’ve got it.” She looks at me. “Did you have fun?”

I wouldn’t call that gathering fun, but I say, “Absolutely. So much better than what I was doing this time last week.”

Instead of laughing at my joke her face loses its levity. She looks downright sad for a moment, before saying, “Right. But you’re here now.”

It sounds like she’s convincing herself of this fact.

“Yeah. Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Her head snaps. “No, I’m not upset. Not at all.” She forces a wide, fake smile, and as much as I know what’s going on with her, I don’t really know. I’ve been away and they’ve been here, struggling, for sure. Financially, emotionally, and in ways I can’t comprehend. That’s what therapy gets you to consider, but then baggies and potential scores and old connections help you forget.

The front door opens and Dad comes in, laughing. “Man, Theo is in a great mood.”

Mom raises her eyebrows at me, and we both turn to greet him.

“Seriously, he was just cracking jokes and telling me about this project he’s working on.”

“You believe him?” I ask.

Dad grabs a carrot from the wings’ container. He bites down. “What do you mean?”

How does he not understand? “Do you think he’s really working on something? Not just blowing smoke?”

My parents look at one another. It’s one of those unspoken communication moments. Then Dad nods. He looks back at me. “Kenny, Theo is actually doing well. He’s writing for Netflix.”

“What?” I’m genuinely confused. Theo’s always been evasive about his work, so how can Dad know this?

“I’ll show you. His name’s on the credits for a few of the shows. It’s legit.”

“So why’s he still driving that crappy car of his?”

Another moment of silence, another silent communication between them. Then Mom answers. “He’s still paying off his rehab bill.”

That hurts. But it also makes sense. Theo didn’t go away until he was older. He was an adult, which means he got to foot the bill. It’s not as if Dad’s parents would have helped anyway. They have that mantra of You made your bed, now you’re going to lie in it. Always seemed harsh to me.

“Well,” I say, and don’t have anything more.

Dad clasps my shoulder. “Hey, the best thing is he’s left you with that gift, his journal. You won’t question the legitimacy of what’s there, trust me.”

“Don, don’t push,” Mom says.

Dad squeezes my shoulder a bit tighter. “I’m not, just offering some advice.”

His words echo through me, as do the memories of our meetings with therapists, pre-release. They have all these rules, which makes it feel like they’re trying to bring the facility into the real world. But we all follow them, like New Year’s resolutions, and just as quickly, we fall back into what we know. Dad’s on script, and so is Mom, and so I know my line.

“It’s all right. I actually want to chill for a bit. Maybe I’ll read some of the journal.”

Behind me, Mom says, “That’s your choice, honey.”

Dad nods. I’m in one hell of a supportive sandwich, and yet it feels stifling.

“Thanks,” I say, and take a step toward my room. “And don’t let me forget to call Henry later. I now he’s got meetings lined up.” He’s my sponsor and is probably itching to hear what’s what.

“You got it,” they say, in unison, and then they laugh, which makes me smile, because if they can still do that together, all is not lost. So maybe, neither am I.

I grab Theo’s journal and settle onto my bed. Once there, my leg burns. It’s like having a toothache. You literally can’t think of anything else besides the pain. Until you figure something out, like pinching yourself, or stabbing your arm with a pencil, repeatedly. It was the stupidest thing for me not to tell anyone about the stash. This is my fault. Yeah, I wasn’t one-hundred percent certain that there were drugs there, but it would have been so much better if my parents had found this bag, searching on a maybe, than me, practically willing it into existence.

It’s like I’ve forgotten everything I’ve been through, all that I’ve learned at the treatment centers I’ve been in. Somehow, I’ve seemed to misplace all my logic, because do I really want to lose it all to the government? Don’t I want to be clean?

I grab a pillow and jam it over my face and scream. I bite the pillow and scream some more and the anger outweighs the tears I know are coming next, followed by my self-hatred, which gives me all the excuse I need to use again.

Air. I inhale deeply, fill my belly and count to five. I repeat the process until I’m no longer panicking. At the edge of my dresser sits my uncle’s journal. Beyond it is my closet. This feels like a path, and I’d better start on it straight, because I’ve already started to detour.

I move as fast as I can, so I don’t have to think. My hand’s in my pocket as I reach the closet, but I’ve forgotten the screwdriver, and now the baggie sits in my hand, winking at me. I kneel down and dig my fingertips in and yank. The Velcro budges, but not much. The baggie feels like it’s crawling up my arm, guided by GPS, marking the way to the crook, to my veins, which are healthy again, bulging blue. I put my shoulder into it this time and don’t care that my knuckles are scraping. I push down as hard as I can and the board gives way. The hole from which the baggie came is open. This is like some paranormal movie and I have to return the demon to the other world, and so I do. I play the hero. I toss the baggie in, snap the board back in place, and then hear the scream from the other side, the pain of death.

Except there is no voice and there is no death, and I could be the antihero at any moment. For now, I’m safe, and a certain calmness washes over me. I’ve won the battle. But I’ve fought so many that this one feels hollow.

I stand, grab my uncle’s journal and take it back to my bed. I breathe, and then before I can think another thought about drugs, I open the damn thing and read.

On the inside cover, Theo’s written: The rules are at the end. A list. To understand them, though, you must start at the beginning.

“Okay, Yoda,” I say, and turn to the back. Sure enough, Theo’s five rules are scrawled.

  1. Honesty, at all times, with yourself and others.
  1. A mind works best when it’s open, so drop your judgment and your preconceptions.
  1. You are your surroundings, so be sure that who and what are around you reflect what you want to see in yourself.
  1. Avoid temptations of all varieties, because if there is no spark, you cannot have fire.
  1. Believe in something greater than yourself. This doesn’t have to be God, but it does have to possess the same power as one.

None of these are new ideas. I’ve heard some variation of these ever since I began using, or really since my parents tried to stop me from using. How is this supposed to save me? I don’t even know how to do half of this, and I’ll bet not even sober people do.

I set the journal down and look out my window. Night has fallen and the moon is shrouded in clouds. “Fuck you, Theo,” I say. “Like you have a clue.”

There’s a knock at the door and then Mom’s walking in. “Are you okay?” Her eyes are all over me, looking, searching, praying.

“Yeah, I just started Theo’s journal. It’s got me thinking.”

“Oh.” It’s obvious that she’s not sure how to proceed. Should she leave me with these thoughts or not? She holds out her phone. “Well, this may be perfect timing, then. Henry called.”

It’s like she’s pointing a gun at me. I’d rather her pull the trigger than make me talk to him. Not right now. He’ll hear in my voice that I’m desperate, that my mind’s not like a parachute, and that the only belief I have is that this will not end well.

“Uh, great. That is like perfect timing,” I say and reach for the phone.

Mom holds onto it for a second and cannot contain her smile. “Let me know when you’re done.” She closes the door and I put the phone up to my ear.

“Henry, hey, it’s Kenny.”

“It sure as hell better be you. I don’t want to know if you have anyone else in the room with you.” He laughs at his own joke and I chuckle along because it’s polite. There’s no one else in my life, male or female. Once I started using, drugs were all that mattered. I know I’ve hooked up with people, but I can barely remember what happened. And in rehab you can’t touch anyone but yourself. And even then, you feel so guilty all the time, it barely rises.

“On a scale of one to ten, how much do you want to use right now?” Henry, he cuts to the damn chase.

I know I’m at like an eight, but if I say that, he’ll have my parents sleeping in my room. “I won’t lie, like a five.”

“Bullshit. I talked to your mother. You’ve been pacing the house, you had a party, your uncle left you some words of wisdom. You’re crawling out of your damn skin.”

It sucks to be this transparent. Or obvious. Or a stupid stereotype. “All right, like an eight.”

“Now that sounds about right. There’s an NA meeting in a half hour at the Presbyterian church in town. You’re going.”

“But I’m so damn tired. Let me sleep the itch away.”

“Yeah, because that works. Get your ass outta bed. Your dad probably has his keys in his hand already.” There’s a pause and in it I close my eyes and am thankful. “Got it?”

“I do. Thanks, Henry.”

“Any time, Kenny. Work the steps.”

I hang up. “Screw the steps,” I mutter. I’m not sure if I mean this, but I’ve yet to find someone who has managed to get clean from following those twelve mantras. Yet, who am I to talk?

I take Henry’s advice and get out of bed. Dad is in the hallway when I open my door. “You ready?” he says and holds up his keys as if to punctuate his question.

I pat myself down, out of habit, but I have no wallet or money or phone or drugs—at least not on me. “Yeah.”

We walk out to the car and Dad pulls out of the driveway. I was in the backseat for the ride home, and that was a trip, because it had been so long since I’d been in a car, outside, and free. Now, in the passenger seat, I lower the window a crack and feel the air on my face.

“You feeling all right?” Dad asks.

“Better than I have in a while. It’s the little things, like car rides and open windows. You forget about them.”

He’s quiet, probably wondering what else I’ve forgotten. The list could go on and on. We pull up to the church and a few people stand outside, smoking cigarettes, a sure sign we’re in the right spot. “All right, so I’ll see you in like an hour or so?” I ask.

Dad reaches into the back and pulls a plastic bag onto his lap. “Actually, you can call when you’re done. That is if you still remember our numbers.”

He hands me a Trac phone, which is this shitty Android, but it’s a smartphone, so I can’t complain much. I tap the contacts. There are none. This is perfect, because, yes, I remember my parents’ numbers, but none of my friends/dealers’, whoever they were to me.

I dial and a moment later Dad’s phone rings. He smiles.

“Put me in your contacts in case you want to text,” I say.

“I will, Kenny,” he says, but makes no move toward his phone. He looks me over and I know what he’s going to say before he says it. “I’m proud of you. You did the work, inside, so let’s continue it, outside.”

Because it’s that easy. The problem with addiction is that it’s not compartmentalized. You can’t fix one area, you have to fix them all, and I’m not sure anyone has figured out how to treat the entire person and their surroundings, and their past, and their habits, and every little trigger that becomes an excuse. But I say, “Couldn’t agree more. Thanks, Dad.” I tuck my new phone away and get out of the car, cross the street, and join the group outside the church.

There are no signs, so I ask a guy in his twenties who’s smoked his cigarette down to the filter, “This NA?”

“Better be.” He smiles. “If not, we’re about to learn about Jesus or some shit.”

I laugh and it feels good. The guy laughs back and nods toward the stairs. We descend for the meeting or for Jesus or for something else altogether.

Preorder now:

One in Ten ebook US

One in Ten ebook UK

One in Ten hardback