STEM gone wrong: the science of One in Ten

A common tension in Science Fiction is the question of potential outcomes: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. This is the ground on which One in Ten stands when it comes to the science and technology within it. Yes, the government has a program that “works” but should they really use it?

Consider these MIT robots. Should this be? If you’ve seen Black Mirror’s Metalhead” you know the answer.

Yes, while the “Cheetah” robots look adorable and might get rated a 13/10 on We Rate Dogs with “would give all the pets”, in my stories I tend to look beneath the positives and expose the negative. The same is true in One in Ten, and the science it’s based on begs for such exploration.

Consider the fact that the opioid epidemic (pills and heroin and synthetics) have cost the US $2.5 trillion dollars over the past four years. Yes, that’s trillion with a “t”. The incentive to cure–or at minimum produce a better treatment–is not only a social issue, but a financial one. And when there’s money, there’s bound to be corruption.

Therefore, it wasn’t a great leap to consider how technology could be used to provide that cure/treatment, and with my background, having technology running part of the body was an easy and logical fit. 

The country may now be at odds with the Boomers, but thanks to their longevity, we are witnessing a rise in medical devices, especially implants. From new hips, to pacemakers and defibrillators, to stents, and even as you see above, implants to help restore memorySo, why not use technology to cure/treat heroin addiction?

VR and magnetic stimulation are already being used to treat addiction, so what about something implantable, with capabilities embedded into the code that are more powerful than human desire?

Back to the original consideration.

If we could do something like that, should we? What does it mean to interrupt the process of breaking addiction through artificial means? Who is the individual now, if part of the brain (or maybe all) is being run by a machine? Are they still themselves, or a cyborg self? Are they still addicted? And what happens if the technology glitches or just stops working?

The essential question being asked is how much of our humanity should we surrender to technology? You’ll have to read the novel to find out.

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One in Ten Giveaway

Today is my wife’s birthday, and so it only make sense that I should be offering gifts. Therefore, you can win an Advanced Reader Copy of One in Ten, in your choice of hardback or paperback. All you need to do is share this post and tag me in it. That’s it. You have until the end of the week, Friday at 11:59 PM, EST, to share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and I will use a random generator to select a winner.

Thanks for helping to spread the word. I’m off to celebrate!

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Chapter 1 

Here’s the secret no one tells you: drugs are fun. I know a lot of addicts and I can’t think of one who started using because they wanted to feel bad. It’s the opposite. We all know what could go wrong, both long and short term. But that’s a gamble, that’s life. Therefore, it’s worth rolling the dice, because snake eyes are a potential, but so are those double six boxcars. The risk is worth the reward of escaping from this world. Every. Single. Time.

No one really tells you about rehab, either. Not early on, not when you’re partying and able to get through the next day clean. Then, you know of people who had to go, and everyone laughs about them, but secretly we don’t want to become them. So, sometimes we go on little clean stints, mini-sobriety days or weeks, if we can manage them. We still use, but only enough so we don’t lose our minds. So we don’t have a seizure and then have no choice about rehab.

Here’s another secret, maybe the last one, maybe the biggest of all. Being clean is hell.  This is my third time. Who knew by seventeen I’d go through three centers? Certainly not my parents. I’m sure they imagined their boy growing up to be a doctor or lawyer or any of those other cliché things. No one wants a junkie. But that’s what I am, who I grew up to be. That’s why being clean is hell. It’s not who I am, but who I will forever be.

Yet, this clean has to be permanent. The third time has to be the charm. If not, the government owns me.

However, with my relatives pulling into the driveway and parking on the side lawn, all here to celebrate the fact that I’m done, really done, I’m not sure what to feel. I should be thrilled for the support. Excited for the change. But if I’m being honest, I’m scared out of my mind. What am I going to do now? As in right now. As in a day from now. As in, after. I know drugs. I know being high. My way of getting through all my rehabs, including this last one, was the idea that there’s an escape hatch to this real world: I could always use again.

The knock on my door startles me away from the window. Mom walks in, sees me jump. “Did I scare you?” she asks, but isn’t interested in a response. This victory is her victory, too.

“I just wasn’t expecting everyone. Is that Uncle Theo’s car?”

She moves to the window, but places a hand on my elbow, as if to keep me tethered. As if I’m a balloon.

“It is. Don’t know how he keeps it running.” She turns back and looks me over. Her smile slips. “You feeling all right? You’re pale.” Mom touches my forehead with the back of her hand. It’s sad how she thinks she can somehow still take care of me, can understand what’s actually wrong.

“There’s just a lot of people, all that attention,” I say.

“They love you. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” She holds me at arm’s length. “You’re a success story. Remember, your cousin, Gene, he still can’t get clean. And that Bobby you were friends with, he just entered the government program. They haven’t heard from him.”

I hate how she lets this hang, instead of saying what she thinks: I’ll be like Bobby if I start using again. I’d just begun the last facility when they passed the law. Private insurance is no longer allowed to pay for rehab. The government is sick of the “waste.” It’s not clear if they mean us or the money spent. Regardless, we thought this was great news. Not having to break our parents’ banks any more was such a relief. You’d be surprised at the amount of guilt we hold. Then one of the counselors explained how the program works. When he finished telling us, it was as if he’d described how each of us would die, and somehow, we had to find the will to get clean. We watched as they transitioned the center over while we were getting sober. The writing was on the wall: This is your last chance.

“Hey, there you are,” Dad says from the door. I don’t know if he means Mom or me, but the way his eyes don’t meet mine helps me with the answer. “The pizza guy’s here. Which card am I supposed to use?” He lowers his voice when he asks, and I feel the weight of Mom’s answer hang from me.

“The red one. There’s nothing in the account until I get paid Friday.”

Dad nods, looks like he’s about to say something, but then someone’s calling for him from the other room, probably one of his cousins letting him know about the pizza guy at the door. The pizza guy that Dad will pay with a credit card, because each one of my rehabs cost more than any vacation they could have ever dreamed of. And if they did, those dreams went up in smoke.

Mom pats my hand. “We’re fine. You’re fine. Everything’s going to be all right. Take a minute if you need, but then come on out. They’re here for you.”

This sounds more like a threat than support, but I nod and say, “Okay,” and then she’s gone. I look out my window again. It’s a gorgeous spring day, almost summer. I haven’t felt a day like this in years. I’ve been too absorbed in my drug-bubble world. The breeze blows through the window, bringing with it the scent of flowers and grass. It’s too real. I shut my window, take a breath, and walk out of my room to face my family.

“There he is!” someone yells. I look around the room and try to identify who spoke, but it’s useless, they’re all moving toward me now, no regard for personal space. Aunts grab my cheeks, uncles clap my shoulders, cousins say I don’t look so bad for a junkie. This is the third time we’ve done this, and their enthusiasm surprises me. Yet, it’s not as if they don’t know what I know. This time their support has to stick.

I am a junkie. I’m in love with heroin. I do look better than most, but it’s taken me months to get looking this good again, to sleep again, to regain an appetite. This façade is going to be impossible to keep up.

They manage to sit me in a chair directly in front of a table of presents. I can’t remember the last time I had a party with gifts. Was it seventh grade? I wasn’t using then. Drinking, yeah. After. After is a long stretch of blackouts and missing time.

“Open! Open!” They yell at me like I’m eight years old, again, and I oblige. It’s weird, I want to open these gifts, even though I can sense from the size and shape, most will be clothing and gift cards.

And they are. But as I open each one, I take my time. I say thank you. I tally up, in my head, what each pair of ugly shorts and each collared shirt might net me when I return them. I try and fail to restrain myself from equating that money into drugs. There’s a long pause and I look over the table to see if I missed a bag.

My uncle Theo approaches, all beard and beady eyes. He stares for a moment too long and I look away. Before I went to rehab, I said some awful things to him. Called him washed up. Told him he’d wasted his life, that he could have been someone. That he no longer has talent.

He used to write freelance scripts. He’s not connected to Hollywood, but some of his work has been produced, so he tells us. Theo also used. Coke was his thing, but it ruined him as well. I know now that when I was yelling at him, I was yelling at myself, or some version of who I was. Doesn’t matter that I was coming down, and miserable, I still said those things, more than once. Yet, here is my uncle, awkwardly standing before me with a thick gift, his eyes boring into me.

“What’s this?” I ask, taking the package from him.

“You’ll see,” he whispers. Around his head, phones come out. They’re recording this. Shit.

I pull out a journal. Not some new, moleskine one, but an old, slightly warped composition notebook.

I look at Theo. “What?”

He laughs and his beard parts to reveal his teeth. He’s furiously happy, and in a second his arms are around me. Theo squeezes for a moment and then we separate. “It’s my journal. The one from when I finally got clean.”

I open the pages in front of me and Theo tenses. He’s talked about this journal so many times I’ve wondered if it was real. How does a junkie keep track of anything? I guess we do whatever’s necessary for the things that matter most, like our drugs.

“Remember,” he says, “It’s like the Basketball Diaries.”

I remember. I even watched the movie version of the memoir a couple of years ago. That guy got it right, but it didn’t inspire me to quit, just made me realize I’d have great material for a book someday.

“I haven’t read it in a while,” Theo says, “so I apologize if it’s a mess in spots, but trust me, it will help you.”

There’s no way he can know this. I’ve been told the same line by countless therapists and psychiatrists. Nothing has worked. But it would be good if this did. The government’s plans for me are much worse.

“Thanks,” I say. “I appreciate this.”

“We can talk as you go. Just keep me in the loop. Okay?”

His face is inches from my own; it’s all I can see. And I know before I speak that I never want this to be my reflection. “Absolutely.”

A tear cascades into Theo’s beard. “Kenny, it will work this time.”

There’s applause and tears and my family thanks Theo and then someone says, “Let’s eat!” and the room moves toward the table and the pizza and the side dishes that were brought.

I sit, unable to comprehend. Or capable, just unwilling. Mom and Dad come over.

“You okay?” Mom asks.

“Yeah, just, wow. He’s talked about it, but here it is.” I hold up the beaten down journal.

“I’ve read some of it,” Dad says. “I agree with him. It could help you, and so many others. Why he hasn’t tried to get it published is beyond me.”

It isn’t beyond me. I’ve had to keep journals every place I’ve been. If anyone ever read them, or worse, published them? Nope. Just, nope.

“Come on, let’s eat,” Mom says. She slaps my thigh to get me to stand. One day home and the typical routines are falling into place.

I stand and it’s too much. Something about the smell of the pizza or the body heat of the room makes me want air. “I’ll be right back,” I say, holding up the journal as reason for leaving, and go to my room. I close the door behind me and the space is as stifling as the rest of the house.

I don’t want air.

If I really wanted air I would have walked outside, onto the front stoop or the back patio. I wait to see if they follow me. There are no footsteps, just laughter and merriment beyond the door. And why wouldn’t there be? Kenny’s home, and he looks so good, and Theo’s words will save him. My parents should have paid more attention to the instructions they were given. I shouldn’t be alone like this. But there’s pizza and family and happiness, something they haven’t had in quite some time. It’s euphoric, something I understand perfectly.

I rifle through my desk drawer. I noticed yesterday that they’d cleaned it, but they didn’t remove everything. This is not exactly a clean slate. You think they would have learned. Or, maybe I was just good at covering my tracks. Either way, the flat-head screwdriver is still in the bottom drawer. What do they think I use it for?

I take it and go to my closet. The baseboard appears the same, but there’s only one way to find out. My heart begins to trot inside my chest. I can hear them talking about me just beyond the door, and I’m careful to keep an ear trained for anyone calling. I bend over and my face feels like a mask as blood pounds in my ears. My chest is tight and my eyes bulge. I can make out the Velcro from here. I get on one knee and my heart is thrumming.

The screwdriver slides in neatly and I pry. The section pops loose and reveals one of my stash spots. Apparently, one they never found, because either I’m hallucinating, or there’s a baggie still inside.

I rub a hand over my face. It slides over the tacky sweat that has blossomed. The fear I felt is gone, and only in this moment I realize how alive I feel. Not uncertain, not insecure, not bumbling around hospital hallways and cafeterias and therapy rooms. This is me, kneeling before a year-old bag of heroin, happier than Theo was to hand me a future. I’m pleased with my past self. I know him so much better.

My hand goes into the hole. Really, it’s as if my hand is acting on its own volition. I’m merely watching it, and smiling at it, and cheering for it. Like this is some twisted claw game at an arcade.

It returns, and does not let me down. The bag sits in my palm, the exterior smooth and white, some sort of devil image stamped on the front staring up at me. It had a name, but I can’t recall it. My brain is swimming, pleading, moaning. Thought is almost impossible.

“Where’s Kenny?” The voice is clear and well outside my room, but I know where it will lead, and I cannot have that.

I reconnect the Velcro and then slide the baggie into my pocket. It burns, a reminder of possibility, of that escape. But not now. I can’t risk it now. I’ve been clean long enough to recognize that. My heart is still running double-time and I sit on the edge of my bed and hold my breath, try to slow it all down.

The door opens and Mom comes through. “You okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, just a little overwhelmed. I needed a second.”

She sits next to me and I tilt toward her. “I understand, but don’t run off like that. I got a little nervous.”

I don’t look her in the eye. Can’t. “That makes sense. Theo’s gift—I don’t know, the implication of this not working—I’m scared.” The honesty shocks me. The fact that I have heroin in my pocket does not negate the fact that I want to be clean. I do.

She rubs my back. “Be in the here and now. It’s all that you need to focus on. Right now, your family is here. Right now, you are clean. Right now, I am sitting next to you, on your bed, in your room. How long’s it been since we’ve been able to do this?” Her voice drops with the last question.

I don’t want her to cry, and I know she’s about to. She should be happy. I can hold my shit together for a little while longer. Maybe I can even just taste the heroin and then flush it. One parting gift. This thought gives me strength. I take Mom’s hand. “Come on. The here and now says I’m starving.”

She laughs harder than she should and we stand. When we walk into the living room, I see the anxiety on faces slip away. I capitalize on that. “Is there any pepperoni left?”

This brings forth a series of scampering, and in a second I have a plate with two enormous pieces of pepperoni pizza on it. I chomp into the first and the room relaxes. I smile around the dough and look over the room. Dad and Theo are standing together. They have the same look on their faces. They know. Neither is eating. Both stare. Sweat breaks out along my back.

“Huh, it does look like a duck,” Theo says.

“Told you,” Dad replies.

I turn and see the cheap painting that they are looking at. One they must have purchased while I was away. Something, I bet, to cover the holes in the wall behind that frame.

One in Ten, Ch. 1

 

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This post doesn’t need much of an introduction. Here’s Chapter 1 of One in Ten. Enjoy and share widely. 4/21 is coming soon.

Here’s the secret no one tells you: drugs are fun. I know a lot of addicts and I can’t think of one who started using because they wanted to feel bad. It’s the opposite. We all know what could go wrong, both long and short term. But that’s a gamble, that’s life. Therefore, it’s worth rolling the dice, because snake eyes are a potential, but so are those double six boxcars. The risk is worth the reward of escaping from this world. Every. Single. Time.

No one really tells you about rehab, either. Not early on, not when you’re partying and able to get through the next day clean. Then, you know of people who had to go, and everyone laughs about them, but secretly we don’t want to become them. So, sometimes we go on little clean stints, mini-sobriety days or weeks, if we can manage them. We still use, but only enough so we don’t lose our minds. So we don’t have a seizure and then have no choice about rehab.

Here’s another secret, maybe the last one, maybe the biggest of all. Being clean is hell.  This is my third time. Who knew by seventeen I’d go through three centers? Certainly not my parents. I’m sure they imagined their boy growing up to be a doctor or lawyer or any of those other cliché things. No one wants a junkie. But that’s what I am, who I grew up to be. That’s why being clean is hell. It’s not who I am, but who I will forever be.

Yet, this clean has to be permanent. The third time has to be the charm. If not, the government owns me.

However, with my relatives pulling into the driveway and parking on the side lawn, all here to celebrate the fact that I’m done, really done, I’m not sure what to feel. I should be thrilled for the support. Excited for the change. But if I’m being honest, I’m scared out of my mind. What am I going to do now? As in right now. As in a day from now. As in, after. I know drugs. I know being high. My way of getting through all my rehabs, including this last one, was the idea that there’s an escape hatch to this real world: I could always use again.

The knock on my door startles me away from the window. Mom walks in, sees me jump. “Did I scare you?” she asks, but isn’t interested in a response. This victory is her victory, too.

“I just wasn’t expecting everyone. Is that Uncle Theo’s car?”

She moves to the window, but places a hand on my elbow, as if to keep me tethered. As if I’m a balloon.

“It is. Don’t know how he keeps it running.” She turns back and looks me over. Her smile slips. “You feeling all right? You’re pale.” Mom touches my forehead with the back of her hand. It’s sad how she thinks she can somehow still take care of me, can understand what’s actually wrong.

“There’s just a lot of people, all that attention,” I say.

“They love you. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” She holds me at arm’s length. “You’re a success story. Remember, your cousin, Gene, he still can’t get clean. And that Bobby you were friends with, he just entered the government program. They haven’t heard from him.”

I hate how she lets this hang, instead of saying what she thinks: I’ll be like Bobby if I start using again. I’d just begun the last facility when they passed the law. Private insurance is no longer allowed to pay for rehab. The government is sick of the “waste.” It’s not clear if they mean us or the money spent. Regardless, we thought this was great news. Not having to break our parents’ banks any more was such a relief. You’d be surprised at the amount of guilt we hold. Then one of the counselors explained how the program works. When he finished telling us, it was as if he’d described how each of us would die, and somehow, we had to find the will to get clean. We watched as they transitioned the center over while we were getting sober. The writing was on the wall: This is your last chance.

“Hey, there you are,” Dad says from the door. I don’t know if he means Mom or me, but the way his eyes don’t meet mine helps me with the answer. “The pizza guy’s here. Which card am I supposed to use?” He lowers his voice when he asks, and I feel the weight of Mom’s answer hang from me.

“The red one. There’s nothing in the account until I get paid Friday.”

Dad nods, looks like he’s about to say something, but then someone’s calling for him from the other room, probably one of his cousins letting him know about the pizza guy at the door. The pizza guy that Dad will pay with a credit card, because each one of my rehabs cost more than any vacation they could have ever dreamed of. And if they did, those dreams went up in smoke.

Mom pats my hand. “We’re fine. You’re fine. Everything’s going to be all right. Take a minute if you need, but then come on out. They’re here for you.”

This sounds more like a threat than support, but I nod and say, “Okay,” and then she’s gone. I look out my window again. It’s a gorgeous spring day, almost summer. I haven’t felt a day like this in years. I’ve been too absorbed in my drug-bubble world. The breeze blows through the window, bringing with it the scent of flowers and grass. It’s too real. I shut my window, take a breath, and walk out of my room to face my family.

“There he is!” someone yells. I look around the room and try to identify who spoke, but it’s useless, they’re all moving toward me now, no regard for personal space. Aunts grab my cheeks, uncles clap my shoulders, cousins say I don’t look so bad for a junkie. This is the third time we’ve done this, and their enthusiasm surprises me. Yet, it’s not as if they don’t know what I know. This time their support has to stick.

I am a junkie. I’m in love with heroin. I do look better than most, but it’s taken me months to get looking this good again, to sleep again, to regain an appetite. This façade is going to be impossible to keep up.

They manage to sit me in a chair directly in front of a table of presents. I can’t remember the last time I had a party with gifts. Was it seventh grade? I wasn’t using then. Drinking, yeah. After. After is a long stretch of blackouts and missing time.

“Open! Open!” They yell at me like I’m eight years old, again, and I oblige. It’s weird, I want to open these gifts, even though I can sense from the size and shape, most will be clothing and gift cards.

And they are. But as I open each one, I take my time. I say thank you. I tally up, in my head, what each pair of ugly shorts and each collared shirt might net me when I return them. I try and fail to restrain myself from equating that money into drugs. There’s a long pause and I look over the table to see if I missed a bag.

My uncle Theo approaches, all beard and beady eyes. He stares for a moment too long and I look away. Before I went to rehab, I said some awful things to him. Called him washed up. Told him he’d wasted his life, that he could have been someone. That he no longer has talent.

He used to write freelance scripts. He’s not connected to Hollywood, but some of his work has been produced, so he tells us. Theo also used. Coke was his thing, but it ruined him as well. I know now that when I was yelling at him, I was yelling at myself, or some version of who I was. Doesn’t matter that I was coming down, and miserable, I still said those things, more than once. Yet, here is my uncle, awkwardly standing before me with a thick gift, his eyes boring into me.

“What’s this?” I ask, taking the package from him.

“You’ll see,” he whispers. Around his head, phones come out. They’re recording this. Shit.

I pull out a journal. Not some new, moleskine one, but an old, slightly warped composition notebook.

I look at Theo. “What?”

He laughs and his beard parts to reveal his teeth. He’s furiously happy, and in a second his arms are around me. Theo squeezes for a moment and then we separate. “It’s my journal. The one from when I finally got clean.”

I open the pages in front of me and Theo tenses. He’s talked about this journal so many times I’ve wondered if it was real. How does a junkie keep track of anything? I guess we do whatever’s necessary for the things that matter most, like our drugs.

“Remember,” he says, “It’s like the Basketball Diaries.”

I remember. I even watched the movie version of the memoir a couple of years ago. That guy got it right, but it didn’t inspire me to quit, just made me realize I’d have great material for a book someday.

“I haven’t read it in a while,” Theo says, “so I apologize if it’s a mess in spots, but trust me, it will help you.”

There’s no way he can know this. I’ve been told the same line by countless therapists and psychiatrists. Nothing has worked. But it would be good if this did. The government’s plans for me are much worse.

“Thanks,” I say. “I appreciate this.”

“We can talk as you go. Just keep me in the loop. Okay?”

His face is inches from my own; it’s all I can see. And I know before I speak that I never want this to be my reflection. “Absolutely.”

A tear cascades into Theo’s beard. “Kenny, it will work this time.”

There’s applause and tears and my family thanks Theo and then someone says, “Let’s eat!” and the room moves toward the table and the pizza and the side dishes that were brought.

I sit, unable to comprehend. Or capable, just unwilling. Mom and Dad come over.

“You okay?” Mom asks.

“Yeah, just, wow. He’s talked about it, but here it is.” I hold up the beaten down journal.

“I’ve read some of it,” Dad says. “I agree with him. It could help you, and so many others. Why he hasn’t tried to get it published is beyond me.”

It isn’t beyond me. I’ve had to keep journals every place I’ve been. If anyone ever read them, or worse, published them? Nope. Just, nope.

“Come on, let’s eat,” Mom says. She slaps my thigh to get me to stand. One day home and the typical routines are falling into place.

I stand and it’s too much. Something about the smell of the pizza or the body heat of the room makes me want air. “I’ll be right back,” I say, holding up the journal as reason for leaving, and go to my room. I close the door behind me and the space is as stifling as the rest of the house.

I don’t want air.

If I really wanted air I would have walked outside, onto the front stoop or the back patio. I wait to see if they follow me. There are no footsteps, just laughter and merriment beyond the door. And why wouldn’t there be? Kenny’s home, and he looks so good, and Theo’s words will save him. My parents should have paid more attention to the instructions they were given. I shouldn’t be alone like this. But there’s pizza and family and happiness, something they haven’t had in quite some time. It’s euphoric, something I understand perfectly.

I rifle through my desk drawer. I noticed yesterday that they’d cleaned it, but they didn’t remove everything. This is not exactly a clean slate. You think they would have learned. Or, maybe I was just good at covering my tracks. Either way, the flat-head screwdriver is still in the bottom drawer. What do they think I use it for?

I take it and go to my closet. The baseboard appears the same, but there’s only one way to find out. My heart begins to trot inside my chest. I can hear them talking about me just beyond the door, and I’m careful to keep an ear trained for anyone calling. I bend over and my face feels like a mask as blood pounds in my ears. My chest is tight and my eyes bulge. I can make out the Velcro from here. I get on one knee and my heart is thrumming.

The screwdriver slides in neatly and I pry. The section pops loose and reveals one of my stash spots. Apparently, one they never found, because either I’m hallucinating, or there’s a baggie still inside.

I rub a hand over my face. It slides over the tacky sweat that has blossomed. The fear I felt is gone, and only in this moment I realize how alive I feel. Not uncertain, not insecure, not bumbling around hospital hallways and cafeterias and therapy rooms. This is me, kneeling before a year-old bag of heroin, happier than Theo was to hand me a future. I’m pleased with my past self. I know him so much better.

My hand goes into the hole. Really, it’s as if my hand is acting on its own volition. I’m merely watching it, and smiling at it, and cheering for it. Like this is some twisted claw game at an arcade.

It returns, and does not let me down. The bag sits in my palm, the exterior smooth and white, some sort of devil image stamped on the front staring up at me. It had a name, but I can’t recall it. My brain is swimming, pleading, moaning. Thought is almost impossible.

“Where’s Kenny?” The voice is clear and well outside my room, but I know where it will lead, and I cannot have that.

I reconnect the Velcro and then slide the baggie into my pocket. It burns, a reminder of possibility, of that escape. But not now. I can’t risk it now. I’ve been clean long enough to recognize that. My heart is still running double-time and I sit on the edge of my bed and hold my breath, try to slow it all down.

The door opens and Mom comes through. “You okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, just a little overwhelmed. I needed a second.”

She sits next to me and I tilt toward her. “I understand, but don’t run off like that. I got a little nervous.”

I don’t look her in the eye. Can’t. “That makes sense. Theo’s gift—I don’t know, the implication of this not working—I’m scared.” The honesty shocks me. The fact that I have heroin in my pocket does not negate the fact that I want to be clean. I do.

She rubs my back. “Be in the here and now. It’s all that you need to focus on. Right now, your family is here. Right now, you are clean. Right now, I am sitting next to you, on your bed, in your room. How long’s it been since we’ve been able to do this?” Her voice drops with the last question.

I don’t want her to cry, and I know she’s about to. She should be happy. I can hold my shit together for a little while longer. Maybe I can even just taste the heroin and then flush it. One parting gift. This thought gives me strength. I take Mom’s hand. “Come on. The here and now says I’m starving.”

She laughs harder than she should and we stand. When we walk into the living room, I see the anxiety on faces slip away. I capitalize on that. “Is there any pepperoni left?”

This brings forth a series of scampering, and in a second I have a plate with two enormous pieces of pepperoni pizza on it. I chomp into the first and the room relaxes. I smile around the dough and look over the room. Dad and Theo are standing together. They have the same look on their faces. They know. Neither is eating. Both stare. Sweat breaks out along my back.

“Huh, it does look like a duck,” Theo says.

“Told you,” Dad replies.

I turn and see the cheap painting that they are looking at. One they must have purchased while I was away. Something, I bet, to cover the holes in the wall behind that frame.

Preorder now:

One in Ten ebook US

One in Ten ebook UK

One in Ten hardback

One in Ten Preorder

One in Ten is now available for pre-order in ebook, paperback, and hardback. Yay?            

So, I’m new to this self-publishing front. I thought I could allow readers to pre-order both ebook and paperback versions of One in Ten on Amazon. Apparently Amazon is fine with ebook pre-orders, but not paperbacks–at least not for the self-pubbers. On 2/5 I accidentally “published” the paperback, until I realized my mistake and had to “unpublish” it.

So, yes, it does it exist, but you can’t pre-order it, which is a bummer because pre-orders matter. However, you can pre-order the ebook or hardback now. Just click on the proper link below:

One in Ten ebook US

One in Ten ebook UK

One in Ten hardback

Why pre-orders matter

In essence, pre-orders matter because they generate attention. If you pre-order, it says to Amazon or B&N, “People are interested in this book.” Amazon and B&N (especially Amazon) may then decide to show a little love and include One in Tein advertising, which should help sales. So, if you’re going to buy anyway, why not just pre-order? The ebook will automatically be available on 4/21, and the hardback will ship on that date as well. 

I am truly sorry that the paperback is not available for pre-order, but it will be available for purchase on 4/21! And here are the price points: $2.99 for the ebook, $9.99 for that pesky paperback, and $15.99 for the hardback (be prepared for a $5 shipping fee, though). I will run sales on all of these, so if you have friends and family who end up wanting a copy, check back here, because I will announce every sale going down.

Thank you for your interest

The fact that you’re reading this post says to me that you have an interest in my work, so thank you. Regardless of your purchasing decisions, I’m glad you’re here. Go check out the links for One in Tenand enjoy the cover. I will do a cover “reveal” with a giveaway next month, and I also intend to provide the first chapter and other insider information. So, stick around. While the pre-orders may not be ideal, the novel is 😉

One in Ten Influences: Black Mirror and Type 1

I often present to schools about how my work is mostly a byproduct of the intersection of my students’ lives and my own teen years. One in Ten is no exception, except that the novel also has significant Science Fiction and Dystopian elements, which are a departure for me. The reason, my influences at the time I was writing.

The exact date for when I began writing One in Ten is unclear, but the seeds were sown years ago with the series Black Mirror and my increasing reliance on technology to assist with my type 1 diabetes.

In fact,  Black Mirror season 1, episode 3, “The Entire History of You” significantly launched my mind into overdrive and inspired the technological component in One in Ten. Here’s the trailer:

It’s not the ability to flip back in time that I was intrigued by, but rather the ability to turn the body into a cyborg with technology that allows visual and audio recording, false memories, and for my purposes, the potential for mind control. This aspect is literally embedded into One in Ten in the same way as the tech in this Black Mirror episode, but to very different ends. However, you will feel as unsettled by the novel, as you will at the end of this episode.

There has always been a theme within Sci-Fi that given too much power, technology will turn on its creators. One in Ten explores the idea in different parameters: what if technology could cure us of addiction? If so, could we live with the side effects?

Most of you know that my youngest daughter and I live with Type 1 diabetes, and that we use various tech (patch insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors) for our care. It’s no leap to conclude that my experience of walking around as a cyborg and letting technology run aspects of my endocrine system informed how I viewed taking a similar concept and applying it to heroin addiction and recovery.

The issue with all medical-related technology is that it is not a cure, only treatment. However, if the tech is integrated in such a way that the treatment leaves the patient “as good as cured” then what’s the problem? Well, what if that tech has capabilities not disclosed, even in the fine print? This turn of thought is where the Dystopian element comes in. It would not surprise me in the least if given the power, government would apply technology to a problem as a pseudo-cure. And quite possibly use the subsequent control to egregious ends.

And this intersection of health, technology, and the overreach of its application is where One in Ten becomes less Sci-Fi/Dystopian and more a cautionary, contemporary tale.

So, between now and April 21, watch some Black Mirror to prepare for One in Ten. I will have pre-order links next week, and I’ll let you know why they matter so much. Stay tuned.

One in Ten, Chapter 1 Excerpt

While One in Ten has a Sci-Fi element, mixed with a dystopian setting, at its base, the story is about addiction. I spent a significant amount of time reading about heroin addiction, watching documentaries about heroin addiction, and having conversations with various individuals about heroin addiction.

It’s not pretty stuff, but no addiction is. It just so happens that many teens are finding themselves using heroin, either as an option when OxyContin was no longer available, or simply as a party drug to try.  One in Ten captures the physiological and psychological demands of being addicted to and trying to get clean from this terrible drug. Therefore, here’s a video depicting a scene from Chapter 1 of the novel, in which Kenny, the protagonist, is home from his latest treatment facility, but finds his parents haven’t cleared out one if his stash spots. If you want to read the entire excerpt, it’s below. Enjoy!

Excerpt

I rifle through my desk drawer. I noticed yesterday that they’d cleaned it, but they didn’t remove everything. This is not exactly a clean slate. You think they would have learned. Or, maybe I was just good at covering my tracks. Either way, the flat-head screwdriver is still in the bottom drawer. What do they think I use it for? 

I take it and go to my closet. The baseboard appears the same, but there’s only one way to find out. My heart begins to trot inside my chest. I can hear them talking about me just beyond the door, and I’m careful to keep an ear trained for anyone calling. I bend over and my face feels like a mask as blood pounds in my ears. My chest is tight and my eyes bulge. I can make out the Velcro from here. I get on one knee and my heart is thrumming. 

The screwdriver slides in neatly and I pry. The section pops loose and reveals one of my stash spots. Apparently, one they never found, because either I’m hallucinating, or there’s a baggie still inside.  

I rub a hand over my face. It slides over the tacky sweat that has blossomed. The fear I felt is gone, and only in this moment I realize how alive I feel. Not uncertain, not insecure, not bumbling around hospital hallways and cafeterias and therapy rooms. This is me, kneeling before a year-old bag of heroin, happier than Theo was to hand me a future. I’m pleased with my past self. I know him so much better. 

P.S. I hope to have pre-order links by next week. I intend to have the following options: ebook, paperback, and hardback (that’s for my library friends) However, the work is not as simple as you might think. I have a newly found appreciation for all that my book cover designers and editorial assistants have gone through over the years in order to make the outside and inside of books shine. So, wish me luck!

School Visit: Cherry Valley-Springfield


This past Friday I had the pleasure of presenting to and running writing workshops at Cherry Valley-Springfield. It was a fantastic day, in spite of the brutal cold outside, and that was due to the phenomenal students, who were a fabulous audience as well as engaged writers. I loved the energy and enthusiasm and truly hope the everyone who is reading my work or is working on their own is enjoying.

For any educators reading this post, who are wondering what a typical presentation/workshop day is like, let me provide some details, and if you feel as if you’d like me to visit, please reach out.

The American Hotel

While not required, I was quite appreciative of the fact that CV-S was able to put me up the night before my visit, because driving a distance in the morning in winter in Upstate, NY can be daunting. And I was THRILLED to stay at The American Hotel. From their website: The American Hotel was built ca. 1842 by Nicholas LaRue. After being vacant for more than 30 years, current owners Doug Plummer and Garth Roberts purchased the decaying structure in 1996. After an extensive five year renovation, the American re-opened its doors May 23, 2001. 

Not only was it a beautiful building, but the food was outrageously good. Just check out this Rachel Ray approved Maple cake dessert.

Now, for the actual day. I typically provide an auditorium presentation, where I can speak about multiple topics regarding writing and publishing. At CV-S, I spoke to grades 7-12 about what I write and why I write it. I managed to complete this multi-media presentation within 35 minutes, but I can hold a crowd’s attention for an hour if needed.

*I would love to include pics of the CV-S crowd, here, but for privacy reasons that’s not happening. Therefore, imagine an auditorium filled with teens, not on their phones (props to CV-S for that enforcement), and thoroughly paying attention, while wearing these fantastic pins, made by the awesome school librarian Audrey Maldonado.

After lunch, I met with two separate groups for writing workshops, the high school students first, and the middle school students second. I typically ask that these sessions are filled with students who are genuinely interested in writing, and CV-S certainly respected that. Between the two sessions, I taught 40 students about how to plot and structure a story, and then how to make each section of that story come alive with particular writing strategies. For 90 minutes, on a Friday, before a long weekend, each session was fully engaged. I credit that to the selection of students and their genuine interest.

In each session I help guide the students through their own writing with a whole-class example. The HS students created a bank-robbery-out-of-necessity story, which ended on a poignant note. The MS students created a story about going over the top to demonstrate one’s love, with all things, a jar of pickles. They created a sweet and sensitive story in which a incredible flashback sequence was strung through to add depth to the story’s ending.

Look, it’s me teaching.

Fun was had by all, and I have no doubt that the students who are now reading my books because they saw me are more engaged with that reading. The students who are writing with my strategies now have new paths of entry into their stories. Having authors visit (not just me) is a powerful way to bolster students’ reading and writing skills. It was a phenomenal day with phenomenal teens. I had a blast and was so happy to be invited. So, thanks again, CV-S! For the educators out there, if any of the day described interests you, then reach out, because I hope to see you soon.

Calling all Educators

If you teach grades 8-12, English or Health, or if you are a librarian or book club advisor, then I have an opportunity for you: Advanced Reader Copies of One in Ten.

I have already reached out to multiple educators regarding whether they would like Advanced Reader Copies of One in Ten. I’ve had English teachers who have teens in need of Independent reading books say yes. I’ve had librarians with after school book clubs say yes. I’ve even had a district realize that One in Ten addresses their Health curriculum for addiction education. They gave a resounding yes.

Therefore, if you are an educator, and you think your students would enjoy a contemporary story about a teen who gets a addicted to heroin in a near-future setting where the government has taken over heroin addiction recovery, and who then uses its patients like guinea pigs in one crazy ride of a Black Mirror-esque treatment protocol, then you should absolutely use the Contact form

I am asking for some completely optional assistance in return: reviews. I will provide the details if you reach out. In the meantime, read the back copy of the novel, below. Maybe share it with your students to check their reaction. I will be posting the first chapter soon, but if you think that might help you win over your students, let me know, and I can share sooner rather than later. Let me hook you up!

Copy

At seventeen, Kenny Jenkins is fresh out of his third heroin rehab. He is among the last to be released before the U.S. government seizes control of all rehabilitation centers. It intends to end the heroin epidemic by any means necessary. Kenny fights to stay sober, afraid of what he faces if he can not, but his addict is stronger than his resolve and he ends up in the government program: One in Ten.

One in Ten forces reliance upon groups of ten patients, and uses constant surveillance inside the ward to bolster success. Kenny settles in with his crew, but grows concerned when he learns that patient-tracking continues after successful rehabilitation. He tries to follow the program and be successful for his group, but when Kenny realizes that the government’s technology is more than superficial monitoring, he has one choice: break free or be broken by the system. 

In this follow-up to his series of standalone novels that unflinchingly look at the dark side of being a teen in American society, Eric Devine crafts a novel about addiction and alliance, alongside a fight to find the truth within a government system selling one story while acting out another. It will leave readers questioning whether this is a near-future dystopian, or a prescient, contemporary tale.

Eric Devine is also the author of Look Past, Press, Play, Dare Me, and Tap Out. His work has been listed by YALSA for reluctant readers, a Junior Library Guild selection, and twice a “Best in Sports” for Booklist. He is an English teacher and lives with his family in Waterford, NY. You can find him at ericdevine.org, @eric_devine on Twitter, @ericjohndevine on Instagram, and Eric Devine: Author on Facebook.

Goin’ Hybrid

For those of you not familiar with the terminology of the book world, a hybrid author is someone who is both traditionally and self-published. There are multiple reasons someone would do this: the flexibility to write for different age groups (adult vs. YA); the ability to work in different genres; the desire to control the process and all aspects of the book. This is not an exhaustive list, and one that doesn’t even contain why I’m going this route.

Long story, short, during the publication of Look Past, I lost my editor and then subsequent foothold with my publisher, who was purchased by another publisher. I kept writing, but what I was writing were not projects my agent could get behind, and so we parted ways. This left me with multiple novels and no in with the traditional publishing world. In other words, I was lost.

The decision to self-publish came when I was at the Albany Book Fest and had multiple librarians, teachers, and fans ask what was up with my writing career.  Not the most fun question to answer when you’re feeling down and out, but I explained, and to them, it all seemed like a no-brainer: Just get your work out there. You already have a fan base.

I am so very happy that they all spoke up, because I was close to quitting. Not because I didn’t have the talent or stories, but because I couldn’t see any other viable way to move forward, so tethered was I to the idea of traditional publishing.

And so here we are. I am finalizing the manuscript for both e-book and paperback sales of One in Ten, which will be available through Amazon and Ingram. Therefore, you will be able to get an e-book or paperback through Amazon, or you will be able to get a paperback through B&N or your favorite Independent bookstore, via the Ingram catalog. Tentatively, pre-sales should be available by the end of this month, and the novel should be listed on Amazon and Goodreads by then as well.

Of course I will keep you posted when those are realities, and in the meantime (like next week), I’ll have information for educators who want advanced copies for their students (*wink, wink* One in Ten can be tied into the Health curriculum). Of course, between now and publication (slated for 4/21/20), I’ll have posts with excerpts, posts about influences, the cover reveal (it’s awesome), and other behind-the-scenes looks.

So, Happy 2020. I’m looking forward to being here in a new way, thanks to you.

 

Choosing Your Own Path: A Guest Post from me

Mindy New Blog Header no cat copy.jpg

Hey! I know I stated that I wouldn’t bother you until after the Holidays, but I had an opportunity to be interviewed on Edgar Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis’s blog. The focus is on how I see publishing today versus when I started. Please click the image of the excerpt from McGinnis’s site below to read the entire interview. I’m as honest as ever, but hopeful, too. Enjoy, and please check out Mindi’s work. If you like mine, you’ll absolutely enjoy hers.