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.

Happy Thanksgiving and New Novel Teaser

As the title suggests, I’ve got some thanks to give and a teaser to share, but with this post, you’ve got options. Below is a synopsis video, and beneath it is the full post. Watch, read, or do both. Whichever, enjoy!

 
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you have the opportunity to be around family and friends for this holiday about gratitude, and I hope that you have the opportunity to express your thanks for them. 

Thanks to my readers! 
Sincerely, in the digital and social media age in which we live, if you are spending time reading my work instead of spending time on your phone (unless you’re reading on your phone 😉 I can’t thank you enough. There is so much demand for your time, that I believe I offer the sentiment of every author when I say thank you for choosing to spend time with the written word-especially ours.  
 
And a special thanks to teachers and librarians who manage to get my books into the hands of teens. My work isn’t wholesome and what a lot of adults want teens reading, but I read whatever I wanted to as a teen and turned out just fine (mostly). Teens want to see themselves in stories, and not just picture-perfect selves, or aspirational selves. They want the real deal. The fact that as teachers and librarians, you understand this, separates you from the pack. I thank you, and I know the teens in your life do as well. 
 
Teaser 
And on that note, are you ready for more of my work? How about a story about heroin addiction with a dab of dystopian government control? And some teens who are hellbent on not becoming pawns? 
 
Does that sound like something teens you know would read? Of course it does! I’m confident there are adults reading this post right now who would also love this story, titled One in Ten.  
 
I’ll have more details as the New Year begins, because the Holiday season is busy for everyone. I’ll pop back in after all the merriment. Therefore, get ready for some insider options I’ve never before been able to offer, and be ready for April when the novel releases. And, so as to not leave you high and dry, here’s the opening paragraph of what will be One in Ten
 
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.