One project at a time?

Sorry, I had to use a Tard image, because I love his grumpy face. Also, he answered the title question perfectly.

I am currently working on three projects, one of which I’ll provide a bit of a teaser for at the end, so keep reading. It seems insane to be working on three books at once, but it also is the only way to survive. I must be ahead of the curve and always prepared with new material. Plus, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to move form one intense world to the next. Here’s a peek at each.

First, my next novel, Dare Me, will be released in the fall by Running Press. I don’t have an exact date, but I do have a cover image (hint, hint). I have to complete at least one more pass of the manuscript based on my editor’s notes. Fingers crossed it’s only one. From inception to now, I’ve had two major passes that physically hurt. But the pain is worth it because the finished project, a story of YouTube daredevils going from daring to death-defying, will be fantastic. It is not as dark as Tap Out but the intensity remains. When it’s complete, I’ll offer some teaser excerpts.

Second, as I’m finishing up Dare Me, my agent is reading the novel I wrote this past summer and fall. It has a tentative title, and my first reader loved it. He was even surprised by the ending, which I think amazed both of us. But I cannot give away too much, because until my agent gives the green light, the manuscript is just that, not quite ready for the “novel” label.

Third, I am currently working on a novel that is far and away the largest departure from my comfort zone. Yet, also something I’ve always wanted to write. I’m researching as much as I’m writing and am having a great time watching this story come together. Here’s hoping I can see it through in the next couple of months.

Last year at this time I never would have thought I was going to be this far down the rabbit hole. But now, I find it to be the only place I want to be. I hope you continue to enjoy and share Tap Out, and I look forward to offering you more work so that you can continue.

*Teaser*

You made it this far, so here’s a tiny slice of the cover to Dare Me. Enjoy:

Dare Me excerpt

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On Letting Go

Letting-Go-Open-Hands

I’ve had a nagging problem with editing my next novel, tentatively titled, Dare Me. To properly edit, you have to be able to see your work’s failures. Objectivity is key. But I haven’t been able to achieve that objective distance because I’ve had something else on my mind: Tap Out.

My rough and tumble novel has been out for almost four months. It’s not as if the fanfare has died away, but the energy behind foisting it upon the world has been spent, and now the story is moving on its own volition, with readers finding it and posting about it and passing it along. And like a child, I must let it grow, let it walk alone, while I sing its praises and offer support.

At the same time, I must give my attention to my baby, Dare Me. For the past month, I did this, hiding out in my office while the swirl of Christmas built outside my door. I dove in with my editor’s notes in hand and cleaned up my mess and got my characters straightened out and ready for the world. And like any parent, when I was done, I needed a drink.

Still, however, that nagging was there. I knew I’d edited well, but something continued to crawl under my skin.

Because of the holidays there was little time to give this consideration during the week from Christmas to New Year’s. And then there was snow, two storms here in the Northeast. And I had to shovel.

Stephen King discusses in On Writing how writers should always be writing, but how after finishing a project they should also take a little break to recharge. I tend to heed King’s advice because he’s Stephen King, and I think he knows what he’s talking about. Therefore, I was out in the snow, not writing, not editing, just scraping away my driveway, and I came to clarity.

I love Tony and Rob and my cast of characters from Tap Out, but I have to let them go. I have to make room in my heart for Ben and his friends and the insane antics they get involved with in Dare Me.

This, apparently is the life of a writer: Love, let go, and love again.

And I do. I love Tap Out. I love Dare Me. I love the novel that will follow both, and the one after that… and on and on.

With this notion I reread Dare Me. I forgot that I’d ever written anything else and focused only on Ben and his friends and the stunts and the pressure and the conflicts. I didn’t need to edit. I just needed to read and enjoy. And I sure as hell did.

So I continue down this road with you, my wonderful readers, and your tireless support. You don’t need to let go of any of my work, but please make room. Tap Out isn’t going anywhere, but understand that the wild ride has just begun.

On Being Awesome

Jim Wendler. His name most likely means nothing to many of your reading this, and that’s fine. Unless you are a power lifter, or like me, appreciate his approach to strength training, then you have no need to know about Jim. Except, you do.

There are plenty of expert coaches and trainers on the Internet today. They have multiple degrees and certifications and a wealth of knowledge offered for the taking. I don’t respect Jim Wendler because of his expertise. In fact, I may respect him more because he’s not an expert in the traditional sense. He lived in the trenches and came out with one hard-edged maxim: Be Awesome.

You can’t quantify such with research and analysis. There are no peer-reviewed articles on the matter. So why should you care, and why do I? Because Jim’s not merely talking about the iron game, he’s talking about life. He’s talking to all of us regarding whatever endeavor we choose. And this is especially applicable to writers.

Like Jim, no one told me I had to do this. I chose. And because it was my choice, the pressure to succeed stems entirely from within. That pressure is more severe than any external force can ever be. Because I don’t just want success so that I can say I wrote such-and-such and isn’t that cool? No, I want to be capital A– Awesome at it.

Why not?

Here’s a reason: being awesome isn’t synonymous with having life easy. Being successful at anything takes some amount of sacrifice and dedication and pain. I think a lot of people would much rather avoid the discomfort altogether.

I can’t. It may be that I’m hardwired for a masochistic life. It may just be that I’m a fool. But I do know that I just finished my first pass on my next manuscript. The story is good and I like what I did thematically. But is it awesome? No, not yet. That’s a bit painful. But I know what to do. I know how to dedicate myself and where I can sacrifice to meet my demands.

As difficult as it is to accept the reality of the struggle is, it’s also exactly how it should be. Awesome doesn’t emerge fresh out of the gate. It takes practice. It stumbles and regroups. It learns. It grows and then it parses itself down into its perfection. Not perfection, but its own form of such.

The last piece, the most difficult to accept, is that being awesome is not the same as being better than, being a cut above. Nothing could be further from the truth. Being awesome means always being hungry and remaining humble and knowing your hold on its elusiveness is fleeting.

So whatever it is you are doing: writing, training, studying, working, parenting… dig in and do it well. Be awesome. Raise the bar for all of us, so we have a greater target to aim for.

Or in Jim’s words: “Start doing and believing in the stuff that works, and do it today and forever.”

Update

So it’s a bit personal, but I didn’t want anyone overly concerned for my wife’s well-being. Thank you for your kind words.  She has Esophagitis caused from gastroesophageal reflux disease. Fun, I know. But at least it’s not all the “others” it could have been and she doesn’t require surgery. Some medicine and dietary changes and she’ll be good to go. Fortunately, I’m well-versed in “clean eating”, so I can be more than just moral support.

I imagine my daughter’s results won’t be in for another week. The Pediatric Endocrinologist we see is the only one in our area. She’s phenomenal, but obviously swamped. So fingers are crossed.

In the meantime, I have begun editing my WIP. I didn’t realize how long it was–close to 110,000 words–but so far, so good. I gave myself enough time away to have objectivity, yet I’m liking what’s there. Was even surprised a few times. Always a good sign. I’m using Chuck Wendig’s suggestions on a contextual edit and am finding the format very useful.

*Side note: I love Chuck’s posts and Tweets. If you aren’t following him, do so.

Beyond that, I’m looking forward to my upcoming spring break and some more time to be with my family and my writing.

More soon.

The Hermitage of Revision

I have turned into a hermit. I began revising Tap Out at the end of last month, and since then have done little else. Sure, I’ve gone to work and have been with family and friends, but the story has been in the back of my mind non-stop. I have been with it, alone, and dwelling more than I have done anything else.

Fortunately, I made it through the major edits, and have answered the significant points raised in my editor’s letter. It hasn’t been easy, but that’s in large part due to the fact that I haven’t read this work in months. The story wasn’t new to me, but at times I was surprised by my own writing, for good and for bad. I have stayed locked in my office every morning for as long as time permits, with a notebook of scrawled points to consider, my editor’s letter open for reference, and my mind racing with one questions as my eyes pour over the screen: Does this work?

It’s a difficult question to answer because it all depends on the context. Each stage of world-building and plotting and characterization has its own purpose. What works early on becomes redundant later. Yet, for a story to have adequate resolution (if such is desired) the original points must be returned to by the end, and the change needs to be evident, but not through blunt observations. Finesse is key, and often the one element I lack. I’m working on it.

I mostly write stories about teenagers who’ve messed up, or who live in less-than-ideal circumstances. It’s what I know after having been a teacher for the past decade and having worked with teenagers in various settings ever since my early twenties. I had a relative this weekend ask about where I was with my writing, and I divulged this latest process, most certainly with the pressured speech of someone a little unhinged. He was intrigued and asked if I felt I would always write for teens or would I mature into adult writing. It was kind of a backhanded compliment, but I kept my poise, informing him that I didn’t see my subject matter aging just because I do. He didn’t understand.

And that’s fine. Writing is such a solitary endeavor that I cannot expect someone who doesn’t write to understand. All that matters to me is that my wife continues to be supportive as I space out around friends or ask for a piece of paper while driving so I can write a note about my story. So long as she and my daughters are comfortable with the idea that I am not always present, even when I’m physically there. I’m in my cave, myopically studying the world I’ve created, tumbling the stones of plot and making sure all resonates.

I enjoy the process, the tweaking, the “perfecting” (or however close such is attainable). I don’t like the pressure, not of the deadline, but that in which I put on myself. I want the work done and I want it done now, but most importantly, I want it done right. So it’s good that I’m cloistered with my thoughts. I can work and berate myself and no one else has to bear witness. They don’t need to. The product of the toil will be on shelves soon enough.