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

The Only Constant

under construction2013 has gotten off to a rocky start. There was the flu I am still recovering from, and most recently, a boiler and fireplace that are acting up, kitchen cabinets that are snapping their hinges and putting holes in the wall, and a stained hutch that looked better in the mind’s eye than in the light. Quite simply, my house is a mess and I don’t have the wherewithal to fix it, because I’m still recovering, and yeah, still writing. A lot.

I am currently waiting on edits from both my agent and my editor for two separate projects, and I’ve just begun a third. One that requires extensive research. For the most part research isn’t something I’ve had to go out of my way to complete. I work with teenagers. I’m equal parts field researcher and educator. Tap Out did require a fair amount of gym time, interviews, and hours on YouTube, but where I’m going requires a fair amount of people opening their hearts and their lives to me. I will be much more intrusive and not nearly as passively observant.

And I feel ridiculous taking this on, considering how in shambles things are for me. But if I wait for the right time to move ahead, to stretch my capabilities, that time will never materialize. The one constant I’ve found in writing is that I have to say yes. In spite of everything else, say yes, and then write it. Because if it’s what my heart desires, then I have to feed that emotion. It doesn’t always work well, but it fulfills a need and a purpose that serve a greater end, one that even I only vaguely understand.

Trust me, I spend a significant amount of time behaving just the opposite. I live a regimented, disciplined life, plotting out piece by piece, not to dissimilarly than a novel. But this world is not under my control, and rare is it that I have a chance to follow a whim. That is why, amidst the ridiculousness that is my life, I reach out to people, I write and I write and I write. It is cathartic and it is a bit of therapy. It allows me to explore and learn and grow. It is easy to stagnate, and writing keeps me fresh and vibrant.

Regardless of the superstition I feel over the fallout of 2013, I’ll get over it. In no time I’ll be in my groove, the house will be in order and I’ll laugh about the rocky road the beginning of this year has been. But I’ll get to do that because I’ve looked past the immediate to what lies beyond, and I feel it’s phenomenal. It will take a hell of a lot of work to get there. But I cannot think of anything worthwhile that didn’t require such.

It’s time

Today’s the day, and all I can say is thank you. To my family, my friends, Kate McKean and the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency, Lisa Cheng, all the staff at Running Press.

Yesterday one of my students said, “Mr. Devine, you get so excited when you tell stories. It’s awesome.” She’s right, I do, and it is. I tell stories, with friends, in the classroom, and in print. That’s my nature. So thank you, as well, to the storytellers who influenced me when I was young and somehow sparked my desire to join the ranks. And thank you to the storytellers who continue to inspire me to tell the best stories I can.

It’s a gift to do what I do and I try my best to appreciate it for what it is. It’s not luck and it doesn’t come without hard work. But I am lucky and the work is more like play.

So please, enjoy Tap Out, and while you do, know I’m hard at work doing what I love, writing another story that is awesome.

Lucky

Yesterday I was cleaning out my office and came across a manuscript of mine that did not sell. I flipped through the pages and was astounded by the copious notes from my agent, Kate McKean. It felt like I was looking at one of my student’s papers, complete with suggestions for how to revise–truly, how to write better.

I was struck by how much time and effort Kate had put in on this project, which ultimately failed. How awful for an agent. Yet, at the same time, I realized just how lucky I was to have someone willing to guide, to nudge and to be patient enough to see if I would follow her advice, and even more, if I could put it to good use. How often does life hand you that kind of opportunity?

If you’re lucky, at least once. And I do mean luck. Because I’ve been rejected hundreds of times. Looking back, I don’t fault any agent or editor who passed on my work. It wasn’t ready. With time, however, and great diligence, it now is.

Tap Out and whatever I publish next–more on that soon–are an outcome of my luck in finding an agent willing to see past the rough edges. I believe that success does not end there, however. I worked my tail off after being given an opportunity.

Recently, Patton Oswalt sounded off on this issue of luck and success in his industry, and I believe his speech applies to any creative endeavor in which there are gatekeepers. The key point is that one should not rely on luck, but believe that it exists, and know that it is only a fragment of what is needed to succeed. The rest is good, old-fashioned hard work. As it should be.

So I thank Kate, Howard Morhaim Literary Agency, Lisa Cheng and Running Press for the luck they have bestowed upon me. If you would like to read a little background on how I am in the position I am, please check out my interview with Beth Fehlbaum, author of The Patience Trilogy.

And may luck guide you where you need to be.

Volume

My family vacation had many moments just like this:

Fortunately, I had my notebook with me and have an understanding wife who gave me moments to scribble what I needed. Because now that I’m back I’m using those notes and it’s all about volume.

For the next three weeks I have the luxury to write from whenever I get up (usually 6 am) until 1 pm. My wife is co-teaching three, week-long, art camps that my daughters are attending. Therefore, it’s just the computer and me.

Yesterday I wrote for five hours. Today four and a half. I am not used to this volume, and I have to admit it’s a bit scary. I am very used to writing brief scenes every morning for months on end and hoping like hell they all string together well. Never before, because of various work commitments over the summer, have I had such luxury to spin and spin and spin the web. I’m honestly afraid that I’ll go too fast, will get too far ahead of myself and will not have the ability to reign it in and reflect.

Then again, I may be able to produce a massive volume now, and with the remainder of the summer, go slower with introspection. Or possibly I’ll just keep churning, caught in the turbulence of the story I’m now creating, and will get spit out come fall.

Right now, I have no idea, but I am enjoying the change of pace. I am also revising my next work, under the superb guidance of my agent, Kate McKean. Granted all goes well with revision, the manuscript will be off to my editor, Lisa Cheng by August. It’s another high octane story, so for those of you who will fall in love with Tap Out come September, get ready for another ride.

Here’s to the summer.

I’m Back

I finally made it home from ALA. The delays were insane. Kidding. I returned this morning from a family trip toFlorida, following myALAwhirlwind. I have traveled so much in the past nine days that being home feels awkward, but the trips were well worth the while. I apologize for how late this post is, but putting family priorities ahead of writing allows me to write.

Following is a bulleted list of my ALA highlights:

  • Marriott Anaheim finagled a way for me to check in at 1 pm, because the customer service agent could tell I needed a nap.
  • YALSA Happy hour with Bethany Crandell. It was refreshing to be around so many people committed to books and to have drinks and swap stories with my sister author.
  • Dinner at Catal with my Running Press family and a diverse group of librarians. I barely stopped talking to eat. Writing, authors, education, parenting. What a down-to-earth group. And the food was amazing. Craig Herman is an excellent host, and I am so thrilled that his ninth grade English teacher gave him The Hobbit to read.
  • The signing. Could I ask for better company? Ken Baker is one chill individual. We sat elbow-to-elbow with a steady stream of ALA attendees for two hours. I can’t thank enough all who stopped and picked up a copy of Tap Out and my signature. I look forward to the reviews.
  • The librarians who stopped and thanked me for writing a book for boys, for those who are going to use it as a prize for their summer reading programs, for those who were appreciative of the fact that I was at Anaheim. That still blows my mind. Seriously, thank you for what you do. As an educator I know how difficult the work can be, but so very worth it. If I can make our jobs easier, I’m glad to do it.
  • Lisa Cheng deserves an award for not only being an amazing editor but for watching out for a newb like me, making sure I knew what to do and when, and for even supplying me with a meal before my flight. You are phenomenal.
  • To the taxi driver who asked me to write a note of inspiration for his daughter on my ride out of town. You have no idea how awesome that made me feel. From him: “Those little words, they are so powerful, you never know what impact they might have.”

I can’t say it better myself. He succinctly summarized the entire point of the trip and I am so glad to have been a part of it. Thank you again Running Press. I look forward to the build-up to the September release, and any future trips we may have together.

Sneak Peek

I love teasers, just a sneak peak about what’s to come. Fortunately the publishing industry does, too. And somehow I was fortunate enough—thanks Kate McKean—to have the privilege of working with an editor and publisher that felt my work is good enough to submit for some buzz.

Buzz Books 2012: Exclusive Pre-Publication Excerpts from Over 30 New Books from Publishers Lunch has included an excerpt from Tap Out. Really. My work has been listed alongside other YA authors such as Libbra Bray, David Levithan and Ned Vizzini, as well as all the other outstanding authors from various genres—including Neil Young—how awesome is that?

Along with the buzz comes pre-sales and a Book Expo America (BEA) hashtag for Tap Out #beaTap. Therefore, feel free to tweet after you’ve read and tag away. I look forward to the comments.

You can download a free copy to your Kindle or Kindle for PC. Or if you like other platforms for e-Book viewing, Publishers Marketplace has options for you. Whatever you choose, check out my excerpt, but do read the other authors’ as well. There’s so much fantastic reading ahead that it makes me long for a lazy summer by the pool and a cool fall and winter by the fireplace.

Now, go get your sneak peek on.

Kirkus Review

I did not know much about Kirkus Reviews until last week when my editor Lisa Cheng forwarded their review of Tap Out. Which was followed immediately by another email from my agent, Kate McKean.

The emails came as I was driving to a speaking engagement at a local high school that uses my first novel, This Side of Normal, in their Biology curriculum. I was mentally running through the presentation when my phone chimed. When it chirped a second time I got nervous, pulled over and read.

Befuddlement swept over me. Kirkus didn’t ring any bells. Well, maybe one. I recently started following Kirkus MacGowan, on Twitter and thought for a moment that both of the industry connections in my life were emailing about him. I don’t know, maybe he was going to blurb Tap Out? I was excited. And then I read the review.

Now, I can’t reprint it in its entirety. For those of you with subscriptions, to Kirkus, the online version is up today. The print version will be out on May 15. However, I can give you one absolutely fantastic line, the very last of the review:

This is bound to have huge appeal to kids whose lives are being mirrored, and it may prompt luckier readers to take some positive action. 

Okay, so I quickly realized that this wasn’t about Mr. MacGowan and that some reviewing had occurred that I was not aware of. In the same moment, I was elated. This seemed awesome, but I still didn’t know who or what Kirkus was. And now I was running late for my speaking engagement.

I made it on time, delivered an inspiring presentation, then hung around and spoke with teachers and parents. When I returned to my van I dashed a quick text to my wife, explaining as best I could that I had some good news. She didn’t know who Kirkus was, either.

I Googled Kirkus immediately upon arriving home and became enlightened–They are, in their words, “The World’s Toughest Book Critics” (and after reading some reviews I tend to agree). I had no idea that Tap Out  was being reviewed by any critics, let alone such a stalwart of the industry. I guess this is the way things go, but I’m such a noob it’s embarrassing.

Regardless, I’m ecstatic for the review and appreciative to Lisa and Running Press for having the faith to submit Tap Out there.

I hope this is the beginning of the swirl of good vibes for Tap Out. It certainly feels that way, especially sinceCalifornia is on the horizon. But more on that next time…

Advanced Reader Copy

Monday Night I was coaching at my CrossFit box and checked my phone between classes. My wife had sent a text asking if she could open a package I’d received in the mail. She’d attached a picture, so I zoomed in on the return address: it was from Lisa Cheng, my editor at Running Press. I didn’t have time to reply, but I knew what my answer would have been: Absolutely not.

I raced home to my wife and the package that she had propped on my pillows. “I wouldn’t have opened it. You know that,” she said. Bless her. In that package were two copies of the Advanced Reader Copy of Tap Out.

My wife and I turned the copies over, inspecting like children with new toys. A handwritten note from Lisa had come as well and my wife read it aloud. I was exhausted from my 15-hour day, but was lifted by the exhilaration of it all. My Work. In Print. Looking Awesome. Enough Said.

Now, unlike my previous writing, my wife had not read one word of Tap Out. We’re quite superstitious, and after my first project with my agent Kate McKean didn’t sell, my wife decided she didn’t want to “curse” anything else.

She dove into Tap Out and I got out of the room. I’d forgotten how uncomfortable it makes me to have her read my work. I don’t know why, except, possibly it’s because I don’t want to let her down. She’ll love me and my work regardless, but she might not actually enjoy the writing. That would hurt.

I occupied myself for a half hour and then re-entered the bedroom. “So?” I asked.

“So, what?” she said.

Mind you, I heard quite a few gasps and some throat clearing in the interim. The first chapter is quite the slap in the face. So a blase “So what?” didn’t fit.

“Well, you’ve read enough to be able to comment. Right?”

“No, not yet. I’ve been waiting for two years for this. I need more time to formulate the words I want to share with you.”

Fair enough. I occupied myself a while longer and finally my wife was ready.

“It’s really good. Violent and graphic, but in an authentic way. It’s a page turner, and I’m not saying this because it’s you. It’s the story.”

I couldn’t have asked for more.

Soon the copies will be off for blurbs, and I hope that the authors who read them are a fraction as generous as my wife was with me.

The Best Laid Plans Get Blown Up

I’m trying to find solace in planning. I mapped out my immediate and specific goals from now through the summer, and my one long term goal through the rest of the year. It looks so very nice on paper, but I know it’s going to turn into one steaming heap in the process.

My most significant concerns are preparing for the release of Tap Out in the fall of 2012 and revising/rewriting my next work (which I finished in October). I’m consulting Lisa Schroder’s very succinct Timeline and Checklist for YA or MG Book Release and am crossing my fingers that I can accomplish most of what’s there. Fortunately I’m not teaching over the summer. I’ll need the time.

It all makes me nervous. These are uncharted waters, and even though I will have help from Lisa Cheng, Kate McKean and my publicist at Running Press, this is still all on me. And so is the writing.

That last piece is all I know, and the one I still grapple with. I wake up in the morning, usually with a plan for the day’s writing, and know if I stick to the agenda I’ll be all right. Many months later a book emerges. Less time for short stories, but the idea is still the same. One project at a time, and all I have to do is write them. Now I’ll have the publicity for Tap Out, the revision for my next novel AND the responsibility to begin my next work. Holy Hell.

Trust me, there is no complaining, here. I am beyond lucky to have this opportunity. However, I am realizing the changing dynamics that lie ahead. I will have to adjust with them, and I have no idea what that will necessitate or look like. Scary.

It’s the fear of the unknown. Not solely a ubiquitous theme in literature, but a very pressing matter in my life. I do thrive on structure and order, yet have this habit of pushing to see what else I can accomplish, which blows all the pretty order to smithereens.

And then I clean up and start over.

Which leads me back to the planning…

I’d better secure my wife and daughters. This next act should be decimating.