Status Update

LP release

When I get incredibly anxious, as I have been recently, I begin to doubt. Myself. My work. My voice. Then I shut down. I simply have no interest in communicating because I’m afraid what I might say. That I might reveal too much.

And this is what I have been anxious about and holding onto: I won’t have a book out in 2015.

That’s it, which I know is pretty ridiculous. Many authors do not publish a book a year. And so many unpublished authors would kill for my “problem”. Yet, at the same time, if it shut me down, I need to give it attention and not merely rationalize the feelings away.

I have spent close to two years working on LOOK PAST. It’s been downright exhausting, because I’ve had to push myself so very far as a writer. From interviews to research to simple plotting, the novel has high demands. And then this past summer, after receiving excellent advice from my agent, I rewrote the entire manuscript.

That rewrite paid off, because that is the version that sold. But it has sold with a caveat. The manuscript is due for yet another a massive overhaul, which is why you won’t see it until 2016.

Recently, after announcing the sale, I’ve had much congratulations, which I’ve enjoyed, but I am so thankful for my one friend, who after realizing I wouldn’t be releasing a book this upcoming fall, asked, “Are you okay with that?” He understood. I’ve been on a roll, and the momentum has helped fuel me. And now?

It’s a mere bump in the road, I’m sure. But from this juncture, eighteen months feels like an unplanned detour.

I’m coming around to the idea, and know it is for the best, but it’s been mentally taxing. Fortunately, writing is great therapy for me. So while I’ve been riddled with doubt, I’ve been writing. Just last week I finished the first draft of a novel that forced me to dig even deeper as a writer than I had to with LOOK PAST.

So, my takeaway is that maybe this is what happens when you push hard and you get way outside your comfort zone. It takes a little bit longer to assimilate all that has been learned. I’m holding onto that, now, instead of my anxieties, and know I will still enjoy fall of ’15, just not nearly as much as I will fall of ’16.


How to Make the Best of a Bad Book Signing


The image above was my vantage point for much of Saturday afternoon, as Hollis Seamon and I sat in comfortable wicker chairs at the front of the Open Door Bookstore, chatting and listening to Christmas music on the store’s radio.

It was a disgusting Northeast kind of day, with sleet in the morning and then a cold steel rain until that night. Perfect for a miserable book signing.

Fortunately, I brought my eldest daughter, Grace, with me to this event. Here we are pre-signing grabbing some pizza.


She adored Open Door, because she’s a reader and their Children’s and Middle Grade sections are phenomenal. Also, because they have this fantastic play area, which she had all to herself.


But as far as the signing, it was as I thought it would be when I woke up and saw the horrible weather: sparsely attended. In spite of excellent promotion, I’ve had a couple of lightly attended signings so far with Press Play, and I’ve had plenty of others with my previous books. This isn’t something I’m supposed to say. I’m supposed to tell all of you about how amazing all of my events are, as if I possess some magnetic power that draws in readers far and wide. That’s just not the case.

I understand people have lives, are incredibly busy this time of year, and simply have better things to do. I understand, as much as it stings. This is the business.

Saturday, however, was not a total loss. Grace had an absolute blast. She walked away with a toy recorder and a Smencil (waffle cone).


More importantly, she walked away seeing the fact that whether people bought books or not, I sat and chatted with them about writing, about books, about life. I’m not good at a hard sell, so I never press people, who I can tell are uninclined. I listen. We hang out. And really, there are a lot of worse ways to spend your time on a cold, December afternoon, than with your daughter, and in the company of good people.

So thank you, Open Door, and Hollis, and all who did come out. Possibly next year we will have better success. But even if we don’t, I know a good pizza place 🙂

Thanks, for PRESS PLAY, and beyond



Life has been super busy since the release of Press Play, which I like to say is a good problem to have. However, part of my schedule includes a trip at the end of this week that runs through early next week. Therefore, I wanted to take a moment to express my thanks for so many things before it’s next week and I’m too exhausted to write a blog post 🙂

Running Press, my publisher, has been pretty phenomenal to me, constantly trying to find ways for people to learn about my work. They were very supportive about the making of my trailer, its blast and the subsequent run in the theater. Trust me, as an author, I do so much that impossible to measure, and so to have the business end of books support such is invaluable.

McGreivey’s restaurant, and Art Riley, in particular, has been nothing but awesome to me. For three years Art has agreed to host my launch parties, and every year I am so impressed by his willingness to help out a local author by making my family and friends feel so thoroughly welcome.

Both Barnes and Noble and Market Block Books have been great to me, hosting signings and getting the word out, and Market Block helped with sales for my launch and is on board for an event coming in December. Even though they are on opposite ends of the corporate indie spectrum of business, everyone I have met at each store has his or her heart in the right place, devoted to finding the right book for the right hands. I’m just glad they include me on that list.

WNYT is fantastic for having me on for a third time. Publicity of any kind is welcomed, and the opportunity to wake of the Capital District with Dan Bazile and my books is just damn fun.

So far, Teen Reader Con has been the highlight of my November. The other authors were awesome but the kids were unreal. I have never felt more like a rock star than I did that day. And the librarians who put so much time and energy into the event deserve a round of drinks and hearty applause. Pulling off such a wonderful event that was free and drew such a large crowd form all over the area, is astounding, as well as a testament to their dedication, professionalism, and compassion for the work they do.

And I am already thankful for this week. I will be at NCTE’s Annual convention, followed by ALAN’s Workshop. This opportunity is amazing. I get to meet thousands of English teachers and discuss my work with them, while at a convention that allows me to absorb amazing possibilities for my classroom. And at ALAN, I get to continue the conversation, as well as sit on a panel with one of my favorite authors, Andrew Smith.

And through it all has been Kate McKean, my superstar agent. Because even though I’m promoting Press Play, she’s helping me navigate the next stories, as always, with her pitch perfect sense of fiction and her absolute belief in me as an author.

Of course, it all boils down to my family, especially my wife, who is the only one to whom I can vent my frustrations and share my excitement. So much of what I do is unseen and unspoken, yet Carrie is privy to it all—for good and bad. I respect the degree to which she shoulders the burden of letting me live my dream, because without her, I would not.

My readers get last credit, but my everlasting appreciation. My work is not for everyone, but for those who enjoy it, they help spread the word, proclaiming the awesomeness of my intense and dark stories. Thank you. Authors need readers, and it is you who I always have in mind when I sit in this office and open the Word doc. It is you who I attempt to thank over and over, as I weave a bit of magic, story after story.

Thank you, and please enjoy Thanksgiving and the company of all of those for whom you are thankful.


Teen Reader Con

Teen Reader Con

First, thank you to everyone who has made the launch of Press Play a phenomenal success. I’m having a blast, and the fun has only just begun, which brings me to this upcoming weekend and Teen Reader Con.

The one event I failed to mention in my interview on WNYT this weekend was this. I’m chalking it up to nerves and the mental countdown clock I had running in my head. Anyway, as you can see from above, the event is packed with amazing authors, and the day will unfold like this:

8:30-9:00    Arrival – Trivia games and book sale!

9:00-9:30   Rich Johns – Act with Respect Always

9:45-10:15   Kick-off!! – Welcome the Authors

10:30-11:15  Session #1

11:30-12:15  Session #2; Lunch

12:30-1:15    Session #3; Lunch

1:30-2:15      Session #4

2:30-3:15     Main Session with Authors

3:15-4:00     Autographing

I think the best part of all this, that I simply cannot underscore enough, is that it’s free. Yup, it costs nothing. To have access like this for an entire day at no cost is simply amazing. There are few teen events like this nationally, so I urge you to take part.

Each Session is a presentation from each author. So, if for nothing else, come and spend 45 minutes in a small group setting learning about all of the authors. I guarantee you will be entertained.

Any additional information can be found on the website, and I’ve added my video message from there for your enjoyment. I hope to see you this weekend.

Teen Reader Con

Shenendehowa Middle Schools
970 Route 146
Clifton Park, NY 12065

PRESS PLAY Pub Day Contest


Yay, it’s Pub Day! And to celebrate the fact that Press Play is out in the world, I’ve created a fun and interactive giveaway. You have the opportunity to win a signed copy of Press Play, as well as this long-sleeve T-shirt.PP Shirt-1

From today, 10/28, through Tuesday, 11/11, you have one job––to create a video. What kind, and what to do with it are below:

*You do not have to be a Tumblr user to enter. You just need to go to the site. I promise*

  1.  Go to a bookstore. Record yourself making a big deal about finding Press Play on the shelf. Maybe you can even talk it up to other patrons. It’s your call, just make it fun for everyone.
  2. If you’ve already gone to the bookstore or to one of my signings, and, therefore, have a copy, there’s no need to go to the bookstore. Make a video in which you discuss the awesomeness of the book. It doesn’t have to be you sitting in front of the camera, talking. However you want to create the “review” is up to you.
  3. Once you’ve recorded, you’ll need to upload your video to YouTube or to Vimeo so that you have an Embed code or URL
  4. With video complete, go to my Tumblr:
  5. See that “Submit” tab?Step 5
  6. Click Submit and you’ll see this:Step 6
  7. Now, enter a name and email. I need to be able to tell you that you’ve won 🙂Step 7
  8. Now, you’ll need to change “Text” in the upper, left corner to “Video”Step 8
  9. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready and the screen will look like this:Step 9
  10. Paste in your Embed code or URL and Submit

Sweet, right? I know. I’m looking forward to seeing all the videos, the antics, the creativity. And I’m excited to hear your reactions to my work.

Go, have fun. Enjoy Press Play.

Your Weekend Plans involve PRESS PLAY

PP B&N Poster

Hey, everybody! We’re a week out from the publication day for Press Play, which means my normally anxiety-ridden self is overflowing with neuroses. But it also means it’s time for you to get your hands on copies AND to have a chance to see the trailer on the big screen.

Yup, from 10/24 through 10/30, at  Regal Cinemas in Colonie, the trailer will play during the ad space before all PG-13 and R rated movies.

Therefore, movies like Gone Girl, The Maze Runner, Fury, The Judge, Guardians of the Galaxy, Dracula Untold, and Left Behind will all be playing my trailer as you settle in with your popcorn. Do feel free to tweet to me or post to Facebook that you’ve seen it. Go ahead and snap a picture if you’re feeling brave. 

However, I know that seeing the trailer is cool, but getting the book is better. And so if you want to be some of the first people in the Capital District to get your hands on copies, I have two events prior to publication day where you can get a copy and my signature.

On Friday, 10/24, from 4:oo until the party winds down, I’m back at McGreivey’s for my Launch party. If you’ve been before, expect the same good time. If you haven’t, expect free appetizers from 5-7, drink specials at the bar, and a packed house of people celebrating my latest creation.

If you can’t make it on the 24th, no worries, I’ve got you covered the next day. On Saturday, 10/25, I’m at Barnes and Noble in Colonie, signing from 2-4. And hey, while you’re there, you can go see a movie. Please be sure to look for the poster at the top of this post, and, again, share it on every social media platform you are on.

And if neither of these dates work, not a problem, just check the flyer below for one that does. I hope to see you at least once, and I can’t wait for your reaction to the turbulent ride that is Press Play!

Sayreville vs. PRESS PLAY: when truth is stranger than fiction


I wasn’t surprised by the hazing allegations in Sayreville, NJ. I was disgusted, especially as details about the hazing came out, but not surprised.  I have been involved with athletics as an athlete and as a coach, and I know, firsthand, the danger of the locker room mentality. As an educator, I have heard more stories about abusive events than I ever wanted to. This isn’t to say I have ever been around circumstances of the severity of Sayerville. But I’m not sure that severity is the key issue. The complicit nature of those in the know, is.

Trust me, in no way shape or form am I blaming victims. Those boys have been traumatized. Nor am I so foolish as to expect the perpetrators to turn themselves in. They should, but that is not how they operate. My concern is with the rest of the team, the school, and the community. I do not live in Sayreville, and I won’t speak ill of a town reeling from such a scandal, but I think the question that needs to be asked–and hopefully is being asked by investigators–is who knew, what, and when?

The thing about teens is that they talk. They tell stories. Often they can’t keep secrets. Based on the media reports out of Sayreville, the hazing that occurred is as much tradition as is the support of the team. And so it is only fair to deduce that someone knew. Or a lot of people, really. Not just the team. Not just their immediate friends. But certainly the coaches, and maybe some of the staff; possibly administration. I’m willing to bet former players knew. Yet, no one spoke out, so far as we know. That fact speaks to the power of abuse and the grip it holds. Everyone feared speaking because of the potential victimization he or she would receive. With good reason.

In Press Play, the lacrosse team is involved in brutal and systematic hazing. No one talks because they know better. No one talks because the powers that be are complicit, possibly more than. No one talks because the town’s economy depends on the team. No one talks because there is no one to talk to.

Some people have had a problem with that concept, of students not trusting adults, or adults being cast in such a negative light. I respect that. And more often than not, teens should be able to trust adults. Except for when they can’t.

That’s why I was thrilled to see a recent review by a librarian who went back and reread Press Play after the allegations is Sayreville came forth. In her words, “I had to reread Press Play this week after hearing about the hazing in Sayreville, NJ, on the news. When I first read the book, it seemed like an over-the-top version of team hazing and bullying, designed to get people talking. After watching the Sayreville superintendent’s press conference on his decision to completely cancel their football team’s entire season, I realized that there is much more reality to this than I ever wanted to believe.”

No one wants to imagine that anyone is capable of being involved on any level with something so atrocious. But people are. And it is as bad, if not worse, in reality, than any fiction I can write.

The reviewer goes on to make a powerful statement in support of Press Play: This is well-written, gripping, and I recommend this for 8th grade and up.
I really want my…graduates in high school to read this. But I also want my 8th graders to read this. There is a lot of swearing, and the bullying scenes should literally make your blood run cold. The reason I want my 8th graders to read this is that I want them to think carefully about what kind of person they want to be when they get to the high school. What do you want yourself to do when the lights go out and you hear the wolf howl signal? Will you step up and say something, and will you keep saying something until someone listens? Will you hide in the back and say nothing while you watch? Or will you be laughing and egging someone on? What kind of character does it take to do the right thing in the face of certain ostracism, and possible violence?”

These are the questions posed to Greg, the protagonist in Press Play. He, who has been bullied and victimized for as long as he can remember, has to decide to step up or stay silent. His journey into the darkness is disturbing, but so worth the read if you care to understand the impotent rage that these athletes feel, these students feel, that you will feel.

Press Play will be published two weeks from today. Read, and continue the conversation, because events like the one at Sayreville are far from behind us.

This Above All…


In my novels the recurrent theme is always being true to yourself. For my characters, doing such may be the main focus, or something they must work to identify and then fight for. Regardless, the fact remains, I believe in the narrative of knowing who you are and forging ahead, regardless of the obstacles.

The same applies to my own life, personally and professionally. There is an enormous amount of pressure for me to be someone else, to write other ways, to conform. And I’m not going to lie, much like my characters, I feel doubt sometimes. I feel the urge to cave, to play it safe, to not push limits. Because my work pisses off a lot of people. My characters say and do things some don’t want to hear or see. And they call me out on it. And it hurts.

The easy route would be for me to tuck my proverbial tail and play it safe and write characters that make you say “Aww” when you close the book, but that’s not the truth I understand. And that’s not the art I want to create.

This contradiction of realism and escapism came up in one of my classes recently (my students are sharp). It was intriguing to hear students talk about the importance of both sides of the coin, in books and movies, because like us, there are times when they want to dive deeper and try to learn and understand, and then there are times they want to forget it all and believe that there’s a bit more shine to the world.

Invariably, though, they have to come back to the present reality. And as teens, that means an ungodly amount of pressure. I see it every day, and I remember my own, and I write stories that address what I see and what we, collectively, have felt and still feel.

Yet, haters gonna hate. And with all my work, and now, specifically, Press Play, people don’t like the cursing, the violence, the darkness. To them I can only say, “Then help create a world where this doesn’t exist and I’ll write about nothing but sunshine.” Until then I can only suggest: go visit a high school, go speak with teens (not at), sit down and think back to not just your lived high school experience, but that of the kids who you knew, or barely knew. Yup, the shadows will start to creep in.

This isn’t to say embrace the dark and the lack of hope. That’s crazy. Even in my bleakest of stories there is hope. It may not strut on stage and sing a song, but it’s there, often elusive, just like in life.

And just like in life, we are fundamentally responsible for ourselves. We cannot control what others think, only how we do and how we react. I have to remind myself of this all the time. Because, to quote Sartre, at times, “Hell is other people.”

Of course this is not universally applicable. There will always be people, real or fictional, who will strive to make it better, even if that’s by dredging up the muck and digging in the dark. In fact, you’ll find them in my work. But be warned, they’re as real as you and me.