Market Block Books: Eric Devine signs his new book

Hey, just a quick reminder that I will be at Market Block Books on Saturday from 11-1. They currently have the only copies of Dare Me in the area, so if you want to know the story before everyone else, come on out. Thanks.

MBB: Eric Devine signs his new book “Dare Me” | The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza.

MBB: Eric Devine signs his new book “Dare Me”

Start: 09/21/2013 11:00 am
End: 09/21/2013 1:00 pm

Market Block Books welcomes author Eric Devine for a book signing of his new book Dare Me, a story about instant visibility, identity, and what it takes to stay true to one’s self in the face of relentless pressure. When Ben Candido and his friends decide to post a YouTube video of themselves surfing on top of a car, they finally feel like the “somebodies” they are meant to be instead of the social nobodies they are. Overnight, the video becomes the talk of the school, and the boys are sure that their self-appointed senior year of dares will live in infamy. Every dare brings an increased risk of bodily harm, but Ben cannot deny the thrill and sense of swagger that come with it. The stakes become even more complex when a mysterious donor bankrolls their dares in exchange for a cut in the online revenue the videos generate. But at what point do the risk and the reward come at too high of a price?

 

Eric Devine is a writer, high school English teacher, and educational consultant. He is the author of Tap Out, a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers, and This Side of Normal. He lives in Waterfordwith his family.

Dare Me (Paperback)

$9.95

ISBN-13: 9780762450152
Availability: Coming Soon – Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Running Press Kids, 10/2013


Tap Out (Paperback)

$9.95

ISBN-13: 9780762445691
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Running Press Kids, 9/2012


Location:
290 River Street
Troy

, New York12180

My Dear Teen Me Letter

Dear Teen Me is a website (and an anthology) of letters from Young Adult literature authors to their teenage selves. I had the privilege to have mine posted yesterday. Due to technical glitches on my end, I couldn’t include it here. Therefore, today, my letter is below, along with the link to the original, which has comments from those who appreciate this insight into my life. I hope you enjoy the letter as well. It is one of the more emotional pieces I’ve written, because all that’s in it, just like those teen years, has never fully faded away.

Dear Teen Me from author Eric Devine (DARE ME, TAP OUT) « Dear Teen Me.

Eric,

Eric's senior photo, taken months before homecoming.

Eric’s senior photo, taken months before homecoming.

Here’s what’s going to happen: On this kick return, homecoming game of senior year, the other team is going to try to take off your leg. They’ll come really close and there will be times later in your life when you wish they had. A prosthetic leg would, in some ways, be easier than the nerve damaged and muscle atrophied stump you’ll see through surgery, only to have let go from beneath you for a year. Maybe longer.

But here’s the thing, the hit will be good for you, possibly the best. You’ve lived pretty close to the edge as is. Have woken up countless times wondering where you were and how you got there. Until that one night, when your friend Bryan forced you to talk to your girlfriend, in spite of your haze and indifference. Really, that night he begged her not to give up on you.

Because of him, she’ll be with you as you live the amazing cliché of homecoming-court-member-injured-during-the-game. She’ll be there during the surgery, and after, when you lose a host of friends, because partying with a gimp isn’t much fun. And she’ll be at your side, when, incredibly, still on crutches, you’ll suggest that you were stupid when you said, “I plan on being single when I go to college.” In fact, you’ll suggest that this relationship should last longer, like… forever. And the next day you’ll think this through and you won’t cringe.

Eric and Carrie on the court at the homecoming dance, post-game. Note the crutches and the pain.

Eric and Carrie on the court at the homecoming dance, post-game. Note the crutches and the pain.

And by the end of senior year, when your world, like your leg, has been whittled away, there will be a clutch of friends still standing with you. Somehow they’ll be around much longer than you could have ever imagined. It’ll be like a Friends episode, except without the money and living in the city and being beautiful.

But right now, you’re not thinking about that. You’re thinking about what it takes to be a man. How hard you’re going to have to hit the other team. Much later, probably when you have two daughters, you’ll understand what it truly means to “man up”, but for now you’re a testosterone-filled psycho. Except you’re not. You write poetry and rock your English classes and have a disdain for self-centeredness, especially in yourself. Those traits, including being a rage-fueled boy, will serve you well. Because you are going to leave a piece of yourself here, on this field, and you will forever be tied to the tumultuous wave of adolescence, because you will refuse to let go. In many ways you will never grow up. And in extraordinary ways you will.

Writing will be an outlet. Purely emotional at first, so don’t be embarrassed by what emerges. Talking to yourself on paper is better than talking to no one at all. That conversation will eventually turn and you will hone a voice for telling these stories–not just yours, but of the teens like you. Because there are more than you can imagine, and they will be thankful that you don’t pull punches and that you speak with honesty. Trust me, this isn’t “popular”, but when have you ever cared about that?

Eric and his friends for 50s day at school. Goofy, yes, but Bryan is the one wearing plaid.

Eric and his friends for 50s day at school. Goofy, yes, but Bryan is the one wearing plaid.

And so, that hit that’s coming, you’re prepared for it, as if you’ve trained for the moment, as if the past five years battling diabetes has shored up your defenses. You are strong and you are weak, and you’re about to find out how to live with that contradiction.

The referee blows the whistle and the kicker lines up. You stand near the end zone, taking in the crowd, your girlfriend with the rest of the homecoming court, and October of your senior year feels glorious.

The football slices the air, to your teammate. You prepare to block for him. This is you, right before it falls apart. This fragile self you’ve bound in muscle, about to learn, again, just how delicate we all are.

Grown-up Eric.

Grown-up Eric.

The opposing team streams your way. You see light and your teammate at your back. You sprint and block until they dive, one on each side, your left leg their aiming point.

Your scream reverberates off the concrete of the nearby building. The game halts. Your attackers slap hands, congratulating each other on a job well done.

And it is. Because only when you lose yourself can you then find yourself, and you’re already slipping, with the grass at your back and the bright sky above. And pain, so much pain.

Embrace it. Your former life is over. From here you will build, and you have everything you need to succeed.

Sincerely,

You at 35.

The Teenage Landscape

I am constantly wondering what I’m going to write next. This seems to be the bane of existence for most writers, because as much as we love what we have just finished, there is always the question: Well, is that it?

This tends to nag me when I’m between projects. Mind you, “between projects” means a novel is coming out, i.e. Dare Me, and a draft of another is written. So it’s not as if I’m whiling away my time, but on the flip side, just because something’s complete doesn’t mean it’s any good. Hence the incessant push to Always Be Working.

I’m fortunate to have in insider’s view, and all of my work is a mix of my impressions of teen life, combined with my emotional memory of being an adolescent. I’ve barely met my classes for the year and already I’m blown away by the “cast of characters” before me and the issues they already bring to the table. This year, like all the others, certain activity will consistently emerge (the daredevil behavior in Dare Me), or a particular image will present itself (the hoodies in Tap Out), and my mind will get racing. Then I’ll use bits and pieces of it all to create an impression as full-bodied as I can make it. And off I’ll go with a process that works.

Now, however, Dare Me will soon be out, and readers and critics will have their interpretations about how I present the teenage landscape. Say what they will, but I think this comment nails it: “This book is signature Devine: Intense. Gripping. Honest.”

That is my purpose. I tell stories that are usually a bit dark, are typically intense in nature, but always, always try to present some truth. Not necessarily a truth I want, but one I see and understand. That last point is what gets me yelled at. In my work I try to be a mirror instead of a design. And some people do not like what they see.

That’s all right. Because I’m still going to write with honesty. I’m going to pay attention to my students. I’m going to ask questions about their lives, have conversations with the very demographic I write for. There’s a universal desire in wanting your story told. I do the best I can for the countless ones I hear.

I’m glad to be back at work, for a multitude of reasons, but many of them have to do with being allowed to engage with today’s teens. Their lives are so different from what I knew back in the 90s, but in so many ways they are the same. And if I continue to examine that distinction, I’ll always have an answer for that nagging question.

If You’re Reading This, I’m at Work

It’s true, today I start back to my other job. I’ve enjoyed my summer vacation, feel as if I made headway on my current projects, and certainly enjoyed the time I spent with family and friends. But now I dig in, because so much lies ahead of me, and some pieces are similar to last year at this time, while others are entirely different.

On September 2nd, last year, Tap Out was nine days from its publication date, and I wrote, thanking a local English teacher for her praise of my work. At the time I did not realize that the release date had already passed–I didn’t know what that date was–and that along with everyone who’d received an Advanced Reader Copy, those who had pre-ordered were already reading and reviewing Tap Out. The early reviews were indicative of the way the remaining reviews would go: some love the story; some are offended by it. At first, the negative reviews bothered me, but I quickly got over them and focused on the critical praise that mattered, the reviews from the important publications, like Kirkus, as well as from those in the know, like Ann L.

Now, Dare Me is twenty-seven days from its publication date, with the release date of September 17th. Therefore, I know that in two weeks everyone who pre-ordered will be receiving copies, and I will be searching like mad following that date for reviews. I have also read the Kirkus review of Dare Me and know that it is astounding. So much so that it altered the cover of my novel. Further, I know there are scant reviews already from those with advanced copies, and that the feelings are mixed. As to be expected. Still, I do not have a review from any local teachers, so I’m waiting, because I know how busy they are about to get, and I know how much their opinion matters.

Unlike last year, my signings are all set, and I’ve posted them below. With an October 8th pub date, I have time to get these exact posters into classrooms across the region well before a number of my events. WNYT (channel 13) is interviewing me on 10/5, just like lat year, but sadly, the Times Union will not be running an article on Dare Me. I’m still scratching my head over how that played out.

No worries, though, because I have a good feeling about Dare Me. It’s another novel that will capture the attention of reluctant readers. It’s another novel that honestly explores the contemporary lives of teens without shying away from the hard facts and without making sure that in the end everything is all tucked neatly back together. That’s not how life works and that’s not how I envision my stories. This time last year I was praying that Tap Out would be accepted. It has been, on many levels, including by YALSA and Booklist. This year I am praying that Dare Me finds a wider audience, not because I’m greedy, but because, as I recently wrote to my editor, when we were discussing what’s next, “So yes, stories, I have them. Fingers crossed I manage to tell them well enough.” Trust me, there’s more to come.

And as it was this time last year, the same remains true today. I’m back at work, but really, I’m always working. Teaching and writing have such similar qualities: engage the audience, keep them enthralled, and leave them having learned something new. My lives intersect in one place, the blank page. I hope you enjoy what you find there.

*Bonus*

I will most likely be including the trailer for Dare Me at the end of all of my posts from here until October. Enjoy.

Trailer for Dare Me, created by Patrick Willems

Dare Me Events

The release for Dare Me is fast approaching and I wanted to give you all as much advance notice of events as possible. Therefore, below is the flyer that will be circulating around our area. You’ve got from September through December to come out, say hey, get a copy signed, and depending on the venue, have some drinks and free food.

For those of you that are not in the area, or who just can’t wait to get a copy, pre-order now and your copy should be sent on 9/17. Stores that pre-ordered will also be stocked, but any that did not may not have copies until 10/8. 

I look forward to all of the fun and festivities. Last year with Tap Out was a blast, and I can guarantee this year will be as awesome, if not more so.

Thanks in advance.

I Write Like

I Write Like

I have enjoyed Chuck Palahniuk’s work for quite some time. His twisted tales are vast, even though he is primarily known for Fight Club, and possibly Choke. But Lullaby is frightening in its own way (be careful reading if you’re a parent to a newborn), as is Haunted (whose cover glows in the dark–try sleeping with that image on your nightstand). I could go on with his other titles, but this isn’t a post about Palahniuk’s writing, per se. It’s about my writing, and how it’s like Chuck’s, and a way you can test this and your own.

I Write Like is this great website that allows you to plug in your writing and have it compared to the writing style of famous authors. Once analyzed you can get a digitally sharable badge declaring that you write like a particular icon.

I’ve used it with students, and the results have always been intriguing. There’s an adage in writing that you should copy your favorite author’s voice until you find your own. I find that the authors students read (a ton of Nick Sparks) bleeds onto the page, but only at a level of their ability. Therefore, even though they’ve all read the Harry Potter series, I have never seen J.K. Rowling pop up via I Write Like. Hence, the aforementioned Nick Sparks.

It’s fun and intriguing to consider why you may write like a certain author. I had a colleague try it and he found his style was similar to David Foster Wallace. He was both pleased and concerned for his mental state of being. I think Palahniuk is a credible parallel to my work because of the obvious darkness, violence and vulgarity that permeates both of our stories. I won’t go so far as to say I sound like Chuck, but there certainly is a similarly to the rhythm of sentence structure.

Beyond that I can only hope to continue to emulate his style–unknowingly or not–until some day I Write Like spits out my name to someone just getting started.

For Fun:

Here is my badge, proclaiming what I’ve stated. Feel free to plug in the samples on the homepage from either, Tap Out or Dare Me and you’ll get the same result. Then go and find out who you write like. I’d love to know.

I write like
Chuck Palahniuk

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Why Dare Me?

DareMeCvr

All teenagers want to be seen. Today they can achieve visibility in an instant, but they face the same challenge as we all have, rising above everyone else and into the limelight.

This is Dare Me.

This is why I wrote Dare Me:

  1. I wanted to explore YouTube culture and the way it is shaping our teens, who constantly want to be seen, and see themselves. Or some idea of that.
  2. Being a daredevil–or lacking “good judgment”–has plagued me since I was a teen, and it continues to plague teens today. Combine this with YouTube and something powerful emerges.
  3. Need proof of #2? Tosh. O.
  4. On that note, I’ve always wondered why we as a culture derive pleasure from others’ pain. We watch, cringe, and then watch again. I hear, “Watch this, Mr. D,” from my students daily.
  5. Tap Out was dark, as in I-can’t-see-my-hand-in-front-of-my-face-is-that-a-gun? dark. I wanted less dark, but equal intensity. Having characters risk their lives on a monthly basis fulfilled that goal.
  6. Money. Today, it’s everything, on par with the visibility quotient of #1. Adults have limited ability in this economy to turn things around quickly. So, what if? What if a teen knew of a way to make money, lots of it, risking something he doesn’t truly think he can lose, but is worth everything? Mhmm, that’s a great layer.
  7. Romance. For real. I wanted to see of I could write sparks. They are as genuine as can be for this would-be couple, in this volatile situation (Don’t think of that terrible line from Speed–it’s much more innocent and honest than that).
  8. Exploration of friendships. Risking your life is easy. Having emotions is difficult. You cannot do the former without having the latter. So, what are those emotions when they’re tied to your friends? And what if you haven’t been that close since middle school? What if this type of behavior was your undoing in the past? What now?
  9. Identity. Every story is about identity. Loss of it, a search for it, a confusion about it, a disillusionment over it, a false belief in it… Every story I write looks at this dynamic, and Dare Me asks how one can stay true to oneself when everything is up in the air.
  10. The one barometer I have for my stories is this question: Is it awesome? The answer has to be yes. And not just for the plot or for the characters or for the deeper, thematic issues. ALL. OF. IT.

I hope that provides some insight. Because BEA kicks off on Wednesday and runs through Saturday. At some point, Running Press will be giving away Advanced Reader Copies of Dare Me.

I hope that every copy disappears and that all turn to this site and find this post. Then when they head to Goodreads they can score me on my success or failure regarding my goals. Especially #10.

Enjoy.

Fear of Failure (with an excerpt from Dare Me)

It’s commencement time. Students are graduating and moving on to higher education or into the workforce, and intelligent people have words of wisdom for them. The most prevalent I’ve heard is, “embrace failure.”

Michelle Obama most recently suggested this to high school students in Tennessee. And just last week I posted Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech to last year’s graduating class at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, which has recently been turned into a book, Make Good Art. One I’m sure will find its way into many graduates’ hands.

I find the discussion interesting, this talk of failure and its ability to spur one on to better himself or herself. I agree with it, wholeheartedly. I have failed so many times, have made so many mistakes in so many ways that I now expect to struggle. I even advise my daughters with this wisdom: mistakes are normal.

Yet–and it’s a big yet–I am so very anxious of failing with Dare Me.

It’s not that Dare Me is going to rival Tap Out for morally offensive elements and I fear being labeled “amoral” or “immoral”. Rather, it’s that I know more about the industry this time around, just enough that I’m second-guessing every move.

Last week I blogged about my most recent conundrum: should I or shouldn’t I pay for a professional book trailer?

Really? This was even a question? Dare Me is focused on YouTube, daredevil culture. What other medium could possibly do better for promotion?

Word-of-mouth.

It’s the truth. Word-of-mouth, be it literally one person to the next, or virtually, on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, blogs, etc., is the number one way books get sold. And yes, it makes sense that marketing increases word-of-mouth, but no amount of marketing overshadows lack of engagement, lack of talk about a book.

So what do I do?

Behave like Joel Goodsen (Tom Cruise) in Risky Business when he meets with the college recruiter? You know the famous line. Or do I continue to worry relentlessly like Cameron Frye in Ferris Bueller’s? (Can’t resist the 80s movie references–sorry.)

I don’t know.

Part of me wants to turn off my brain and just take the plunge. Like I did when I started writing. No thought, just action. Part of me wants to analyze and be exacting. Chances are I’ll do a little of both.

I am afraid of failure, but I am equally afraid of not trying. I fall neatly into Seth Godin’s idea of anxiety: “I define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance.”

That is not the goal. Good writing, word-of-mouth spread, and true enjoyment of the process, is.

So in that spirit, as I’m figuring out what to do, let me give you a slice of Dare Me, not surprisingly, from a scene in which Ben, the protagonist, is afraid to jump, and equally afraid not to.

(Excerpt)

     I don’t have time to respond, because he’s at my elbow again and I’m standing and all is as it was before, except I’m more used to the blindfold. In fact, I’m glad I have it on, because I’m numb.

    “In five, four, three . . .”

    Ricky’s voice fades and I hop. For a moment, I feel nothing and wonder if I haven’t jumped far enough. But then I’m falling, the wind rushing by and my insides shaking. I remember to tighten up just before I hit.

Amidst the Chaos

These past two weeks have been insane for me, professionally, and personally. We had the JDRF Walk for my daughter, a spring concert, my eldest’s first communion, and, of course Mothers’ Day.

I held the cover reveal for Dare Me and dialed in on the last chapters of my Work In Progress. I’m two chapters out from what would be my 2015 title. Fingers crossed.

But amidst all this, last week, I got quite a surprise. For those of you who are members of my Facebook author page, you know the story. I apologize for the redundancy, but every good story bears repeating.

First, I posted this:

Received a tweet from a teacher this morning directing me to her review of Tap Out. Two things to love in her piece: 

1. That the kids WANTED to read the story.
2. That she read it AFTER they did. That takes courage with the content, but I applaud her for that.

Tap Out should not be the new literary standard, by any means, but as a gateway for readership… I’ll take it. Here’s the review.

Then, later on, I followed up with this post:

So the teacher who contacted me had another request after I responded to her tweet. Her class wanted to know the story of how Tap Out came to be. I had five minutes while I had lunch, so I typed the message below. 

She got back to me later in the day, thanking me for the message, as her students truly enjoyed the feedback and a moment with an author.
I am quite honestly the one who reveled the moment. To know your work has value, real, impacting value. Yeah, that’s what motivates me at 4 AM when I’d rather be sleeping.
Hope you all feel the same with the work you do:

(My message to the students):
Hey, Eric Devine here. So, my inspiration… I’m sure I have an articulate blog post on my site, but I can’t find it, so here’s the quick and dirty:

I teach in a school that had a number of students participating in MMA. I noticed them and realized that many had a similar background (impoverished, violent homes). I then considered what it would like to be one of them, but on an extreme level, where they had literally nothing, not even MMA as an outlet. What kind of life would that be?

Tony was born from that idea. I wanted a kid tough enough to withstand, but who has been beaten down long enough that he questions himself, what he can take and whether he should keep fighting.

I’ve witnessed a lot of kids like Tony (male and female) who are good people, but for whom life has not been kind. Some turn out well; most do not. Therefore, I wanted a good kid who’s been given a raw deal to suffer as much as anyone could, in order to see which way he would go.

I can honestly say I did not realize how it would all shake out, but I am happy with the fact that Tony made some choices that do not sit well with people. That lets me know I made it authentic. Real life rarely sits well at all times with all people.

Tap Out is not a story of my life turned fiction. I have witnessed poverty and extreme violence and insanity, but secondhand. I am not Tony, but I love him for all his flaws, and for his humanity. Because in the end, I believe there is hope for him.

Later, I messaged the teacher and she told me that the students were so awestruck that they demanded she give them all printouts of my response. Unreal.

But it’s also so validating, because I meant every word of that response, and to receive such feedback made my day on so many levels. It’s a tough job, writing. You have to fully commit, and must expect nothing. I’m there. I live that life, in the very odd, isolated way it can often feel. But then there are these moments, when all of it is worth it.

Not because of the money. Not because of the accolades or critical praise. But because some kid, somewhere is reading. And he or she is reading my book. And he or she loves it.

I did that. And I get the opportunity to continue to do that. Yes, that is awesome. And I’ll rough the chaos for that moment of order, whenever it materializes.

That moment with your audience

Every year I present to various schools that use my first novel, This Side of Normal, as a text within the Biology curriculum. I love these opportunities because I get to speak with teens I don’t work with, and have the opportunity to connect with them about storytelling. This past Friday I attempted this with an auditorium of freshman.

When I pulled up to Shaker High School I tweeted this:

Capture

Little did I know just how prophetic these words would be.

I know how checked out students can be on a Friday afternoon, and this group came in riled up and ready for the weekend. I watched the cliques form along the rows, saw the unimpressed looks, the phones out, the boredom.

This is a fear-inducing moment, that instant when you realize the story about to be told had better be one awesome experience or the next forty minutes are going to be painful for everyone. That “A game”? Yeah, bring it.

And so I did. My presentation is on Prezi, so score one there. I didn’t tell the kids to put their phones away, because that’s like asking them to hold their breath–it’s only going to last so long. Another score. Then I asked them to relax and let me entertain them before the weekend hit. They eased back, and I began.

I tell my story of realizing I have type 1, how I handled that at home and at school. I tell wacky stories and bounce around the room. Literally. And on this day I did so with more gusto than I would normally. And the audience was into it. They laughed at my jokes, answered questions when I asked, and overall had a good time.

Then came the true test–No, not the pitch for my other books, that came at the end. I cannot talk about diabetes without discussing my daughter, Kaygan*. However, this was the first time I did so in front of a room of strangers, of teenagers who wanted to be into the weekend.

I pulled up the slide with the following picture:

photo (11)

The room was silent as I explained. To their credit, this group of kids who had read my book, and may or may not have been interested in what I had to say, treated with reverence, what were, for me, some of the most difficult words I have ever uttered.

That was the moment. Not the one where I knew I had to earn this presentation, but the one where I knew they cared. Because, really, that’s what my presentation is about. Caring enough to share, to pay attention, and to tell powerful stories. They got it, and then I talked about Tap Out and gave them a sneak peek at Dare Me.

The presentation was nerve-wracking and painful and a little sad, but ultimately triumphant. Just like the novel they had all read. There’s something to that. And I have the freshman of Shaker High to thank. Here are a couple of their tweets to me:

Capture-1

Capture-2

Keep it classy, Blue Bison.

*For those of you who have followed Kaygan’s diagnosis and adjustment: she’s now on an insulin pump and doing very well. She’s the same diva, but with one exceptional accessory.