It's been too long since I've updated my blog... sorry about that.
In my defense, I've been doing a LOT of writing anyway. Most of you know that I've already started the rough draft of the ANOM: Awakening sequel, tentatively titled ANOM: Legacy. I'm about a third of the way through my draft, and I'm very excited in the direction the story is taking. I've introduced some great new characters into the ANOM universe, and I'm answering some of those questions that were left open in the first book. There's still (way) too much work to get done on the book to think about release dates yet, but I'm hoping the rough draft will be finished by the summer.
Of course ANOM is not my only series and due to popular demand, I've also started to write the sequel to Kira the Rainbow Princess. For whatever reason, kids seem to truly love this fantasy novel about talking teddy bears and not-so-scary zombies. I've heard countless stories from parents and teachers about reluctant readers investing themselves in Kira the Rainbow Princess. Of course the other story I've heard, without fail, is that by the end of the novel, my readers are dying to know: Where's the sequel?
I'm happy to announce, it's on its way. The second novel in the Rainbow Princes Chronicles should be released before the end of the year (just in time for Christmas).
And there are other projects too. In addition to being a full time English teacher at a South Jersey High School, I'm working on some other avenues to advance my writing career.
With the success of Kira the Rainbow Princess, a number of my friends (who just happen to be teachers) have invited me to speak to their classes about writing and specifically my writing process for Kira. Believe it or not, not every 3rd-6th grader loves to write! Hopefully, by meeting an author and talking about my book, these students will become more engaged with reading and the writing process. I'm already scheduled to talk to the entire 6th grade of Pitman Middle School, and I'm currently in talks to present my book to students in Swedesboro and Blackwood, too.
In other news, I've partnered with the Pitman Gallery and Art Center to offer a number of creative writing classes to our community. Classes will be geared for both young and old writers, advanced and beginners, and everyone else in-between. I'll keep everyone aware of dates, times, and course registration as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, you can check out the Art Center webpage here.
Finally, I'll be working to create a new cache of ghost stories for this year's Haunted Tales of Pitman Ghost Tour. This was a fun, free event last year that invited people to walk through our small town and hear some of the creepy stories from our haunted past. I'm happy to announce this free event will continue in 2017 with even more scary (and not-so-scary) stories... of course somebody has to write those stories down, and that person happens to be me. For more information about the Haunted Tales of Pitman, you should like our Facebook page.
So as you can see, it's a busy time to be a writer. Thanks for your patience, and hopefully I'll write again very soon.
In my experience, the most difficult moment in writing is always found on the first page. And the single, hardest word to write is always the first word.
It doesn't matter if I'm typing a simple blog post or starting a new novel... page one, word one is torture. It is a trap fraught with fear, doubt, and procrastination. It is the event horizon of the writer's black hole, and once you cross that threshold, you will be carried inextricably down to some unknown, unavoidable conclusion.
In the last year I have experienced great accomplishment. Years of writing and editing and re-writing and re-editing finally bore fruit as I self-published my first two novels. The launch parties, and praise, and holding a physical copy of my book were all lots of fun. I felt like the surfer riding on top of a wave toward shore, carried by the unseen momentum of my finished work.
But now the wave has crested and crashed, and I'm left paddling out again into the surf. I have started two new novels -- the first is my sequel to ANOM: Awakening and the second is a sequel to Kira the Rainbow Princess. In both cases I am gripped by the fear that neither one will be as good as the original. And that fear can be paralyzing.
Of course the fear that I'm talking about -- fear of failure -- is part of the bargain. In any attempt to create something new there is the specter of failure hanging over the attempt. And sometimes that fear is so great, that it's easier to simply never begin. I wonder how many novels were left unwritten because of page one, word one?
I don't know that there is any cure other than the need to tell a story. When the need to write is greater than the fear of failure, you sit down and force yourself to conquer the blank screen. You accept the imperfections of your writing because you trust that an imperfect "something" is preferable to the perfect "nothing" of a blank page. You push the doubts aside and tell yourself it can all be fixed in a second draft.
And then you roll up your sleeves, sit down at your desk, and go to work.
Last year I had the chance to celebrate my writing with my friends and family, but last year is over. Now it's time to go to work.
What a perfect ending to an amazing year!
The launch party for Kira the Rainbow Princess was incredible. We had a packed house at Alaura Kitchen and Candy almost the entire time that we were there. It was great seeing so many of our family and friends, and it was humbling to know that they were all there to support me.
I especially want to thank our Master of Ceremonies, the incomparable Matthew Weng, for keeping things moving on the microphone. I need to thank Jessi Smith, who not only took pictures of the event, but made commemorative soaps and peg figurines (still available at the Wind Change). A big thanks to Alicia Sierra and Liz Jackson for handling the raffle tickets. Thanks to my brother Michael and his wife Nan for being in charge of sales. And last, but not least, thank you to Patrick and Michelle Bradley for allowing us to invade their shop for a couple hours (and to Cindy and Stephanie for scooping all that ice cream!)
This will be my last post in 2016 so I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Joyous New Year. You all have made my 2016 a year I'll never forget. I'm excited to look ahead at 2017 and all the work I need to do . . . ANOM: Legacy and the sequel to Kira are not going to write themselves.
Let me leave with this one last exhortation -- if you've had a chance to read Kira, please consider going to Amazon to leave a review of my book. ANOM: Awakening cracked the Amazon top 100 because so many of you took the time to give it a rating and review. I know, with your help, that Kira can enjoy the same success.
Other than that, stay bundled up this winter and you'll hear from me again in 2017.
I wish you all the best, always.
There was a wonderful song we learned in nursery school . . . "Make new friends, but keep the old; One is silver and the other's gold."
In the context of the song - despite what we've clearly been taught by Olympic competition - gold and silver are equally valuable. Therefore both old friends and new friends should be considered precious.
And I was thinking of this song as it relates to Kira the Rainbow Princess. Certainly Kira is a book that emphasizes community. The story is a familiar one . . . our hero goes on a journey to save her parents, and on the way she meets a host of new friends.
But the more I thought about Kira, the more I began to reflect on my own life's journey this past year and the influence of my friends - both old and new.
One year ago, this website did not exist. No one besides my closest friends even knew that I was attempting to write anything. Now I stand on the eve of my second novel's launch party. Talk about a journey!
And I know that none of this would have been possible without the help, encouragment, and support of my family and oldest friends. Some obvious names come to mind - my mom and dad. My sister Courtney and her husband Doug and their family. My brother Michael and his wife Nan. My Uncle Tommy and Aunt Vicky. My in-laws Ray and Joyce, and my sister-in-law Whitney and her husband Joe. Vanessa's cousin Rebecca. All of them have encouraged me to pursue my dream of writing.
And no one has offered more support than my amazing wife Vanessa and my two wonderful kids Aidan and Fiona. This book would literally not have been possible without them.
And I think of old friends who have become something closer to family after years of shared experience . . . George and Shannon DeVol, Curtis Homan, Michael and Leah Morgan, Eleasa Allen, Karen and Ryan Fothergill. I am so grateful for their years of friendship and support. So much of what I've accomplished this year rests on the fact that they never once treated my dream of writing like a joke. They were with me, step for step, sometimes pushing me forward.
But for as much as my friends and family have remained a constant, life has a way of changing . . . and looking back on 2016 I can see those changes now that they've unfolded.
There was a wonderful Facebook post from my friend Dani Cooke when she wrote, "At some point in 2016 my house became my home and my town became my hometown. I am thankful every day for the place i live and the people who live in this place."
And I thought I was supposed to be the writer . . . but I read her words and it echoes my own heart.
I've made so many great friends this year (or deepened fledgling friendships from years before) . . . Matthew and Sarah Weng, Jeff and Jackie Danger, Dani and Stephen Cooke, Brad and Jessi Smith, Bobby and Liss Jones, Steven Narleski, Leanne Tursi, Patrick and Michelle Bradley, Dan and Amy Rudley, Preston Conyers and the senseis and students at Champions, Greg and Liz Jackson, Lou and Alicia Sierre and the list could continue . . .
In the final episode of The Office, the character of Andy Bernard says, "I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them."
Today I know I'm there.
And that's why I'm so excited for tomorrow . . . I'm excited to share my day with so many of you - old friends and new - who have made my dream of writing come true. Tomorrow is a day for all of us!
With lots of love and a thankful heart, always.
The launch party for Kira the Rainbow Princess is next Saturday! I'm reposting all the details below. I hope you'll be able to join us to celebrate the launch of my second book. Should be a lot of fun!!!
1. WHERE: The party will be held at Alaura Kitchen and Candy at 36 South Broadway, Pitman, NJ 08071 (you can check out the map below).
2. WHEN: The party will be on Saturday, December 10th from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. We're hoping it feels like an "open house" so please show up at any time between 2 and 4, and stay as long as you like!
3. CAN I BUY YOUR BOOK: Absolutely! We will have paperback copies of my book for sale at the launch party! The book will cost $10.00 and we will accept both cash and major credit cards. However, the book is also available for sale from Amazon.com, so feel free to purchase your copy ahead of time and bring it to the party!
4. WHAT ELSE WILL WE DO: At 2:30 and again at 3:30 I'll take a break from signing to read excerpts from my book. After the readings, there will be a brief question and answer period so I can field all of your questions regarding my writing and the adventures of Kira the Rainbow Princess. There will also be door prizes and free ice cream.
5. WHAT KIND OF DOOR PRIZES: We're going to give away gift cards to 4 local Pitman businesses. Four lucky winners will receive a $10 gift card to either Alaura Kitchen and Candy, The Wind Change, Crossroad Comics and Collectibles, or Dia De Los Burritos. We will also be giving away a limited number of "SNUGG" teddy bears to some of our younger visitors (ages 12 and under).
6. WAIT A MINUTE. DID YOU SAY FREE ICE CREAM: YES!!! Everyone who comes to the launch party will get 1 free scoop of ice cream from Alaura Kitchen and Candy. You can pick any flavor available, but one of your choices will be the new signature flavor Kira the Rainbow Princess Ice Cream (it's Strawberry mixed with Party Cake and Rainbow Sprinkles and it's delicious)! This is our way of saying "thank you" for supporting the launch of my new novel.
7. ICE CREAM IS NICE, BUT I REALLY WANT A T-SHIRT: You are in luck! A limited number of t-shirts will be sold at the launch party. Shirts will cost $12.00 and will be available in men's crew neck, women's v-neck, and kids sizes. You can check out the design on the front of the shirt here.
8. WHAT IF I CAN'T MAKE IT TO THE LAUNCH PARTY: Throughout the party, we will be going live on Facebook to share the festivities. You can expect to see the live readings on Facebook at 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. There will also be an exclusive online reading at 5:30! Check out my Facebook page here to get notifications regarding our Facebook Live events!
And that about covers it. If you have any additional questions, please leave them in the comments. Otherwise, I hope to see you all at the launch party on December 10th!
Kira the Rainbow Princess has been available for less than a week on Amazon, but we're already off to a great start thanks to YOU!
Kira currently ranks as #14 among FREE Children's Fantasy & Magic e-books! None of this would be possible without your enthusiasm and support.
But we're only just getting started. Our launch party is still two weeks away (on December 10th) and in the meantime, a number of you have asked me what you can do to help promote Kira. That's great because I NEED YOUR HELP!
There are two major steps you can take to help make Kira a success!
First, please take the time to tell your friends and family about my latest novel. You can share my webpage, my Facebook posts, or point them to Kira on Amazon! The more people who know about Kira, the better.
Secondly, and maybe even more importantly, you can REVIEW my book on Amazon!
Amazon uses your ratings and reviews to recommend my book to other customers. Writing a review is simple and fun. All you have to do is give your HONEST opinion and let other readers know why they might enjoy the book as well.
I continue to appreciate all of your support. Sometimes it feels like trying to be a writer is the epitome of craziness, but when I read your kind words or hear your enthusiasm for Kira, it makes everything seem possible.
Hopefully I'll get to see you on December 10th and we can celebrate Kira together . . . because I wouldn't be here without your help!
I received a question on Facebook the other day . . . It was a good question - a question I've asked myself - and ultimately a question that I've struggled to answer. Here it goes: Is Kira the Rainbow Princess 'girly'? Or, in other words, is Kira a book that is targeted toward a female audience?
For me, the difficulty of the question is rooted in both the past and the present - in a childhood filled with reinforced gender stereotypes and a changing world that often rejects such a neat categorization. But understanding the complexity of the question is far from an answer. Is Kira a book intended just for girls?
To answer this question we need to go directly to the source of all social context - CARTOONS!
I grew up in the 1980's and for most of that decade cartoons were sharply divided down gender lines. A typical cartoon line-up for me often included: He-Man, Voltron, GI Joe, Transformers, and Thundercats.
These were all "boy" cartoons. Almost all of them employed a token female character (with the exception of Transformers, which avoided the inclusion of a female robot through the entire first generation story) but they were undoubtedly intended for a male audience.
There were "girl" cartoons, too. Their fare consisted of programs like: She-Ra, Rainbow Brite, and Jem.
So when I view my book through the lens of the 80's, it seems my answer would be yes - Kira the Rainbow Princess is a book for girls. A cursory glance of the cover is all it takes to identify the female iconography - The main character is a girl, she has PINK hair, the back cover is PURPLE, there are Butterflies, Rainbows, Princesses . . . according to the 80's, that's all girl stuff!
BUT WE DON'T LIVE IN THE 80's ANY LONGER!!!
By the early 90's, cartoons had changed. You can point to the slate of after school Disney shows which included offerings such as Duck Tales and Gummi Bears, and then later shows in the decade like Pokemon. These cartoons were gender neutral, and that neutrality is a trend that has continued into the present day.
No where is this more obvious than in the amazing work of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
This is a show that is cut from the same action-adventure cloth as cartoons from the 80's with a rich mythology and compelling characters, but unlike those 80's cartoons which gave us one or two token female characters, Avatar puts the spotlight squarely on their female cast.
The main villain in seasons 2 and 3 of Avatar is a woman (Azula). The scariest character in the series is a woman (Hama, the Bloodbender). The toughest character is a woman (Toph). The most competent character is a woman (Suki). And arguably the heart and soul of the entire series is a woman (Katara).
By 80's logic, with so many leading female characters, Avatar should be a show made for girls . . . but it's not. It's a show for all of us because the female characters listed above are never reduced to just their gender. Even Suki, the leader of a band of female warriors, cannot be defined by just her gender.
Suki is not treated as a great fighter EVEN THOUGH she's a woman. Likewise, she's not treated as a great fighter BECAUSE she's a woman. Instead, she's considered a great fighter AND she's a woman.
And that subtle difference makes all the difference.
So I can tell you now, with 100% confidence, that Kira is not a book intended only for girls.
Yes, Kira is a girl. She is also a Rainbow Princess. But more than either of those things, Kira is brave, and scared, and smart, and strong, and a leader, and a friend . . . and those words have no gender. No matter what decade you're living in.
I know I promised a Q and A about Kira, the Rainbow Princess over a week ago, but things got pretty busy . . . We announced a launch date and a launch party last week, and now we're less than a month away from launch. There's a lot of information to cover so this is actually the perfect time to answer some of your questions.
Q: When and where will Kira, the Rainbow Princess be available?
A: Kira, the Rainbow Princess will be available through Amazon.com on Friday, November 25, 2016! An electronic version of the book for e-readers as well as a paperback version will be available - just in time for Christmas!!!
Q: Who is the intended audience for Kira?
A: Kira is a middle-grade, fantasy adventure novel. It should be suitable for children of all ages, and is intended to appeal to both boys and girls. One of my hopes in writing Kira was to offer a modern fantasy adventure (in the same vein as the Chronicles of Narnia) with a strong female protagonist.
Q: You mentioned a launch party... Any details?
A: Our launch party will once again be hosted by Alaura Kitchen and Candy in Pitman, NJ on December 10, 2016. We plan on having a "signing table" as well as live-readings by the author. We'll also have raffle drawings throughout the launch party and of course we're giving away FREE ice cream.
Q: Will I be able to purchase Kira, the Rainbow Princess at your launch party?
A: Yes, we will have a limited supply of paperbacks available for purchase at the launch party.
That covers a lot of the details about Kira's launch in November and our launch party in December. We should have one more Question and Answer blog post before launch, so if we didn't get to your question this time, hopefully we can answer things the next time around. Check back early and often for all your Kira information!
I wanted to put up a quick post this week to keep everyone in the loop regarding Kira, the Rainbow Princess.
A lot of people have been asking about Kira's launch date -- especially because they're starting to think ahead to Christmas and the idea that Kira might make a nice present for a middle-grade (3rd -8th?) child.
Unfortunately, as of today, I still can't commit to a definite launch date for Kira. There are a couple of reasons for this. One of the things I've discovered about being a self-published writer, is that it's a lot like juggling. You throw multiple balls up into the air and then you try to keep the faith that those various projects will land as you expected. So how does that relate to Kira?
Next week, I will send Kira, the Rainbow Princess to my editor, Liam Carnahan at Invisible Ink Editing. I cannot say (with any certainty) how long it will stay with Liam before he sends the revisions back to me. My best guess is 4-6 weeks, but honestly, who knows? Once I get the edited version of Kira back in my possession I'll be able to lock in a definite launch date.
The Good News is that (if everything goes according to plan) Kira should be available on Thanksgiving Weekend . . . making it the perfect literary present for any of your middle-grade friends and family!!!
Thanks for being patient as I try to navigate this publishing process for only the second time in my life (without a very good map or compass).
Finally, one last note. Next week I would like to post a Question and Answer for Kira, the Rainbow Princess. So, if there's anything you're dying to know about the story, the characters, or the process . . . please drop me a note in the contact page on my website.
Thanks again for your support!
In what is shaping-up to be one of the most contentious presidential elections in recent history, I have intentionally avoided the topic of politics on this webpage. This has been done, very much, by design.
I do not intend to publicly endorse either candidate. Nor do I plan on telling you who to vote for -- frankly it's none of my business. I trust that you're all smart enough to research the issues most important to you and then make an educated decision between either left or right.
That's the beautiful thing about being an American! We each enjoy the freedom to walk into the voting booth on November 8th, each one of us shrouded in complete secrecy, and then we cast our vote to screw up our country in whatever manner we think is best.
And all things being equal, I STILL wouldn't be writing about politics on this webpage, but I read an article today that I cannot ignore -- Not as a husband. Not as a father. And not as a human being.
Today I read an article in the Washington Post. The headline reads, "Trump Recorded Having Extremely Lewd Conversation About Women in 2005". I won't repeat the comments here, but I will include a link to the article.
My reaction is visceral -- it is one of both anger and disgust. It's a reaction that is justified.
But, at least for the moment, I ask you to put those raw emotions aside. I want you to ignore the actual words Trump said in 2005. Instead, I want you to focus on the response offered by Trump in 2016.
Regarding these quotes, Trump says,“This was locker-room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended."
Those words -- that "response" -- is unacceptable. In fact, anything less than a complete apology (not for causing offense, but for the words themselves) is unconscionable.
Trying to rationalize and justify these comments to the people of America as "private" or "locker-room banter" only reinforces the obvious: Trump is a misogynist.
Undoubtedly, there will be individuals who run to Trump's defense. They will use lines like:
All men talk like that. -- No we don't. Apologize. Women are not objects for you to grab at your whim.
It was a private conversation -- Not anymore. Apologize. Your words are hurtful and dangerous.
Hilary's even worse than Trump -- That's what we call a deflection. Talk about the issue. Is it okay for men to talk this way about women? I'll give you a hint. The answer is "no". Apologize.
How do you explain these comments to your 8 year old daughter? Is that too young? Okay, how do you explain them when she's 16? When she's 36? How do you justify an American president who talks this way about women and then dismisses it as "locker-room banter"?
I wrote Kira, the Rainbow Princess for my daughter Fiona AND for my son Aidan. I wanted to write about a strong female character capable of saving herself. I wanted them both to read Kira. I wanted them to see a girl who was brave and smart and competent. That's the story I wanted to tell. That's the story I wanted them to grow-up reading.
But history has been telling us a different story for too long -- it's the same story Trump likes to share in the privacy of his locker-room. And now it's up to us - ALL OF US - to change that story.
Like I said before, you can vote for whoever you want. This is America. I'm going to do the same. But please, don't let these comments (and the world view toward women that they reflect) go unchallenged.
This is America after all, and it's about time we changed the story.