23 Years Ago Today…

I can’t let this day go by without acknowledging it. 23 years ago today my father was shot twelve times in an armed robbery and my life and the lives of my family were changed forever. And, in my estimation, for the better.

Here’s a couple of videos showing what happened that day.

That’s what it’s all about. That’s why I wrote my book, Raised By a Dead Man. Because of that, and because there’s so much more story to tell. Thanks for remembering with me.


How to Make Things Valuable

A writerly pose. Notice the all-black attire, the awkward framing, the fingers brought to the temple, and the archaic writing tool. Yes, this man has deep, deep thoughts.

When I was younger I had this dream about accomplishing something amazing at a young age. Get hired by Marvel or DC Comics. Write a book. Serve in City Council. Invent a new Oreo. Whatever. I thought that doing something great at a young age would make me and that thing more extraordinary.

Didn’t happen. The things I did as a young adult were pretty typical. I graduated college. Married. Had kids. Got a job and a house. All good things and great accomplishments for me personally, but nothing the world was gonna stand up and take notice of.

Fast forward to now and, on the eve of my 35th birthday (still a week away), I actually have done something pretty great. I’ve written a book that could find a wide audience and change my life and the life of my family forever. That’s terribly exciting, but it’s nothing people younger than me haven’t already done hundreds of times over. Granted, my story is my own and unique and amazing, but I’ve read and heard about kids and young adults still in college getting these amazing book deals. Real prodigies. People who have accomplished so much and are so talented  and so young. That was supposed to me.

I’m so, so glad it wasn’t.

There is value in the wait. With hard, laborious, extended periods of work and pounds of sweat comes a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. I can appreciate what I have now because of where I’ve been and what it took to get here. My book has been through the wringer–multiple readers and people giving their opinion on what I’ve done and what does and does work for them. The “does not” is the hard part. Pouring your heart and talents into something for years and then being told it’s not quite right is tough and it shapes you. Thank goodness.

Now, I have a literary agent. I’ve written a book. Do you know how exciting that is? I do, now. If this had happened to younger me (and no friggin’ way he had the talent or the skills), he wouldn’t have appreciated it. There would have a been a sense of inevitability about it. A sense of entitlement that would have made the accomplishment less thrilling and less deserved. I’m glad that punk didn’t get this then. What I have now is more valuable because that guy was disappointed and had to wait and reconfigure who he thought he was and work harder than he ever thought he could.

I realize I haven’t really “done it” yet. In fact, I’m at the biggest crossroads of this whole process right now. The book is about to go out to publishers and then we’ll really see what the future holds. But everything that’s happened so far? Pretty big deal. More than most ever get.

I’m so glad I can see that fully.

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: I Have Accepted an Offer of Representation

This is something I’ve been wanting to write for a long, long time. I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been offered and accepted representation for my book RAISED BY A DEAD MAN (working title) from Bonnie Solow of Solow Literary Enterprises!

Querying agents is a rough business. A query is a short letter telling the agent what the book is about and why it’s awesome. Very hard to sum up a 300 page book in one page and do it in such a way that makes an agent want to read more. Agents receive HUNDREDS of queries every week from the anonymous, unwashed masses. They call it “The Slush Pile.” Most of them suck. Not sucking is your best way to stand out from the crowd, but even then… the odds are against you.

I played the odds because I believed in my book. Not that I had any right to. I never though of myself as a writer until about four or five years ago. I got this fool idea in my head that I could write a book and so I did. My (true!) story is about growing up during the time between my father’s two shootings and dealing with his death. Heavy stuff, but funny too. Really. Death is pretty awesome and only in the space a book gives me could I ever explain why I think so.

And now I have an agent who also believes in me. She’s read the book twice now and given me some invaluable feedback and wants to bring it to the world. She’s amazing. In the fourteen years she’s been working as an agent, I’m only the second author she’s ever rescued from the slush pile. That’s how much my book resonated with her. Now, we’re working together to bring the book to publishers and convince them to invest big in a story that we both feel could sell many, many copies. It’s quite the thing when someone who knows their stuff believes in you.

There’s still a lot of work ahead. Nothing is guaranteed, but my faith in this book is as unwavering now as it was when I first called up a blank sheet and started typing. The difference now is that I have a lot more reasons to think success is on the horizon.

Big thanks to everyone who has believed in me and supported me so far. You know who you are. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re much closer.

More to come.

Yeah, But What’s It ABOUT?

I’ve been shopping a book I’ve written out to agents for potential publication.

That’s a rough process. Querying agents. It involves A LOT of rejection and very little feedback on why something you’ve bled and sweat for is being tossed aside. But, as they say, it only takes one agent to believe in you. Once you have that, you enter rarified company. You’re no longer the lone voice shouting in the wilderness of publishing. You’re (drumroll, please…) TWO voices! But that second voice can be a powerful advocate. And can do a lot more for your book than you can.

That process has brought me pretty far down a road that has, at times, been quite wearying. But it’s also yielded some very positive results. Without revealing too much (all in good time), I’ve gotten some recent, very specific feedback that has inspired the creation of my Eighth (!) draft. One of the most poignant notes? “What is the book about? You need to figure that out.”

But… but… I thought it was pretty clear what it was about. It’s a coming-of-age story. It’s about death. And overcoming tragedy. And faith. And fathers and sons. And… 

And then I realized that, yeah, my book is about all of those things, but what is it ABOUT? Books and stories can be about many things, but at the end of it one should have some idea of, well, the main idea. And after seven drafts I hadn’t really conquered that particular mountain. Crazy but true.

How can that happen? Well, I think it happens more often than we think. I think a lot of stories and movies and tv shows and comics have little point to them, or aren’t pulled together in a coherent way. They may touch on many issues and themes, but what that particular book or movie or tv show or comic or whatever is trying to say may be lost. Or not there at all.

This is why a ridiculous TV show by the name of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was so hailed in its day (among other reasons). Buffy was never just about a girl who kills vampires. Joss Whedon created a show about a young girl growing up fighting monsters that often also served as a metaphor for a coming-of-age. Sometimes it was clumsily handled, but most of the time the show did a beautiful job of charting the course from adolescence to adulthood in some top notch, creative ways. An episode may have been about Buffy sleeping with her vampire boyfriend and then him turning evil, but that wasn’t what it was really ABOUT.

So, what about my book? I’m happy to report that what my book is really ABOUT wasn’t all that hard to figure out once I set my mind to it. It had always been there, I just had to discover it. Now that I have, I’m using the eighth draft to call that theme out a little more and really center the narrative on that idea, even while there are so many other ideas at play. It’s going to make the book much more satisfying, and a heckuva lot more marketable.

What about you, are you a writer? Do you think about your stories this way? What is your story ABOUT? Do you really know?