I've been writing professionally for nearly thirteen years. I am currently working on my thirtieth book, with an astounding number of those on active submission through my agent. I've many milestones ahead, but wanted to share my greatest success story so far.
One of my projects that just launched on submission is a middle grade novel called WHIMSY. I wrote the book entirely for my son, pictured above. In fact, while most books of mine begin with a premise or a magic system, the original premise for this project was how to include as many things that he liked into a single adventure story.
After I finished the project, I started reading him the book from my laptop. We shared chapters at bedtime and he'd started enjoying it. Yet, then he became very ill. I ended up spending several days with him at the local children's hospital. There is nothing harder as a parent than seeing your kid suffer and in pain. He was attached to IVs, clearly suffering, and the stress on us both was immense. I'd brought his tablet, toys, art supplies and more, but during our stay there was only thing he wanted. Time and time again, he grabbed my arm and said (in a raspy, suffering voice) "Dad, read me more Whimsy, please."
I did. I poured my heart into the draft, thinking of him, and then shared that draft with him as a lifeline when he needed it. And in that moment, I think I realized how truly important my writing was. As of this writing, I might not have achieved some of the standard marks of success authors aspire to, but I will never doubt my own success again, because my writing mattered in that moment, and it mattered to the kid who matters most to me.
It is one of the strongest writing experiences I've had, and I will always treasure it.
I havent been blogging much on this site.
In fact my last post was in January.
Yet, that's not to say I haven't been writing. In fact, I'm about to finish the first draft of my 22nd book, (and that's not counting two discarded novels that made it to beta readers). I've been on submission with my awesome agent Steve Fraser for nearly two years. It isn't easy. It's a long, hard part of the publishing process that few discuss. The best analogy is a chrysalis. That's where I am now. At any moment, I will emerge with book deals and big news. While in this state, my entire career's transforming and changing into something amazing. But from the outside, it's honestly pretty boring.
Still, as of last week, we have SIX projects on active submission!
Six! That's awesome. And 11 more finished projects with Steve ready to send to publishers now, once those deals roll in.
So, what are those six? Let's peek behind the curtain. Some of these have been shared before but some are newly sent. By age the six are:
1. SAM AND THE OGRE - a picture book - A dragon chef cooks weather, but cant make an ogre happy until he offers friendship instead
2. THE SUN EXPRESS - a picture book - Two leaves find new life on a train from the sun.
3. DETAILS IN THE DARK - a picture book based on a real conversation with my son - A boy asks his father to help him not feel afraid in the dark
4. STARKEEPER - the middle grade novel first sent out and that landed Steve - An aspiring 13-yr-old poet must re-light the world’s stars after confronting the Man in the Moon.
5. THE AUTUMN TURNERS - a middle grade novel set in Starkeeper's world - Two estranged siblings discover each other and confront their parent’s killer before turning the season to Autumn.
6. THE SHADOW OF EVERDAWN - a ya/adult crossover and the starting book in a series - What good is limitless Power if you're too afraid to use it? A 17-year-old prisoner has the power to free himself and stop a
conquering empire, but will lose all memories of someone he cares about.
what else have I been up to?
One month ago, my wife launched a brand-new store: theveganlifeshop.com/ The Vegan Life shop is an awesome new store dedicated to ethical, sustainable, vegan goods including cosmetics, cleaners, housewares, and more. Sustainability is so important to the world right now, and buying sustainable, cruelty-free products can create meaningful change in the world, while also offering amazing goods. Check out the store for yourself!
and just to fill this chrysalis phase one more level, I've also been freelance writing more and more. Check out my newest piece on Insider, for instance.
A New Year
This past December I sent my agent Steve my newest completed novel- Twyn Souls - an ambitious adult fantasy told from three POVs that each alternate across a sixty year gap, showing the characters at the beginning and end of their journeys. Set in a world where everyone has a "twyn" they see through while asleep, and who sees through them while awake, this is the first in a duology.
Twyn Souls is my fourteenth publisher-ready project and my eighteenth book total, including the four out now.
As I shared previously, there are four books on submission at the moment. Those projects will hopefully find a home this year. I'm very optimistic for book deals and while it's been a long road to get to this point, I am excited to take that next step.
In the meantime, I'm focusing on three major new works-in-progress this year. One is a satire, my first attempt at genuine humor. This fantasy parody has an Onward meets Lower Decks vibe and is about the struggles of parenting. It's told in a choose-your-own-adventure style and filled with terrible puns which makes it extra fun. I'm also working on a massive space opera/space fantasy in a similar style to Dune and Star Wars. Finally, I've started a new YA/older Fantasy Romance series- loosely Court of Thorns and Roses meets Shadow and Bone vibe, which centers on two magic users trapped together on a world that both needs and despises them.
In the meantime, you can find me blogging away at CityDads about parenting. And if you havent subscribed to the newsletter yet, be sure to now, so you can catch the exciting book deal news that I hope to soon share.
Ten years ago I was living in Oxford. I'd known I wanted to be a writer for a long time.
Then, during my time abroad, I was stranded on a cliff in Cornwall, and the experience inspired my writing career. A career that seems to move in FOURS...
Last month, we moved to Delaware. I literally live on a golf course. Yeah, it's weird. I don't play golf. I've never played and don't know much about it (like can someone explain to me why people play during thunder storms? they do- for real. It seems like carrying a portable lightning rod in a storm is a poor idea, but...). Seriously, not a golf person. Golfers keep leaving my kids new toys (golf balls) in the yard, which I like, and occasional dings in the siding, which I don't like. For some reason, not too far from my house, people also keep shouting FOUR! I guess they know about my pattern.
I haveFOUR BOOKS released right now, all pubbed before signing my literary agent. If you haven't read them, fall is the perfect time to discover the SCYTHE WIELDER'S SECRET Trilogy which has a very Halloween vibe (Grim reapers and Dragons!) or PILLARS OF CHAOS.
I also have FOUR BOOKS ON SUBMISSION to the big press, through my awesome agent Steve Fraser. Briefly, on submission are the following:
- STARKEEPER, a lyrical MG fantasy about a boy who hangs stars and confronts the Man in the Moon
- THE AUTUMN TURNERS, an MG fantasy set in Starkeeper's world, about two lost siblings who manually shift the seasons and seek to solve a mystery about their family
- THE SHADOW OF EVERDAWN, a ya/adult crossover epic fantasy set during a world's first sunrise, about a prisoner who can free himself but only if he forgets everything he holds dear
- SAM AND THE OGRE - a picture book about a dragon who cooks weather and discovers friendship
I was super excited for Steve to send out all four, which seems to be unheard of in the publishing world. But even more shocked, when I realized that the FOUR on sub represent exactly one FOURTH of my finished or publisher-ready books. I have TWELVE NEW BOOKS READY FOR PUBLISHERS right now! (plus four released)
In addition to the already mentioned I've written three more picture books, three more middle grade novels, and two more YA/adult crossovers, all fantasies and all excellent stories I know will get out there eventually.
In an even crazier twist, I'm currently writing FOUR MORE BOOKS! At the moment, I'm actively drafting another picture book, an older ya/adult fantasy, an adult satire/fantasy about parenting, and an adult space opera!
All I can say is FOUR-ward!!
The Sub Process
No one talks much about the sub process. For those in the publishing industry, it's arguably the most pivotal moment of all. The breath before the big plunge, so to speak. You've spent years struggling to land the perfect agent, and now that agent sends your book to editors. This process of submissions, waiting, rejections, rewrites, and more submissions has only two possible outcomes: give up, or land a publishing deal.
Part of the secrecy in the sub process is because it is quite different for every project, even to the most successful authors. Two authors could both land huge advances and lucrative book deals, and one could do so after being on sub for a couple weeks, while the other was on sub for a couple years. Meanwhile a third author could be on sub years and never break through. There's little rhyme or reason to it.
So, let me break down my sub process.
First, I caramelized the onions. Then I added seitan, vegan Worchester sauce, and some soy sauce. Finally, red peppers and vegan cheese. I added it to a toasted bun for the delicious sub pictured above.
Oh, sorry, were you wanting details about my sub process for BOOKS? Ah, gotcha.
Yesterday I received a pass for my novel Starkeeper, which has been on sub for nearly a year. And like almost all of the passes, the editor had nothing but praise for the book. It's weird to see only positive feedback. Which is very different from querying, where agents often tell you what they dont like. So far, the rejections have been encouraging. But that's not the news.
The crazy news is that I now have FOUR separate projects on submission. One picture book, two middle grade fantasies, and one YA/Adult fantasy. That's a LOT of opportunities. In fact, I don't know any other author with four separate projects out there at once, and I'm grateful to my agent Steve for putting them out there. As mentioned, there's only two outcomes now: give up or succeed, and I am certainly NOT giving up. In fact, I feel like I'm at that pivotal moment, a breath before the plunge, and mere inches before the big finish line.
Of course a publishing deal, no matter how large, is just another step in a long process, but I'm ready to move on.
In fact, I am quite literally moving on. I'm sitting in my home office, surrounded by boxes. I've been drafting between packing. And my family's moving to a new house in just two weeks. I think there are a lot of similar emotions between the life pivots and deep anxieties of moving, and the career pivots and deep anxieties of the sub process.
Yet, both end in a new chapter, and a better place.
Today, I was a guest blogger on CityDads, talking about parenting. I share a story about my son, and how sometimes we have to embrace their interests, even if we dont share them.
Check out the piece:
One year ago, I snapped the photo above of my son looking out the window. We'd been home a month, at the beginning of a global pandemic.
For a year, we have been looking out. I'm glad the vaccines are rolling out (still waiting for my appointment) and hopeful for a return to normalcy. My son's just finished his first week back at in-person school, which was a big deal.
Yet, we cannot discount the year of "looking out". My daughter, who is nearly two, has lived more than half of her life in quarantine. My son spent a year in zoom pre-K. He had a few playdates in our bubble, but spent almost all of those twelve months stuck inside with Dad and his sister as his only playmates while his Mom struggled to work with a house full of loud, cooped up kids.
This pandemic has changed us all. It's mark won't vanish when the numbers finally drop for good. When we get to the point where we all feel safe, this year will remain with all of us. This year where friends and family have died, and a world was brought to its knees by a virus. A year where we were trapped, literally. Yet also a year where we hopefully found strength in our families and in our hearts. I personally feel closer than ever to my wife and kids, and am grateful for them. There is no one I'd rather "look out" with.
How has the pandemic affected you?
What projects are out there, waiting to be snatched up by a big publisher? If you haven't yet read my newsletter, this previous entry answers those questions:
Last week, for the first time in over two years, we took a family trip. It was a socially distanced, isolated trip to a fairly deserted town in Delaware on a bay, not too far from Rehoboth Beach. It was bitterly cold, but a wonderful way to gain some distance. We hadn't travelled significantly the entire pandemic and earlier (because of the baby). With my wife and two kids, I was able to put some real distance between myself and all the craziness of the world. The pandemic, the isolation, the news, and so on... We stayed by the water in a lovely house, spending our time searching for shells. While away, I watched Perseverance land on Mars. it was an extraordinary feat, and again had me thinking of how much we could reach, and what distances we, as a species, strive towards.
Distance... Stay six feet away. Escape to the beach. Send a robot to another planet... Distance is everywhere.
But it's also a matter of time. Perseverance isn't just some rover in a Martian crater. It's the term I've used most often to describe my career as an author. It's the term that defines my approach.
I run several writing groups. I mentioned something about my earlier books in one, and it started a swell of interest in The Scythe Wielder's Secret. Dozens have now received signed copies of the books. I'm delighted to share them, yet it's odd as well. I wrote School of Deaths a decade ago, but it's still new to each new reader. I can't help but feel a little distance from the book.
Earlier this week, my agent shared one of the most personalized rejections we've gotten yet. This is for the submission phase with my MG novel Starkeeper. I've been hoping for big news on that book, but again recognize the distance. I wrote that book over two years ago. Do you realize how much the world's shifted in two years? The distance between the guy writing that book and the guy hoping for a publishing deal...it's nearly as great as the distance Perseverance traveled.
And yet, I keep coming back to the concept that there will always be two distances. In one sense, writing is very removed from the moment. I am far from my newest readers, by years. Yet in another, more important sense, reading and writing provide a bridge. Reading is the closest we can get to another person - peering inside another person's very soul.
Writing creates true magic. I can read Shakespeare or Homer, and experience words and worlds for the first time, centuries after their original composition. I can draft something tonight, which readers might not see for years. And yet the moment their eyes take in those words, our minds will link. Just as my mind links with every author I read. Or every blog reader reading what I'm typing.
And that is why I persevere. My agent has 8 books by me ready to send out now. I don't need to write every day or drive myself crazy constantly striving to complete more projects. I haven't gotten that next step yet. Why not sit back and wait? Because I know the MAGIC. I understand the power of perseverance and how I will ultimately be able to bridge any distance. And in time, like that hunk of steel in a Martian crater, I too will explore new worlds, with my timeless readers linked to my every thought.
We are coming off of a tumultuous week of a difficult year.
Yet, as we embark into 2021, I wanted to share some of my current progress and plans as a writer.
In August, I signed fantastic literary agent Steve Fraser of the DeChiara Agency. He's currently shopping my novels to publishers, which means he takes my finished books and sends them to big press, who hopefully offer to publish my books.
But what books are coming?
Scythe Wielder's Secret and Pillars of Chaos feel like phase one of my writer career, with me firmly moving into a new phase now. Since then, I've written four middle grade fantasy novels. The novel that landed me an agent is a poetic story about a boy who places the stars in the night sky, only to confront the Man in the Moon. Another of my favorite MGs is set in the same world, and involves kids who manually change the seasons from one to the next. I am currently drafting a fifth new MG.
I've also written three YA fantasy novels. Two are connected in an epic series about a world that's been in night for centuries. The other is about a mystery involving nations that manufacture weather.
I'm currently drafting two adult projects. One is a satirical look at parenting, written as a choose-you-own-adventure. The other is a complex duology that plays with structure- the novel is essentially told from the beginning and end, and fills in the middle as it progresses.
I think 2021 is going to be a great year for me as a writer. I'm looking forward to sharing big news about publishing deals and of course will post more about all the fun projects coming out!