I’m going to go out on a limb here and share that I loved ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi.’ I thought it was fun and engaging, funny and more than a bit swashbuckling. I know there are plenty of people out there who disagree with me, which is fine, but there’s one theme in the film I wanted to write about today: hope.

Bucking the trend of the second-film in a trilogy being the bummer (‘Empire Strikes Back’ didn’t exactly finish on a high note), The Last Jedi ends on a very hopeful tone. The now-infamous “broom kid” looks to the stars and Rian Johnson leaves viewers hopeful for the rebellion. It’s a nice ending, a nice sentiment.

After a year that left a lot of people worn down – either because of their politics or the fact that Mother Nature seems bound and determined to destroy our civilization – hope seems to be trading on the demand side of the supply/demand curve. (more…)

“Write drunk, edit sober.”

Hemingway didn’t say it, though this quote is often attributed to him. And, to be sure, it’s bad advice. Have you ever tried to write while drunk? I have and, I’ll tell you, the output was no bueno. It was a jumbled mess of half-thoughts and homonyms which no amount of editing could salvage.

But, like many quotes real or fake, there is a lot of truth in this brief, four-word sentiment. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with intoxication. It’s about the merits of uninhibited creativity. Writing drunk, to me, means letting your mind wander, letting your thoughts be your thoughts and getting them out without judging them. Writing drunk means writing freely and not worrying about getting anything right.  (more…)

I was having a conversation about the future with my mom recently. We talked about my work, my family, all the possibility that lies ahead and all the work I’ve done and will do to get us there. She’s always been supportive, but she knows the road has not always been easy for me and my family. She’s also not one to offer a lot of wisdom or advice. She’s more likely to simply say that she believes in me and hopes for the best.

That’s probably why it was profound when she interrupted me and said something I can’t get out of my head.  (more…)

Life can be crazy in our house. With four children of ages from newborn to teenager, a busy professional life and a bustling social calendar, it can seem like I am constantly going from place to place, dropping off, picking up, checking off boxes on a seemingly never-ending list of to-dos.

If you have a family, chances are pretty good that you know the feeling. Everything begins to swirl together to the point where days fade from pre-dawn alarm clocks to falling into bed without much having been accomplished and, yet, a million things being done. Modern life is a constant uphill struggle to keep up and trying to keep your head above water, deliver on commitments and get through the days leaves precious little time to reflect or look forward. (more…)

New Year’s day is the day everyone decides they want to change. We want to lose weight, get a different job, save more money, finally take that vacation we’ve always dreamed of and about a thousand other things. It makes sense. New year, new you. We call them resolutions, but walk into any fitness center come March and you’ll see just how un-resolute real life can be. Packed to the ceiling the first week of January, a couple months later, everything has gone back to normal and you don’t have to wait for the machines.

I’ve done it. Everyone I know has done it. Very few people I know have bucked the trend and actually seen things through. (more…)

I remember my first story. I was about 11 years-old and sitting at an electric typewriter in my parents’ basement. I had recently fallen in love with tennis and Jennifer Capriati was the wunderkind of the women’s tour. I was inspired. I wrote three pages, single-spaced; a story about a boy about my age who, against all odds, had made it to Centre Court at Wimbledon. I wrote line after line about the experience, the sun, the predominately white attire, the smell of hot dogs in the stands — admittedly, I knew nothing about English cuisine or custom at the time.

My hands got tired by the third page and the boy hadn’t even struck a single ball. I gave up, read over what I had and… threw it in the trash.

I’ve spent most of my life being a non-fiction writer – journalist, travel writer, essayist, business writer, profile writer, blogger. But there’s always been a part of me that wanted to be a novelist.

Today, I feel like I have achieved that dream.

I released a small Kindle novel for middle readers last summer-  The Red-Eyed Monster Bass – and loved every second of the experience. But it was an e-book and my first. I thought it might be a one-off.

But, today, I have released my second novel for young readers – The Backpack – in both Kindle and paperback format. Maybe it’s because it will be printed if you order it; maybe it’s because the second book proves that the first wasn’t a fluke; maybe it’s the fact that I have three more done and in varying states of preparedness for release, but for some reason, today it all feels official.

I am a novelist.

I write for middle readers because I love middle reader stories. I love that anything is possible, that the world can still be a fascinating a mysterious place. I write for this age because I have children this age. I write for this age because of that 11 year-old boy who had an instinct to sit down and tell himself a story.

This is a process, a new venture for me and surely I have and will continue to make mistakes. But today I feel a kind of accomplishment I haven’t felt in a long time – a humbling sense that only makes me want to do more of it.

I want to thank my children and my wife for helping me along the way; my niece and nephews for inspiring the characters; the amazingly talented Katie Reeder for a cover that I truly love and anyone who reads this blog for dealing with my hemming and hawing, my stumbles and struggles.

Of course I’d love it if you bought the book or The Red-Eyed Monster Bass (which I’ve also released in paperback as of this morning), but more than anything I just wanted to say how strange and good it feels to do something like this. It’s as if a long ignored itch has begun to be scratched and I can’t wait to keep going.

There are more stories to tell and I look forward to the hand cramps, the frustration and the dreaming that goes into telling them. The_Backpack_Cover2.jpg

What happens when you want to be more than one thing? What happens when your mind wanders and your heart leads you down two separate paths?

That’s what I’ve been dealing with for the last few months and it took me a while to figure things out. Now, before I go any further, no, this is not about my marriage, my family or even my day job. This is about writing.

I grew up writing non-fiction. I love writing memoir and self-improvement books, books that involve history and adventure. It calls to my better angels and draws upon my experiences as a journalist. But last year, I published my first book for middle readers and, apart from being exciting, it confused me a little.

Not only did I not go through a publisher (I went the Kindle Direct route) which allowed me to own the process and the proceeds, I wrote fiction from my son’s perspective. It was exciting. And since then, I’ve completed four more manuscripts for similar books, which is great… if it weren’t for the nagging feeling that I have more things to write for adults and every minute spent typing for kiddos is a precious moment lost toward that big, long list of other projects I want to do.

The grass is always greener, right?

I know this sounds like a lucky guy who gets to write for part of his living complaining about having too many ideas and creative energy for his capacity, but it’s not. Instead, I think what’s bothered me about the seeming conflict between my writing interests is that it goes against so much of what I see, hear and read about 21st century branding and success.

Everywhere I go, I hear people talking about being singular and identifiable. I read blogs and listen to talks about focus and purpose. I feel inundated with the idea of mastery. And it all feels a little misleading. It makes it seem like success can only be found by focusing on one thing, which is true to a point. But as a person in the audience, a person who sometimes struggles with direction and a sense of purpose, all the talk about singularity creates inner turmoil.

Or, at least, it did.

I came the realization a few weeks ago, that I was parsing the needlessly parsed. True, I don’t have a ton of time to pursue every single interest (not with work, family, a baby on the way, a dog in need of walking and all the youth sports), but that doesn’t mean I have to be monolithic. Writing can be my one thing, but it doesn’t have to be only one thing.

As a writer, I’m supposed to be worried about my craft, but in reality, I spend more time worrying about my audience. Publishers want reach from their writers before they buy books – which is very chicken and egg to me. And if you go the self-publishing route, you need an engaged audience to try and get yourself off the ground. Writing about more than one kind of thing for more than one kind of audience means worrying about that times at least two. This was what was behind my crisis in confidence these last few months. I thought, in order to be successful, I needed to pick a path and stay on it. But how could I do that with so many projects outlined and ideas bursting out from every corner? How could I kill half the things I wanted to do for the sake brand clarity?

In the end, I decided not to. I decided to focus on my craft and be honest about where I was going and what I wanted and hope that there is an audience out there that might be as interested in reading about Creative Productivity as they are about the adventures of Harrison James, Monster Hunter; who might be as interested in reading about History as they are about Thaddeus & Chuck, junior high detectives; who might want to read about my tiny adventures as they are about my Adventure Books series.

I had an identity crisis there for a while, but in the end, I’ve realized it wasn’t my identity that was fuzzy, it was yours and that the only thing I could do is pursue work that feels honest and true to me, stories that I want to tell and do my best to bring you along for the ride, which is focused enough for me.