The official blog-tour kick-off date has come!
Thank you, Silver Dagger Blog Tours!
Read the blog, and enter to win an e-book of Terrence!
The official blog-tour kick-off date has come!
Thank you, Silver Dagger Blog Tours!
Read the blog, and enter to win an e-book of Terrence!
Writing a book is lonely.
Being creative is fun, and the creativity itself is its own reward. Or else no one would follow through on creative projects.
But writing a book can certainly be a lonely pursuit. Also, writing is hard.
Often, you are doing so on faith. In yourself, that you’ll get it done right and well, That you’ll say what you want and need to say. And in future readers, that they’ll see what you’ve done and appreciate and understand it.
There’s a reason people who don’t write–or follow other creative avenues–will say, to those who do, “You should get a real job.” It is because these people see art as something done to while away hours. To them, a good life is a life where one has enough money to provide for their loved ones, does their work, and comes home tired at the end of the day, knowing their paycheck is their good and just–if not always high-paying–reward.
Authors, artists, and actors, on the other hand: sure, we’d love to get paid for what we do. Because we, too, like to, and must, eat. Some get paid quite handsomely. Most… do not. But for us the bigger reward is in the work we’re doing, the messages we spread, the pages we gray, and in knowing that, in the world right now, someone is reading our words. Someone is watching our films. Someone is being ever-so-slightly changed by something we put into the universe that would not exist if we hadn’t first thought it into being.
This weekend, a surprise party was held at my favorite Mexican restaurant. I did not know the party was happening. Because the surprise party was for me, in celebration of the release of my long-in-the-works novel, What Death Taught Terrence. https://smile.amazon.com/Death-Taught-Terrence-Derek-McFadden/dp/1733396314/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Derek+McFadden&qid=1582546064&sr=8-1
A good friend of mine from back east, the author Bradley Harper, stayed with us for the weekend to attend what I thought was a business meeting for which he’d flown in. Again, surprise party. I had no idea.
But I got to show Brad around my neck of the woods. We ate more food this weekend than I’ve eaten in the last three weeks combined. And then, just before the “business meeting,” which was, of course, the surprise party, Brad said to me, “You know, you’re a very lucky man.”
I agreed, though I thought the comment a tad out of place. This was about his business meeting. Other than the fact that I was attending and deeply support his work, it was not about me.
As I walked into my surprise party, to find out it was all about me, filled with friends–some of whom I hadn’t seen in years–I was so glad Brad said what he did. Not just because he was right, not just because I needed to hear it, but frankly because it was what my grandfather, my Papa Dick, would have said to me, if he were still alive. Since he’s not, my Papa sent a trusted friend to speak those words in his place.
I thank them both.
And I thank you, dear reader. Authors would be nothing without the eyes and ears and touches (should you read in braille) that allow you to take in our words. And, for us, aside from the occasional surprise parties or, if we’re lucky, awards, your reading our work is the reward that follows the reward of pure creation which spurred us on.
What Death Taught Terrence, the best book you’ll read next year (Sure, I’m biassed, but it’s true.) is four months from release. As that date nears, my mind likes to work through and recall all the writing that led to this book. From the first time I dictated a Berenstain Bears fan-fic at seven years old (Yes, that did happen.) to a teacher’s aid who wrote it with a smile to the last edit of Terrence thirty years later.
I don’t remember everyone who loved my writing in that time. Which is unfortunate. But I remember each and every person who ever said to me, in not so many words, You’re not gonna make any money writing, and the like. I recall how angry this sentiment made me at first, before something my grandfather said to me when I was young resurfaced in my crowded mind: “If you write something, and you love it, and you do the best you can, that’s all you can do.”
As much as I’d like to make certain What Death Taught Terrence will be a New York Times Bestseller, there’s no way to do this.
All I can do is hope you, Dear Reader, will give me one chance to tell you a story that matters to me deeply.
What Death Taught Terrence is available February 11th, 2020. It is now available for pre-order on Kindle and in hardcover. You will not be disappointed!
For the last little bit, I’ve been semi-regularly crowing to anyone who’ll listen about my upcoming book, What Death Taught Terrence. Twelve years of work spent creating the truest piece of fiction I could manage. (A lifetime of research before that.)
As an author of fiction, I want to dabble in truth. Hopefully I manage to do more than simply dabble. Doing this makes stories more real. Makes them easier for readers to fall into and to fall in love with.
Well, after twelve years, I have something now with which I genuinely hope you’ll fall in love.
What Death Taught Terrence is available for pre-order on Kindle now! (It will also be available for pre-order in a handsome hardcover edition soon.) But if you read via kindle, and you want a book you’ll never forget, you can pre-order Terrence now. You’ll meet him on February 11th, 2020! Here’s the link!
You guys…. You GUYS….
I am so proud to announce that the front cover for my upcoming novel, What Death Taught Terrence, is HERE… and I happen to think it’s beautiful. I’d love to hear your thoughts, readers! We’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but everyone does it. Does this coer say buy and read me???
Please like the book’s page at http://www.facebook.com/whatdeathtaught
You will receive updates about the book and be THE FIRST to know of its upcoming release, likely in 2020. Terrence CAN’T WAIT to meet all of you!
For now… here it is… THE COVER!!!
Have you ever wondered where that great novel came from?
You know the one I mean. You weren’t planning to read it, it wasn’t even on your radar, in fact, until someone from your book club said, “I’ve heard good things about this one.”
You weren’t planning to read it, until your mother said, “Check out this book. It’s a life-changer.” Mom’s a little hyperbolic when it comes to books sometimes, so you put that recommendation in the back of your mind and thought, Maybe.
Meanwhile, this novel you never saw coming keeps climbing the best-seller charts, and eventually, maybe even months later, you give in and crack the book open. What will you find as you journey through it?
By nature, you are a skeptical reader. You want to love everything you read, but you know you won’t. That’s not how books work. There are different books for different moods. Different books for different times in your life. Sometimes, when you read a book has as much say over whether you’ll connect with it as its characters or the prose do.
And, let’s be honest, big-seller or not, some books are just plain bad. You know which ones I’m talking about here.
With that tiny preamble, let me tell you a little something about me.
I’m a writer.
The words come slow and through much effort, thanks to my cerebral palsy and my not-so-great eyesight. But I am a writer.
The first thing one must also be if they’re a writer: they must also be a reader. They must understand what’s being written, who it’s being written for, and why it sells… or, sometimes, why not. We all know that great book we love that almost no one else has ever heard about.
Anyway, years ago, I did this. I looked around at the books I loved (Mitch Albom, Richard Paul Evans, Erin Morgenstern, Audrey Niffenegger, to name just a few), and what I found was this. Every one of those authors told stories that were both personal to them and universally recognizable. This gave me an idea.
Write a book for everyone, a book that will show anyone who’s interested what it’s like to live differently abled in an able society.
Write a book for everyone, a book that will show anyone who’s interested the importance of relationships. The way love can change the world one life at a time.
Write a book at once beautiful and truthful.
Write a book that will make someone in a book club say, “I’ve heard good things about this one.”
That will make the mother of someone you’ve never met exclaim, “Check out this book. It’s a life-changer.”
It took twelve years and so many late nights when I wasn’t sure I’d see the other side of a deep and dark tunnel. But I have, at last, written the book that was written in my bones–in their marrow–long before it surfaced as a task I needed to complete.
The next great novel you haven’t heard of yet is called What Death Taught Terrence.
It is no spoiler to tell you the main character dies. This happens on page one (I hope that first page hooks you!). It is no spoiler to tell you this novel owes much of its DNA to properties like Field Of Dreams and It’s A Wonderful Life. What if George Bailey lived in the present-day and what if he was handicapped? Would his life still be wonderful? Could he find the meaning in it?
Why I’m writing this blog post on this dark night: simply put, I need a platform.
It used to be, as an author, the books one composed spoke for their creator. When there were less people publishing, when publishing’s profit-margins weren’t razor-thin, the work spoke for the one who worked to produce it.
Now we can instantly connect with millions. I could instantly publish a book I know has the potential to change lives. At the same time, you might not know I’ve written a word. You might not know there is such a book out there to be read, even though you’re a reader.
I work with an agent. I spend my days reading and making good books great for other authors. Despite my palsy and my not-so-good eyesight, my skills as an editor are something in which I have much faith. As do those with whom I work. I know what I’m doing.
By the same token, you might not have heard of me yet. It is likely you haven’t. You might not have heard of my dear friend Terrence or of what death taught him and how the lessons he learns can benefit you and those you hold dear.
Someone said to me today that I needed to begin building a platform. This is someone I trust and respect. If she says it, it’s probably true. “Before your book comes out, let people know who you are.”
And so here we are. You’re reading these words and you’re thinking, Maybe I should read that book!
I would be deeply honored if you would. As both an author and a reader, I do not take for granted the time readers invest in stories. As a differently abled person in an able society, I know my story might seem, on its face, different to you. A little out there. I promise you it is a universal yarn. If it doesn’t change your life, I respect that, and I respect you for giving my friend Terrence a chance.
But it might just change your life. It might. In small but profound ways, just as it changed mine while I wrote it.
To me, any novel with the potential to change lives might just deserve the moniker of The Next Great Novel You Haven’t Heard Of Yet.
Does What Death Taught Terrence rise to this level?
I know what my answer is. What’s yours?
Stay informed on all things What Death Taught Terrence and be the first to know when the book comes out by liking Terrence at http://www.facebook.com/whatdeathtaught
I was always the kid with the limp.
I loved sports. I knew I’d never play them. What I would have given in my true youth for one day in an athlete’s body. To move like that. To run like that. To leave all challengers in the dust.
In high school, I was jealous–though never publicly–of the kids who could dunk, or pitch, or hit. Sure, those talents would fade with time and age, but they were so free, those kids. Not only that, they took their abilities so for granted. And they had cars. I’d never have a car. I didn’t want to dunk as much as I wanted to drive down the road and buy a burger and a shake with a cute girl on my arm and then drive home, after a drive-in movie, late for a curfew I knew I’d missed.
The talents I got didn’t come with fine-motor skills or hand-eye coordination. In fact, my talents’ Lyft left those things far behind. (I think it forgot to pick them up on the way to the airport or something.) My talent–singular, in a way, but amazing–was words. I could write and I could talk.
Talking gave me the ability to ask for help when I needed it. I often needed it (I often need it), though I never liked asking for it. Asking for help is weakness, I thought. Talking gave me the ability to show people who weren’t like me that I was like them enough to matter. That I should matter.
It was writing that showed me I did matter.
When a teacher would single out one of my stories and say, “Do you see, ladies and gentlemen? Do you see what Derek did there? Can you see why that’s good writing?” I beamed. Sure, the praise brought forth more than a few groans from my fellow students who couldn’t do what I did. Ironically, though, usually the groans came from the ones who could dunk or pitch or hit. But such praise also made some people re-evaluate how they saw me, and it was these people with whom I would want to communicate, anyway.
Writing, as a job, is more than difficult. I still want the praise from a teacher who’s no longer there to give it. The praise my brain is trained to expect, the praise for which it hungers. There’s no way to get it outside of reviews, and I may not get a review, or if I do it might not be the kindest thing ever written about me.
I am coming to terms with something tonight.
I write. There is a manuscript floating around out there that is the embodiment of my heart. Though fictional, it’s truer than anything that’s happened in my non-fiction life. I know people who, when one book doesn’t sell, they’ll simply write another. Have as many books ready as you can. Stuff them in drawers all around your house. When an agent finally comes calling, show them all. They will realize they’ve hit upon a treasure trove in you. I know people who can do that. I admire those people in much the same way as I used to admire the kids who could dunk and pitch and hit. But it needs to be okay–with me and for me–that I’m not one of them. My relationship with writing is analogous to my relationship with God. I have mine. You have yours (or not). And however we muddle through this existence, whatever we use our skill for, however we communicate with a higher power, or find our writer’s voices, that’s okay. No one way is better than another. They simply are, and they work for who they work for.
It’s interesting that I finally came to a point tonight where I could put that down for others to read. I’ve been trying to say it–if I’m honest with myself–for years.
I’m a writer who loves to write. Yet writing can also be so frustrating as to cause one to stop writing for long periods.
How so? you ask.
If a writer is not clear on why they wrote a certain piece, why they let a certain sentiment float from their pen into an inky, judgmental world, this will come through in their writing and they–and their sentiment–are likely to be lost in this world, lost in the drone of so many voices saying so little, so many pages telling us not much.
There are so many stories I began writing whose main thesis never congealed into a cohesive narrative, and so they will never see the light of day, nor the dark of night. They will forever be known only to me, the writer who, in frustration, called a halt to them.
As I edit books and work with authors to fashion the best books we can, my chief thought is always, Does this sentence or that sentence serve the story? If it doesn’t, I recommend the sentence be excised. The most beautiful writing can’t save a sentence that, while beautiful in style, says essentially nothing of substance. All such sentences do say: Look at me and the big words I know! Praise be to big-word knowers!
As well as being clear on what they’re writing, authors should be clear as to who they’re writing for.
Some authors write to be lauded by reviewers. They don’t want readers so much as to be talked about in the same breath as David Foster Wallace, Michael Cunningham, or the great F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The great irony of this fact is how Fitzgerald hungered for readers for his Gatsby. Readers he could not find until he’d left the world for good.
Other authors write for readers. They still want good reviews, don’t get me wrong, but they hope their good reviews come from the readers who take time out of their busy days and nights–their hectic lives–to carve out a place for their book. And hopefully said book will lodge forever in the reader’s memory, to be thought on and reread again and again.
I know I am firmly in the latter group. I edit for authors. I write for readers.
Watching The Great American Read on PBS, and seeing so many of my favorite books profiled, I am reminded why I love to read, and why I love to write.
I have cerebral palsy. And I am legally blind. Fun times! Truly, I choose to see these traits as two factors that add to my life, and not two obstacles that detract from it. You may choose to agree with me… or not. I don’t care. It’s my life, and I’ve learned over many years that, as the great Ricky Nelson once crooned, “You can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself.”
At a young age, this is the mentality I took into writing. I had two people to please: My elementary school teacher, whoever it happened to be that year, and my Papa Dick. (The identity of the latter never changed.) Beyond that, as long as I was happy with it, any story I wrote was good and useful to teach me more about the mechanics and the craft of writing.
Years passed apace. Much quicker than they appeared to go by as they were unfolding. Those years that seemed to go by me as might a lumbering truck on a logging road–I look back on them now and see race cars in the rear-view. Through these years, I began to write seriously, and with the hope–the faraway wish–that other people might read my words.
I never thought I’d finish a novel. Short stories were easy. You conceived the piece, wrote it, and it was there for you to gaze upon and marvel at within a few days or weeks.
Novels, on the other hand, were an undertaking. What did I have to say that merited such room, such expansion of word counts, such varied language as must be used in a novel to avoid too much repetition? A lack of variety?
I always enjoyed novels. But I could never escape into them as so many of my peers claimed to be able to do. There was something in my head that told me: As much as you want to be a baseball player, you can’t be. You’re Derek. Your legs and your eyes don’t work. Sorry. No fun in the athletic realm for you.
As much as you want to be a super hero, you can barely walk. And you’re reading a book where people fly? Sorry, kid. Not happening.
Mysteries are fun to read, sure. But do you really think you could write one? Mysteries require clues and red herrings and compelling evidence and twists thought up well before they find the page. Your eyes will barely let you watch television. And you would presume to be able to write a mystery on par with the greats? With Doyle and Christie? Not gonna happen.
There was one subject I was steeped in and had researched my whole life. Being a guy with palsy and bad eyes, and wondering why. What if I could write a story about that? Then I could turn my deficits, the things society sees as lacking in me, and make them character traits as opposed to character flaws.
But would anyone care to read such a book?
“You can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself.”
I’m just gonna write the thing, and we’ll see what happens, I told myself.
Ten years later, my manuscript was ready. I was ready. Time to find an agent who’ll love my book the way I love it; completely and without reservation.
Every writer knows rejection. They know it hurts and it sometimes scars, but it is also an important part of the business of books. When any writer is first writing, as a kid, what matters is the story. Make the story good. By the time they’re an adult writing books for public consumption, what matters is, Will the thing sell?
I remain haunted, after many years, by one particular rejection note concerning my book, What Death Taught Terrence. It is the book I was always meant to write. The main character has palsy and bad eyes, as do I, and he wonders after the purpose of his life. He wonders why.
Rather than a generic form rejection, the kind all writers are used to (“We regret to inform you that we will not be looking to represent your novel. Our opinion is, of course, subjective. Keep searching to find your book’s perfect home. Good luck to you!”) what I got in this particular rejection note was an agent (or an agent’s assistant) who actually sat down and wrote to me, “Clearly, you’ve written this book for people with cerebral palsy.”
You will never find a surer way to offend this disabled man. I don’t remember the name of the person who wrote that note, but I definitely remember the sentiment it carried.
Would anyone ever say to Lee Child, for example, “Jack Reacher is white. Clearly you’ve written this book for white people”? Would they say to the great Mr. King, “You’ve written Misery to scare writers exclusively”? No. But somehow it’s okay to marginalize a book written by a disabled man simply because the person marginalizing it failed to understand it? That’s how I took that particular incident, anyway.
I would hope our world is better than that.
The world in which I wish to be a published author whose words affect the people who read them–that world is better. And, if it isn’t yet, it will be.
I don’t want to please everyone with my words. But, while pleasing myself with them, Dear Reader, I sincerely hope they will get to you one day and make you question the world we inhabit. And maybe, just maybe, they will make you feel a little bit better and make this life a little bit easier to live.
I sit here today on the doorstep of my 36th year. That number is a little bit awe-inspiring, a little bit frightening, a little bit exciting, and a lot strange to me. I am the same guy who, as a boy, watched the Mariners triumph over the Yankees in 1995 in the now-imploded Kingdome. Edgar Martinez’s double, featuring Ken Griffey J.r.’s mad dash from first all the way home, and the boy I was using my father’s frame for leverage to leap high in the air as the play unfolded; this scene feels like it might have happened yesterday.
That boy was the same boy who, at twelve, just a year prior to The Double, opined about how much I wanted to be grown-up. I’d do things different if I were a grown-up. Now I look back and think how wonderful twelve felt. Very little pain. No worries. Everyone I love(d) still alive and healthy, and eager to see what I would write next, where I would go next, what I would do with this life of mine.
Thirty-six is an odd age. Life is far from over (knock on wood), but enough of it has accrued behind you to look back on it. In a manner somewhat similar to the plot of my forthcoming novel, What Death Taught Terrence. The how and when of its forthcomingness are as yet unknown, but if anyone would like to fill me in on them I’m all ears!
I’ve heard so many stories of my birth I can practically reconstruct it. The Seattle Supersonics (who are they?) were in the playoffs on my Mom’s hospital-room T.V. She told my dad to turn it off; the stress of the game was giving her contractions. Then I came into the world in a Seattle early-evening on May 11th, 1982. A harrowing birth, to say the least, a doctor who should not have been in his profession, or should have left it many years before, essentially gave me cerebral palsy. Hippocratic oath broken. Harm forever done.
My first solid memory is of my grandfather teaching me a song. Written to the tune of Winter Wonderland, it was really just a verse from a longer barroom ditty:
“Kenbok’s here, can’t ya smeell him. Millie thinks we should expel him. His feet in the air, his butt in the chair, sippin’ on a little glass o’ beer!”
The first song I ever learned. One of the memories I treasure.
The next memory is of my surgery. I go into it in-depth in my book, so I won’t do so here. It’s enough to tell you I found out what pain was that day at four years old, and I’ve never forgotten. The silver lining: Getting to spend many defining days at Disneyland following the surgery and its many yearly follow-up appointments. Mickey Mouse is the man!
The next memory that comes to mind, that I can see so clear in my mind’s eye as to want to jump right back into it, is the first meeting between my best friend, Luke, and me. At eight years old. It started as a not-all-that-fun summer day in a summer daycare that–for an unathletic kid who couldn’t run, couldn’t throw, could barely stand without feeling pain that might bring him down–was something close to torture.
Oh, and no one there would play with me, either.
I literally stood in the middle of the room and said, “Will somebody please play with me?”
“I’ll play with you,” Luke said. Friendship cemented.
Luke liked the Mariners. So I liked the Mariners. He was the first to tell me about the film Field Of Dreams, when we were eleven. I went home and watched that movie eleven times in one night. (It’s a fairly short movie, and I had nothing to do in the weekend-morning, so I could do that.) I traveled with he and his family across the country, watching baseball games as we went, to the Baseball Hall Of Fame And Museum in Cooperstown, New York. We were fifteen and probably didn’t understand the monumental undertaking that planning such a trip was, and without the help of something still in its infancy; the Internet.
At seventeen, I gave a girl my first kiss. She didn’t deserve it.
Yet that short-lived relationship–we were officially together five days, though afterwards she wanted to white-wash it; don’t worry, unnamed person who knows who they are; I wanted to forget it, too–taught me so much. Mainly: Always be yourself. Don’t change for another person, thinking you’re bettering yourself. Change because it works for you, and if the person you’re with loves you, they’ll understand and support you. I never needed to wear a pair of jeans or a trendy pair of shoes to prove to a girl I was worth dating. Can I go back and tell myself that? It’ll save me about a year of needless heartache.
The next memory that comes to mind is of a relationship that lasted much longer–about four years–and which I am grateful for because of what it taught me. But it, too, would never have worked. I see that now. Too many compromises. (Compromises are fine, if both participants in a relationship are willing to give a little; if only one gives and the other takes, that’s not compromise. That’s being taken advantage of.) I still retain love and appreciation for her family, so I won’t give any names or identifying characteristics. I am grateful to know now what not to do later because of what happened between us.
About five years before I entered that doomed relationship, my grandfather, there for me for the first twenty years of my life without fail, succumbed to the lung cancer he’d fought valiantly. I won’t say much about that here. Again, it’s in the book, and hopefully you’ll read about it that way. But that loss, that first he-loves-you-but-he-can’t-come-back-to-you that I’d ever experienced… it changed me forever. I like to think I was already an empathetic person, thanks to my palsy, but watching Papa Dick go increased my empathy quotient ten-fold. Before he went, when it was becoming clear such an exit was imminent, I wrote Papa a collection of poetry, Prose From A Grandson To A Senior Fellow. It was the last book he’d ever read and remains a solid part of the legacy I know I will leave someday.
Truthfully, following Papa’s passing, there was a sizable chunk of time lost to anger. To indifference. To what-will-become-of-me-anyway? But I think I needed that time of reflection. It gave me both the time and the fuel to write my novel. And it let me ruminate on what I wanted out of this life.
I spent a long time as an on-line dater. I was always the one writing the e-mail. And I never mentioned anything about my palsy, or the bad eyes that accompanied it, in my profile. I always gave the women that little nugget to chew on in my second e-mail, if they responded to my first. I met some pretty great people in this way, but I didn’t feel the kind of meshing that told me, This is the one.
Then, about two years ago, an e-mail came in that I’d never forget. She liked my profile. She liked the idea of visiting museums, as did I. She loved Disney, as did/do I, and specifically Disneyland. “I think we could have fun together,” she said in one of the e-mail’s last lines.
We have ever since. I treasure her, and my family loves her, too.
I have no idea where life will take me from here. Well, I have maybe a rough sketch, but that’s all. But whatever happens, however my book gets to you, dear reader, however my career moves forward, I will take on the challenges placed before me knowing that I do so with the support of my loved ones and that, at the end of the day–whatever someone may think of my palsy, my bad eyes, or the way I walk, my family is my safety and my love. I thank all of you who know me personally, because you are that family. Be you a family member or a friend I haven’t talked to in years, you changed me by simply being in my life and coloring it.