Pupdate

That’s right.

We’re in full on puppy mode at the Reintgen household. After some social media voting, and serious deliberations, Katie and I decided to name our little chocolate lab Luna.

She is all the wonderful things…

… and she’s also chaos in 12 lb form. My last few days have been spent playing with Luna (Translation: trying to avoid being eaten alive). She’ll nap four or five times every day, for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. During those times, I slowly tiptoe into the other room and scramble to do anything productive. But hey… at least she’s cute as a button.

Luna 1

Really, you’d have a hard time finding a button this cute, but I digress…

Here are a few things I’m learning in the first week of having a pupper:

  1. My wife is going to be a really great mom. She’s thoughtful, but more importantly, she has systems she likes to put in place. She’s going to be a smart mom.
  2. Luna wants to be wherever you are. You’re touching that? She wants to touch it, too.
  3. She will eat ANYTHING. Rabbit poop? Check. Mounds of grass? Check. Flowers? Check.
  4. But she’s obsessed with her dog food. I went to scoop some out the other day and she pulled some kind of Houdini act. I looked up and she was over the barrier and attacking me from the western flank. She came. I fell. She conquered.
  5. We’re learning a lot about how good God is to us. This puppy is straight helpless. She doesn’t know what she’s doing. She’s peeing in the wrong places. She’s chewing on extension cords. We swing in and, to her infinite frustration, give her nudges away from a lot of bad stuff. It’s not hard to stretch the metaphor. You can probably measure what I know and understand in teaspoons. I’m sure God’s shaking his head at me all the time like I do with Luna, “He’s doing what now?”
  6. But we love her. And God loves us. That’s crazy good.
  7. Caring for a creature that can’t support itself is exhausting. People have babies and puppies simultaneously? Can you believe that? That’s amazing. Can we get these people medals? Candy bars? Something?
  8. I absolutely hate when she’s in pain. Seems like a given, but she has bad dreams and I go hold her for a little while. I stepped on her paw yesterday and thought she wouldn’t ever forgive me (she did!).
  9. But she’s totally cool when I get hurt. Between the biting and that time I fell down the stairs at 3am… she’s yucking it up over here.
  10. Sleep. I miss sleep.
  11. Who knew how much of a space in your heart is waiting to love other people/creatures? Sometimes it’s not something you’re feeling until there’s someone who needs you to, you know, pick up their poop and clap excitedly when they pee. True love, you know?

That’s it for this pupdate. Luna’s got a few more pictures up on Instagram, but here’s one more of the snooze machine:

Luna 2

 

 

Summer Update/Newsletter

For those of you not subscribing to the newsletter, here’s a summer update:

My blog has been quiet because our summer has been loud. The biggest news being: Katie and I bought a house! Talk about chaos. Does this house have the right pipes? What are the right pipes? Can you explain the amortization schedule to me one more time? Oh… can you unexplain that so I never think about it ever again? Aside from all the stress and learning that comes with owning our first home, there was also the packing, moving, and unpacking required. I assured Katie that I would use a magical spell to take care of everything. Fortunate, then, that my Patronus is a U-Haul truck.

On the fictional front, I’m happy to announce that we recently secured a deal in the UK for the Babel series. So the trilogy continues to do well abroad and we’re hoping for more announcements on that front in the future. I’ve also just finished and turned in copy edits on the first book. For those unfamiliar with the publishing industry, this is the level of edits in which a very intelligent person leaves me feeling like I stole my English degree from UNC. More seriously, I was amazed by the attention to detail in those notes. My favorite example has been the editor’s ability to determine an entire timeline based on one reference to the Super Bowl. Seriously, that’s nuts.

Right now, I’m finishing up my time at Duke Young Writers’ Camp. Teaching College Admissions Essays and Dark Fiction this summer has been such a blast. Katie and I are looking forward to a week in Wrightsville after the session finishes. After that, I’ll be back to full time writing. I can’t talk about those projects too much, but they involve magic horses, dirigibles, and a nine iron. Below you can find a few pictures from our summer!

Enjoy the rest of your summer and be on the lookout for more newsletters in the Fall!

Say it with me: TRANSITION

Some stages of life can be summarized by a single word. Other stages (middle school, mostly) should be outlawed from all future conversations. Still others are so confounding or glorious that there really aren’t proper descriptions for them.

I find myself in the the first category. Katie and I are two months into our return from Switzerland. We would tell you that transition has been pretty smooth, but “pretty smooth” doesn’t stop me from waking up sometimes, walking out our front door, and expecting the 33 bus to take me to Hardbrucke.

Another transition happening right now is teacher to writer. You would think ten months would be a big enough window for me to grow accustomed to that change, but remember that I started that transition thinking my time as a full-time writer would be completely temporary. Honestly, my real goal was to get an agent while I was abroad. Anything else felt like wishful thinking. Well, in the immortal words of Brick Tamland, “That escalated quickly.” Now we’re back, and I have a publishing deal, and I’m trying to sort through all the unpredictability of how to make a career out of my imagination.

We’re also making a big transition from “first townhome/apartment” to “first house house.” Katie and I are searching for a place to live in this absurd Triangle market and wondering why every property has one really strange quirk (I’m confused… why is there a window there?).

Finally, I’m transitioning between projects as well. I’ve completed a new YA about horse racing… and I’ve completed my edits for the first book in the Babel series. With each completed work there’s a profound sense of accomplishment. Trust me. I sit back for exactly twenty seconds, smile at my computer, and eat anything that resembles chocolate in the house. But that’s always followed by the inevitable: What’s next?

And here’s where I want to do some honest digging. I struggle so, so much with this question. I’ve spent the past week doing what I always do between projects. I’ve shoved small tasks to the forefront of everything. Write this email. Check that box. Do some research (aka watching Bloodline on Netflix). I know I have other projects on tap. There are three different stories I could finish. There are two others I could begin. But I know all of those require heavy lifting. They require my energy. They require more than quick one-offs. I’ll have to plot and plan and dig deep.

I’m not advocating for constant work. Trust me. I take weekends. I take breaks. I work hard and I dog it whenever I’m mid-project, but there’s always time with my wife, or time with family, or any number of solid, restful distractions. There’s something, though, about this in-between that doesn’t feel like rest. It feels like taking the easy road. It feels like… this:

IMG_1540

And as nice as this looks, I kind of promised myself I’d work tirelessly so that I can keep doing the job I always dreamed I would get to do. So there’s no quick take from this particular blog post, but there’s definitely a psych-myself-up encouragement.

Tomorrow I’m going to wake up, pick a project, and dig my feet all the way into it.

Here we go.

The Business of Best

This weekend my wife and I attended a wedding.

It’s not a well-kept secret that I love weddings. Our wedding was such a celebration. Of the love my wife and I have for one another, but also of the people that had prepared us for marriage throughout the years. But what makes weddings more than just another event are the people that are choosing to come together and start a new life, a new family. This weekend I watched my YoungLife leader get married.

To explain the magnitude of this event, I’d have to start with how big of an impact Mike Strawbridge has had on my life. We met my freshman year in high school. Like most YoungLife leaders, Mike looked vaguely out of place. Here was this college kid in the stands of a Cary High School soccer game, cracking jokes and spending his time with us for some reason. While that sounds vaguely like a scene from Dazed and Confused, it was the first time I saw pursuit in action. Someone with way better, way cooler things to do was choosing to love, pursue, and encourage high school folks.

Eventually, Mike and I became friends. I attended a bible study at his house. I went to weekend camps with him as my leader. We ate meals together, and played way too much Halo together. My memories of specific talks or advice are vague, but they’re all highlighted by the idea that Mike always had time for me, and was always willing to help me find the answers in my walk with faith. I knew if I called him, he’d sacrifice his own time and energy to sit down with me. That’s just rare, no matter how old you are or what your situation is.

… so fast forward to Saturday. Mike stood there across from his breathtaking bride, Crystie. I sat at the back of the gathering and my mind raced through a lot of thoughts:

  1. A memory of senior club. I stood up and told Mike I couldn’t wait to have him be a part of my wedding (he was a groomsman), but that I hoped he’d get hitched up before I did (he didn’t).
  2. It’s really hot out here.
  3. Going to Mike for advice after getting engaged to Katie. How he told me to chase after my wife, to be relentless with my love. He wasn’t married at the time, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t even know Crystie yet, but he had wisdom and he gave it freely.
  4. Is my back sweating? Yeah, it’s sweating.
  5. Mike taking care of me on my wedding day. Asking if I needed anything. Looking out for me on a day where it was all I could do not to have my stomach tied in knots.
  6. It’s still hot.
  7. All the times we dogged Mike about getting married. Mike’s about four years older than me, so he was an easy target as he pressed into his 30s.
  8. All the stories I heard about people trying to set Mike up. All the stories I heard about people wanting Mike to meet the right girl.
  9. The final thought: Mike and Crystie look perfect together up there.

And that’s where my mind landed, and stuck. Katie and I enjoyed catching up with folks I knew from Cary, and we danced, and we ate good food. But as I thought about the joy I had in my heart for Mike, and the joy I felt in being with my own beautiful bride, I was absolutely struck by the idea that God is in the business of best.

He’s not in the business of easy, unless He wants it to be easy. He’s not in the business of quick, unless He wants it to be quick. He’s not in the business of settling or in the business of half-measures. The God that Mike spent years teaching me about is in the business of best. He knows us so well. He knows our ins and outs, our weaknesses and our strengths. He knows which parts of us echo Him, and which parts of us rebel.

There’s nothing about my life that’s hidden. There’s nothing too big for him to unburden from my shoulders. There’s nothing too small to go beneath his notice. He took account of everything about me and everything about Katie, and patiently led us to one another.

My wife loves asking how people met their spouses. The two of us met on a blind date. Mike and Crystie met in a hot tub. How random, some would say. How lucky!

But I don’t think that’s what we would call it. God’s greatest provision in our lives came, not by accident, but with great purpose. So I think about the years that Mike and Crystie had to wait for each other… and how overshadowed all of that is by a single day, and by all the days to come.

I think about the world I lived in before Katie… then the world I stumbled upon after we met.What grace, what mercy, what hope. What a glimpse of What is to Come.

Reading Winds of Winter… Will Be Weird

I’m going to keep this post spoiler free…

… because let’s be honest, you have friends in every phase of the Game of Thrones story line. You have friends that have not started (heaven forbid). You have friends who are committed to reading the books before they start the show. You have friends who have never read the book, but are knee-deep in the HBO series. It’s a wide spread.

But to the fans who loved Game of Thrones before it was the Game of Thrones cult phenomenon, things are really starting to get weird, aren’t they?

I’m not well-read enough to know if this is a unique circumstance, but it strikes me as very likely that Martin is one of the first novelists to have his storytelling usurped by another group of storytellers that he invited into the telling. There’s no doubt in most fans minds that Martin really is the superior teller of these stories (and the world’s originator), but there’s also no doubt that he’s the slowest teller, too. He’s being outraced and there are a few things that will happen when hungry fans finally curl up with The Winds of Winter:

  1. It will be, in some ways, a re-read: I’m not a huge supporter of the re-read. There are a very select number of books that I’ve seen as important and fascinating enough to bear a second run. This mostly because I feel there are so many books out there, waiting to be cracked open. But The Winds of Winter will be a re-read for those who are watching this season (and next?) of Game of Thrones. Some of the ground the producers are treading has to be the correct ground. Some of it has to be flush with what will happen in the novel. We will already have a vision of certain deaths. Will they move us as much in the prose as they did on the screen? How much punch will be lost in the fact that we’re no longer surprised when so-and-so bites the dust? Most people, I think, will consider Winds of Winter worthy of such a re-read.
  2. It will be a form of choose your own adventure: Martin won’t have us skipping around to different pages, but you are going to have some choice in canon purely because of how the show is veering off course. We’ve obviously witnessed a vast array of changes to the story as the producers attempt to put it in a new format for a new audience… but now the established plots and ends will be challenged by the original creator and visionary. He will change deaths. He will have different armies rising up. He will employ different twists in plot. We can assume some of the finales will be close to the same, but the road toward those ends may twist and change drastically from show to book. These surprises (oh! that character did this in the books!) will drive some people crazy and be delightful nuggets for others.
  3. Twenty Years from Now… No One Will Agree: No, that character got run through with a spear! Uhh… I’m pretty sure he actually got eaten by a wolf. Wait a minute… Martin’s cast is already massive. It takes a compendium just to keep up with the houses and names and growing list of players involved. The success of both the books and the series will eventually create a confusion over the acceptable facts. Really, it seems like the viewers will outweigh the readers. It strikes me that twenty years from now there will be little agreement on how characters actually did anything in these books.
  4. We will be massively entertained: This is the one that matters most, yes? I will sit down with Winds of Winter and relish every chapter. It might be the strangest reading experience I’ve encountered to that date, but I know it will be a great one, because I trust Martin to deliver on what has become one of the most fascinating and dynamic reading experiences of my life.

 

#HoldTheDoor #WeirdIsComing #IMeanWinter

 

Show Me the (Fake) Money

It’s no secret that I love books. My wife and I came home from Switzerland and one of the eyebrow raises of our unpacking could have been translated into, “I didn’t know we had this many books.”

My most recent read is The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. While reading it, I realized that one aspect of books that produces such a high affection is there ability to transport. They carry us into conversations and situations and settings. They give us the experience of whatever is unfolding. So with that in mind, here’s a list of fictional things I would absolutely pay money to experience:

  1. A Ronan Lynch snarl (The Raven Boys)
  2. Witness the defense of Tom Robinson by Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)
  3. Breaking my fast with Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones)
  4. Attend just one Gatsby bash (The Great Gatsby)
  5. To stand before Aslan (The Chronicles of Narnia)
  6. Or a duel with Reepicheep (The Chronicles of Narnia)
  7. Listen to Kvothe play in the Eolian (The Name of the Wind)
  8. Sit in on a secret meeting between Chade and Fitz (Assassin’s Apprentice)
  9. Be insulted by Sevro at the dinner table (Red Rising)
  10. Wear (and use) Kell’s traveling cloak to visit all three Londons (A Darker Shade of Magic)
  11. Watch Uther Doul fight with the Possible Sword (The Scar)
  12. Witness the statues coming to life in York. (Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell)
  13. Fly on the back of Temeraire (His Majesty’s Dragon)
  14. Play a few hands of cards against Mat Cauthon (Wheel of Time)
  15. Perform a little allomancy (Mistborn)
  16. Eat lunch with Kruppe while trying to escape his endless conversation (Gardens of the Moon)
  17. Navigate using the Marauder’s Map (Harry Potter)
  18. A fistfight with Vernon Dursley (Harry Potter)
  19. Just let me dip my toes in that chocolate river (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
  20. Let me roll deep with Two-Bit and the gang (The Outsiders)

You show me where to sign my name, and I’ll show you the money I’ve saved for… any of these.

Why I Could Have Given Up

This morning I’ve spent some time reflecting on this bizarre, dream of a world I’ve stumbled into. Long have I held loosely the idea that I might one day have a career in writing. I really mean that. It was a back pocket thought. A maybe if I’m lucky kind of dream. Now that it’s here, I want to glance back at all the reasons I had to give up on doing the thing that I love the most. Maybe, just maybe, these will resonate. Maybe it will get you out of your chair and into whatever dream you wanted to chase. Here they are:

  • Early Schooling Discouragements – In the 6th grade I took my first stab at a real, fantasy story. Twelve pages about birds of prey fighting in a war against mice. I turned it in with utter anticipation. What would my teacher say?! This wasn’t your average free write. I didn’t just recap my weekend activities. I’d invented a story. I got a 90, because I used the wrong font. There were no other comments on the entire story. I didn’t write anything similar to that story until high school.
  • “Real Job” Mentality – This was central to my high school experience. Writing is great. Creativity is wonderful. But it’s not a real job, you know? Wouldn’t you rather be X, Y, or Z? This came at me from every direction, but I most poignantly recall a school counselor laughing at the idea that writing was a career. I don’t actually blame her. Honestly, I think there’s a society-wide belief that the arts are a fine sideshow, but not realistic work for those who wish to live and support families. And, hey, plenty of authors will tell you that thisĀ is hard. Making a career out of writing, like most things, requires dedication and drive and a growing skill set. But still, the expectation and treatment of artistic careers makes me want to print out my first billing statement from Random House and slap it against the glass Will Hunting-style… but I’ve resisted the temptation to do so.
  • “Real Writer” Mentality – In spite of these discouragements, I enrolled as an English and Creative Writing major at UNC. In many ways, I had found my tribe. Fellow students who poured over books like they were sprawling museums filled with hidden treasures. Folks who wanted to argue about characters in stories. Yes, finally, yes! Except, I wasn’t a real writer. When I turned in chapters to fantasy novels, rather than crisp vignettes of the real world, I had several teachers raise an eyebrow and call out my work as genre garbage. It was suggested, on more than one occasion, that I take what skill I had and apply it to proper pursuits. I loved writing at the time, but experts and mentors were telling me which writing I should love, and it was never the kind I actually wanted to write.
  • First Rejections – After my sophomore year, I applied to be a part of UNC’s advance track for writers. I wanted to keep going. I wanted to get better. But I wasn’t chosen. It was so hard to experience that first rejection. For the next year or so, I didn’t write. If I couldn’t make the first cuts in my own writing program, could I really ever write something of worth?
  • Computer Angst – During my senior year, I failed to back up most of my files. Three in-progress stories wiped off my computer. Months of work, gone in a heartbeat.
  • Second Rejections – I started to pursue writing more seriously during graduate school. I joined a writing group. I finished my first novel. It was so much fun… Sixty queries later (and sixty rejections later), it didn’t feel quite as fun. I had one agent bite and ask for the manuscript. Eventually, however, she turned me down. I was bummed, but more than able to admit to myself the writing might not be my strongest. I could do better. It was time to move on to another story.
  • Third Rejections – So I wrote another book. This time, I thought, I had written something quite good. Beta readers were obsessed with the book. I remember boldly telling people I was quite certain this was the book that would get me an agent. Thirty-five queries later… I found out I was wrong about that. No one wanted it. This one hit me harder, because I thought maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a writer. Two books had proven that true, hadn’t they?

Then, in May, I went out with the book that would eventually be titled The Black Hole of Broken Things. I have an agent now. I have a publishing deal for my trilogy. The book’s already slated to be translated into French, Polish, Spanish, and Portugese. We’re shopping movie rights. What is this crazy life?

I think I kept writing for a few reasons.

First, God hardwired me to love story. I just can’t get enough of books and movie and life. If you’ve ever spent more than thirty minutes with me, you know I can’t help myself… I’m constantly starting things out with, “That reminds me of this one time…”

Second, in between those bitter and discouraging moments, I had friends and family and teachers encouraging me. There were gaps as large as three years where I wrote nothing, but even the slightest affirmations brought me back to the table. Yesterday, a beta reader told me they picked up the second book in my series and couldn’t put it down. They loved it. I’ll float for weeks on that.

So don’t give up. Even if you’ve got good reasons to do so. There are points when I did, but something always happened to pull me back into writing. I’d encourage you to surround yourself with people who make you want to write. Push past the rejections and the societal expectations and the wrong fonts, and keep writing your stories.

I’ll be waiting to read them.