It’s here! Tomorrow - Tuesday - October 1, 2019, The Bones of Who We Are is out. It’s been an arduous (thought fulfilling) adventure, and I couldn’t be more excited and proud of this story. I can’t wait to hear what you think of Gabe’s journey, so be sure to post a review to Amazon, share it on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I’m looking forward to it.
There’s a saying - I think it’s by one of those ancient philosophers, but I don’t remember which one - that says something like “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” I think the old white guy was talking about cake or something, not people, because when I look in the mirror, I can’t stop seeing all of the parts. I think that’s something you should know about me.
I don’t even know why I’m writing this letter to you. I don’t know you. I’m not one to share info even with the people I care about. Doc Miller suggests I open up. Trust, he says. It isn’t easy. Truth is, it’s impossible. Hasn’t been a lot of reasons in my life to extend trust. I suppose that’s why I’ve decided to walk into the woods drunk with a gun.
I can hear your question: Why?
Because there’s no other way to save the people I love from the monster inside me.
When I was ten, I was brought to Cantos by a social worker - Maura Dunning. She made a mistake but that mistake was probably the best one that ever happened to me in a series of mistakes that has defined my life up to now. I’m a mistake. I’ve spent the last seven years trying to forget the awful event that precipitated my arrival here. The truth, though, is that you can’t run from who you are. You can’t forget those parts of you. No matter how much you try to forget the pieces, those snapshots of experience that contribute to the whole of you, they get abscessed.
Don’t get me wrong - there’s a lot of good stuff. There’s Martha and Dale, Abby, Doc Miller. It’s hard to see the good clearly though, because the bad is so ugly. What’s that saying? I think Doc Miller told me one time: It’s hard to see the forest through the trees. My whole life has gotten lost among the trees; I’m smart enough to know I’m in a forest, but don’t know how to find my way out anymore. I’m stuck in a loop. And now the infection is finding its way out. The monster.
So, that’s why I’m headed into the forest to the fort Seth and I built with what’s left of a bottle of whiskey and a gun in my pocket.
Can I ask you a favor? I left a letter for Dale and Martha, and one for Abby. Tell them to look in Cardboard Castle. And please tell them all, I love them. And that I’m sorry.
The Bones of Who We Are Releases October 1, 2019
My father - my rock - passed away in October 2017. I miss him everyday. I didn’t think I would ever find the words to write again. When I tried, all that made it to the page were visceral and painful images of where I was stuck: my cave. About six months later, I was sitting at a traffic light and heard Abby say “I need you to write my story.” The pilot light was relit, and I found my way through a new draft of SWIMMING SIDEWAYS.
The summer of 2018, with SWIMMING SIDEWAYS and THE UGLY TRUTH drafted, I went home to Oregon for a month to help my mom and sister go through my father’s things. Most of the month was spent broken-hearted, trudging through necessary spaces. I cleaned the garage breathing in my father’s work space and going through each of his tools. This was something my mother wasn’t going to be able to do. My dad and his workshop were symbiotic; he could fix anything, and his workshop reflected this. So, immersion in his workshop, going through each of his toolboxes and trinkets, the jars of things he saved because they’d come in handy one day, cracked me open. Somehow, in the breaking of my heart and the diligent reorganization of his things, I was able to assemble the broken parts of myself back together. It was during this four weeks in Oregon that I began drafting Gabe’s story, and as I stitched myself back together, Gabe’s began to unravel.
I’ve warned readers that Gabe’s story isn’t an easy story to experience, and that is because THE BONES OF WHO WE ARE deals with heavy topics: bullying, depression, identity, loss, grief. Maybe in a way, the loss of my father is reflected in the pain of Gabe. My pain became his, though Gabe’s story was always this, I just couldn’t write it before. The pivotal scene in the book - the reason Gabe is who he is - was written back in 2009, eight years before I lost my father; nine years before I went through his workshop and faced my own undoing.
Perhaps, I was never going to be equipped to tell Gabe’s story without understanding the complete loss of someone so essential to my own identity. Perhaps, sitting inside my father’s workshop by myself allowed me to grasp loss, life, and grief in a way I never would have without that struggle. As writers our life experiences impact the depth of our knowledge. Virginia Woolf wrote, “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.” So, I suppose by realizing how painful it was to look at my father’s empty steel-toed work boots and be slammed with the awareness of how much I missed him, it forced me to jump into the deep end of loss. When the only thing I could do was climb into bed and bury myself in romance novels because those stories were as much as I could handle to not sink and drown, I found a way to tread water. Perhaps, this trial was the only way I was ever going to be able to empathize with Gabe’s experience.
THE BONES OF WHO WE ARE isn’t an easy story, but then life, love, loss, grief never are. That is the truth of what it means to be human. We hurt, but there is power in the warmth of hope. That - the hope - is what my father would have loved about Gabe’s story.
NEXT WEEK: A Letter from Gabe to readers
Music moves me creatively and so it’s a very important part of my process. One of the tools I use when I’m writing is the development and refinement of a playlist (I use Spotify and publish the playlists there). The songs range from popular music with lyrics to moody rifts of instrumental. Over the life of the story, it might change, but ultimately, as the story draws to a close, the playlist becomes an embodiment of the characters and the narrative.
The Bones of Who We Are playlist:
Another Place by Duumu (Gabe)
When the End Comes by Andrew Belle (Gabe)
Floating by Yoe Mase (Gabe)
Throw Me Away by Yoe Mase (Gabe)
Lung by Vancouver Sleep Clinic (Gabe)
Someone to Stay by Vancouver Sleep Clinic (Gabe)
Isabelle by Vancouver Sleep Clinic (Gabe and Abby)
Closure by Vancouver Sleep Clinic (Gabe and Abby)
Revival - Instrumental by Vancouver Sleep Clinic (Gabe)
Fear of the Water by SYML (Gabe)
715 - Creeks by Bon Iver (Gabe and Abby)
Cruel World by Active Child (Gabe, Dale and Martha)
Satellite Call by Sara Bareilles (Gabe)
Blinded by Emmit Fenn (Gabe and Abby)
Chapel by JT Roach (Gabe and Abby)
Because this Must Be by Nils Frahm (Gabe)
Shelter by Luca Fogale (Gabe and Abby)
Roots by Jakob Ahlbom (Gabe, Dale and Martha)
Rose by Honest Man (Gabe and Abby)
SAYONARA by Aries (Gabe and Seth)
Boys Can Cry Too (For my brother) by The Careful Ones (Gabe and Seth)
Still Life - Instrumental version by Snorri Hallgrimsson (Gabe)
Waves - Instrumental version by Hugar (Gabe, Dale and Martha)
Coma/Smoke by Hailaker (Gabe and Seth)
Punching In a Dream by The Naked and the Famous (Gabe)
5 Reasons Gabe believes he’s a monster:
It goes back to his childhood (which is a major spoiler that I can’t explore here. You’ll have to read the book)
Gabe wants to retaliate with all of the bullying, but he’s afraid of how far he could go with his anger. This also comes back to Seth (The Ugly Truth) and what Gabe’s believes about justice.
During the 8th grade, Gabe beat up someone he considered a friend - Cord - and lost control of his anger. This has been a formative reason in holding what he believes to be the monster back.
Gabe isn’t violent. He’s sensitive and silent, but it also makes him dangerous because he knows where that kind of dormant anger leads.
He hurts everyone he loves (at least that’s what he believes about himself).
REMINDER: Gabe’s a poet. This is one of his poems about hope
Five more facts about Gabe
His favorite music anything that makes him feel which means the lyrics have to be meaningful. It makes sense. He’s a poet after all.
Gabe’s favorite food is food. He’ll eat pretty much anything (which if you asked him probably goes back to his childhood and always being hungry).
He’s complicated, but not in the it-gives-me-an-excuse-to-be-a-jerk kind of way. He’s got a past that has shaped his perspective and is trying to navigate while at the same time being stuck in the quicksand of high school.
He’s the strong, silent type, but that doesn’t mean he won’t talk. He’s actually pretty funny, which Abby finds out in Swimming Sideways.
Gabe LOVES sports, especially basketball (which he’s really good at).
This quotation hits me in the heart every time. Oh, the context weaved around it; the struggle with self-identity, the importance of people in our lives (who we believe) who tell us we CAN. This is the moment that inspired the poem Gabe gave Abby for her birthday in Swimming Sideways:
Watered with poison
And crowned with shame.
Offer the tempting fruit with
A fertilizing word like “hero”,
And change the vantage to a mountain top.
The garden below is sick.
Your smile: the antidote.
Remove the crown and
Prune the head from the poisonous vine.
Gabe Daniels - the protagonist of The Bones of Who We Are (releasing October 1, 2019) - suffers from depression. At the beginning of his journey, he’s decided he’s done fighting for his life. He walks into the woods with a plan to take his life, but life, it seems, has other plans. This quotation encapsulates one of the struggles of his depression. It is the beauty of finding the golden glow of hope, and then having that sheen diminished when a challenge presses against it.
Teen depression is an important issue. Considering suicide statistics and that the rate is five times more likely to occur in males, awareness is critical. Teen depression presents differently in teens than adults mostly because teens aren’t equipped with the experience of understanding or tools for coping. Add to that concoction the fluctuating development of the teen brain and they become a beaker of miscommunication, heightened emotions, and inexperienced decision-making.
Some signs a teen maybe experiencing depression (and at possible risk for suicide):
There are many reasons for Teen depression ranging from social and environmental factors, family and personal struggle, heredity, or stress, it is important to know that not all teens who struggle with depression are facing these factors.
If you feel like you might be depressed, don’t wait. GET HELP! Speak with a trusted adult (a parent, a teacher, a care-giver, a doctor, a counselor) or call the national suicide prevention help line call 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day.
One facet of Gabe’s journey is his relationship with Abby (the protagonist from Swimming Sideways), and Gabe struggles to navigate this complicated relationship. Over the course of The Bones of Who We Are, Gabe reveals his experience falling in love for the first time. Though this is an important element of the story, I don’t want to mischaracterize Gabe’s journey as a love story. It is, but perhaps not the kind of love we most attribute to a YA novel: romantic love.
In addition to romantic love, there is also:
Love between friends or Philia
I would say that love is definitely at the heart of The Bones of Who We Are, and Gabe’s love for Abby is a part of his journey toward a more wholistic understanding what it means “to love.”
Catch up with the story by reading Swimming Sideways and The Ugly Truth before The Bones of Who We Are releases October 1, 2019. You can find them here.
I love Gabe. He’s the moody, brooding hero, and his story explores the why of his emotional journey. But his story needs a trigger warning. He’s dealing with some dark stuff (with support), so in the forward, I’ve provided an escape hatch for readers in case they aren’t in the head space to read it.
As I’ve been writing In The Wait: A Companion to Swimming Sideways and The Ugly Truth, (published to Wattpad or look for a new installment each Wednesday here) I’ve had more clarity about Gabe’s journey which I hope readers will be able to see as well.
I created this aesthetic to provide a visual reflection of Gabe’s story.