Friday, March 30, 2012

Book Concept in a Shadow Box

During March (and now soon during April) I’ve been working on my second novel in progress, SUNLIGHT. I’m trying to write as many words as I can, filling in the pieces of my now 3/4-done first draft. It’s going pretty well. So far I’ve put together a pretty solid outline and written about 12,000 more words (to add onto the 30,000+ I already had), so I’m happy with all that.

Just for fun, I decided to put together my own “Cornell Box” for my book SUNLIGHT. Joseph Cornell was an artist who used commonplace objects set into small boxes to create visual poems to express ideas and emotions.

So, here is a photo of my book idea, boiled down into some items I was able to scrounge up around my house and arrange in a box.

I’m not sure I’m done with my Cornell Box just yet. Many of the key elements are there—but it’s missing a few things that represent important moments and characters. To be honest it probably needs more fire, darkness, bone and blood, pine trees, starlight and curtains fluttering in cold, spring breeze—and a cat. But I’m keeping my eyes out. It’s interesting what the universe will sometimes provide when you open up the artistic parts of your mind.

Some actual samples of Joseph Cornell’s work.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cutting Characters

A poem by Austin Kleon, author of Newspaper Blackout. (The text reads: so/they look/as they did when I was 10/the Old King/and his queen/ my parents/ The size of/Egyptian/ sculptures, all/ Secrets/ that/ I didn't know)

And a nice image for my past month of editing.

I've just finished cutting five characters out of Once We Were Bears in an attempt to fix a problem that had been worrying at me and that my beta-reader confirmed: many people die after the middle section, making that one and the third feel disconnected. I'm pretty sure the character-cutting hasn't solved this; any future reader may very well still feel as though characters they spent time with are just dropped. It's just that now there are are fewer named characters for whom that will be the case.

So the problem's not solved. BUT, making these cuts did shorten the middle section considerably. I'm now at about 92,000 words (down from the all-time high of about 130,000). That feels good, as I'm now closer to the upper range for a middle-grade novel.

What was interesting to me in the process of making these cuts were first, it was actually very easy to excise these characters. It always takes a long time for me to get through the whole (because I read it aloud as I edit), but I didn't have to substantially change that much. Which says to me that these characters may not have been all that central to the story in the first place. And second, I was never really in love with these folks. Mostly because I felt like I'd never really nailed down their names. There's something that happens when I've got the right name for a character. Only then do I have the character. And I just didn't have these five. So, tho' I may not have fixed the big, bad, I think the novel is more trim and fit in its present state.

RIP, Lexie, Alex, Zander. Sleep well, Mikey and Rebekah. If I find your true names in dream, I'll write you anew.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I'm sure all of you long time, hardcore Scribblerati-heads will probably easily recall me announcing my first sale a few months back. But for all of new fans out there who are probably going "What the holy heck is this crazy som-bitch goin' on about" right about now, the long and short of it goes like this:

Yours truly (Jon)  wrote a short story called Harris. I then turned around and submitted it to a genre fiction anthology called Cifiscape (It's pronounced Sci-fi scape), because the anthology's central idea was to write about the future of Minneapolis, a dystopian future to be specific, but one with a little bit of hope. So this is what I kept in mind when I sat down and put pen to paper, hoping to put together a little something-something that would fit the bill.

And apparently I did.

You see, a few month ago my story was accepted and in the time since, the book has been making it's way though the publishing progress. If you are already one of the few, the happy few, the band of brothers who follow my Author's page on Facebook or my Twitter, then you've probably already caught a whiff or two of the building anticipation that is permeating the Internet. For those of you who haven't, allow me to lay down the low-down, cats.

It goes like this: the Cifiscape website first put up an Author's Announcement page for me. Then they put up a Story Synopsis page a few weeks later and then we did a little Q and A session for their Author's Spotlight page. It's good stuff, man, it's all really good stuff, pure entertainment, you should check it out. Seriously. Now, granted, I'm a little biased. Okay, okay, maybe I'm more than a little biased, but you know what? Ask my mother, she'll tell you the same thing... Go ahead, ask her. I'll wait...


Anyway, the best news of all showed up late last week.

The book is ready. It comes out next week. Oh yeah, you heard me right. Next week. It will be available for you--the great unwashed masses who I love so, so dearly--to purchase next week. Next week, kids.

How excited am I?

Jesse Spanno don't have nothing on me!

But what does that mean for all you kids, the average, everyday Scribblerati fan? How can you stay informed? Where do you go for your up-to-the-minute publication/release schedule? Calm down, people, calm down. Just keep your eyes on the Cifiscape website here and until the big day, here's a schedule of some upcoming Cifiscape Volume 2 centered events.

Get ready,

Saturday, March 3, 2012

So here's a crazy idea...

I've been working on a lot of edits to To Kill the Goddess lately and I'm at this phase where I'm doing a lot of really down and dirty editing. In the process, I find myself thinking about the structure of my book in ways I haven't previously focused on. One result of new focus is some rather serious changes to the arc of one of my characters, which I've talked about here. Another result is this bizarre idea:

What if I were to split my book up into three separate books?

Let me back up a for a moment. At this point I'm 99% certain that I will self publish To Kill the Goddess. This means, at least at the outset, that I'll be going entirely digital. Furthermore, my last version of To Kill the Goddess clocked in at roughly 130,000 words. That's one porker of a book. It's not long because it's bloated and full of unnecessary fluff, I just need that much space to give each of my five separate point of view characters the the fair shake that they deserve.

Now back to my crazy idea. Most books these days are around 70,000 to 80,000 words. That means To Kill the Goddess is nearly the size of two books all by itself. In addition, my outline has, for a long time now, split To Kill the Goddess into three separate parts, each about 45,000 words. In some ways, these parts almost work like acts of a play. Part one introduces most of the characters and defines what at stake. In part two, plot lines begin to intersect and the story evolves. And in part three, as I like to say, the shit hits the fan.

Individually, those three parts would each be a little on the short side for a full novel, and no, the first two wouldn't be self-contained, nor would they achieve much resolution, and yet… why not split them up? Where does it say you have to tell a story all in one chunk? Comics don't do it. Neither do series. Did the Wheel of Time ever actually end?

Remember, were talking digital here. I don't have to worry about printing, or contracts, or any of the other issues if traditional publisher would have to deal with. All I have to do is format three different files and send them in.

The biggest question I have is how the mass public react to an idea like this because, as far as I know, it hasn't been done. Although it seems like it could have appeal. For example, someone could try out part one for $1.99 and if they didn't like it then they wouldn't have to buy any more. Or, I could give away part one on a promotional basis and then charge $1.99 for each of the other two parts. I'm sure someone will complain and say I'm just trying to make an extra buck, but there are a lot of e-books out there selling for a completely asinine amount of money and I guess if somebody wants to complain about paying $5.97 for all three parts of my book then there's really nothing I can do about that.

Anyway, it's all just an idea at this point. Just one of the many rolling around in my head as I look into the Wild West of self-publishing and wonder what the hell I'm getting myself into!