Books! That's what it's all about. If you didn't come here for books, you can get lost. Because that's what we're doing here; we're doing books. Specifically, these books:
This is not a store. There is nothing to buy here. This is just a place to display some of my work so my friends and family will know I do not sit around rolling tiny little balls of napkin paper all night, which they could be forgiven for wondering since I claim to have been writing nonstop for the last ten years but somehow only have two books finished. I have been burning the midnight oil on a third one that is almost done, and I have a rough draft of a fourth that I will fix up as soon as I find a large enough sum of unmarked cash that I can afford to stay home and write all day.
There are sections below for each book with a synopsis, a little backstory, links to download, and any other details that might be of interest. Without further ado, I am pleased to present...
Riverlilly is my first book. In 2005 I wrote a bloated 150,000 word manuscript, spent about two hours drawing a cover with colored pencil, and sent it off to be self-published while I planned my future award speeches. I ended up selling maybe 50 copies, then set it aside when I was ambushed by a little slice of life called 'getting a job.' This was the original cover art:
In 2011 (after writing a second book and catching my second wind) I revisited the manuscript, cut the bloat down to a svelte 85,000 words, drew a new cover (which took slightly more than two hours) and published another 250 copies. Think 'Extreme Makeover: Book Edition.' Voila:
I shopped the updated version around, but did not get any takers before I dove headfirst into another project that has subsumed my life for the last four years, and Riverlilly has been relegated to the back-burner once again. When I have a more free time (Ha!) I will touch up the manuscript using my newfound writing-superpowers, do a bunch of full-color illustrations, and start sending out a gazillion letters to agents and publishers. Riverlilly IS going to get published—it's just a matter of time. Look for the movie in a theater near you sometime in 2027.
What is the book about, you ask? Good question! Here is the blurb I often use:
Runaways Jai and Ceder set sail in a boat full of holes, with a plan full of holes, searching for anything to hold onto in a world where nothing is what it seems. Never did they imagine their desperate voyage would ignite a maelstrom of primeval forces roiling to the surface at every turn, churning the fate and free will of every friend and foe they meet into a proper froth.
Following a boy and girl who have never met before the night they flee a life of slavery and begin their journey across the open sea, Riverlilly is at heart a simple tale of young love struggling to stay afloat. Steered by waves they set in motion centuries past, leaving in their wake ripples that will rock their trusty boat a thousand years hence, together Jai and Ceder struggle to hold course against the tide of an inescapable truth: the farther away they try to run, the faster they will be reeled back to the beginning.
So... does that tell you what it is about? Not remotely! I struggle writing those 'elevator-pitch' summaries; it is difficult to walk the line between spoilers and teasers. My attitude, like a lot of authors, is: if you want to know what it is about, read it. To which you turn your nose up and reply, "Why should I bother reading something if I don't have a clue what I am getting myself into?" Well, aren't you just full of great questions today?
Riverlilly is a YA Fantasy. Jai and Ceder's adventure takes place in a world not unlike Oz or Wonderland, with a wide cast of colorful characters that can be as startlingly wise as they are whimsical. There is an almost fairy-tale form of logic that underpins this world, and Jai and Ceder are as new to its quirks and Quixotisms as the reader, although most fantasy fans will get a fuzzy tinkling of familiarity throughout. Mind you, this is not an Epic, End-All Battle Between Good and Evil; there are no knights in white armor or damsels in distress, no wizards, no elves, no dwarves, no dragons (at least not in the traditional sense.) This is a smaller, more personal story, yet the pages are absolutely dripping with magic that drives the story forward at every turn, but as a powerful a narrative force as it can be, most often the existence and influence of the supernatural remains out of sight and out of mind, like the invisible currents below the surface of the sea that carry Jai and Ceder's little skiff from one shore to the other. Mystery, humor, and suspense abound, but at its core this is the adventure of a lifetime for two wide-eyed kids who have never so much as dipped a toe in the ocean but find themselves stranded on a boat full of holes by the end of the first chapter. Are you ready to set sail?
OH, MY GOSH! I CAN'T WAIT TO READ IT!
Easy, cowboy! Riverlilly is available to download for FREE on iTunes or at Smashwords, which has a variety of file types for different kinds of e-readers.
If you would like a paperback copy, I have a few left. Send me a message and we'll make it happen.
Counting both printed editions and all downloads to date there are close to 1,400 copies of Riverlilly out there. I have gotten a few positive bits of feedback over the years from readers I have never met, who found the book on their own one way or another and were kind enough to send me a few encouraging words:
Write another book? Well, since you asked nicely... But what would I call it? Oh, I know! How about...
Pence is my second book.
This is the story of a small boy carved out of a potato with all the wrong proportions of courage and common sense, a big ego, and an even bigger mouth.
With a rock for a brain, a pair of emerald earrings for his eyes, and a rare seed pressed into his chest that beats with a pulse, Pence awakens his first morning with grandiose ambitions but he is quickly brought down to earth by the old man who made him, who sternly tasks the boy with an impossible quest and then kicks him out of the garden with little more than a splinter for a sword and a penny for a shield.
Pence does not appreciate having his life charted out for him, but a boy cannot outrun his own heart. Whether he likes it or not, Pence was made for a purpose: he is the gardener’s last hope.
Pence makes me laugh. He is only five inches tall and wonderfully fragile, but he approaches the world outside the garden fearlessly and never backs down from danger.
Half fairy tale, half fable, half comedy, half tragedy, Pence is a brief, bittersweet tale about growing old gracefully in a world that has passed you by, about selfless loyalty, courage in the face of certain death, and undying love.
The structure of the book is somewhat odd: there are only a handful of characters, only a couple settings, and the whole story takes place over a few short days; yet within Pence's whirlwind adventure there is contained a hundred years history of The Hundred Kingdoms of Man, and his own small place in that long-unfolding epic may be more important than he could ever know.
My long-term plans for Pence are to finish eight more illustrations (bringing the total up to twelve), spend a few months chipping away at the manuscript (although it is 100% polished and ready to read right now,) print up a slew of self-published copies for family and friends, and eventually try to get an agent and a publisher for this book. Due to its oddball narrative, this is probably not a novel with blockbuster potential, but I believe it has promise and a one-of-a-kind niche on bookstore shelves. I had a big agency express interest a few years ago to the point they actually read the whole thing and even requested I make a few changes (mostly to shorten it!) They ultimately chose to pass, but it was a good learning experience and I think next time around I might be able to get my foot in the door far enough that they can't slam it shut.
GIVE ME THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW!
I like your enthusiasm! Pence is currently available as a FREE download for all sorts of e-readers. You can find it on iTunes or at Smashwords in a variety of file types for different devices.
Pence is approx. 60,000 words—or about 230 pages if it were a traditional paperback. To date, it has 1,056 downloads. If you read it and like it, I would love to hear from you. You can be the first to leave a review!
Still here? You must love books. In that case, I have just the thing for you...
The Alleys of Olde Architecture is my third book. I started working on it November 1, 2011. 54 months later, if I had to guess, I would say I am about 90% done and that it will be finished by the end of 2016, although the illustrations may take longer. And then I will have to decide whether to self-publish some copies for posterity or keep a lid on the whole thing until I can get a real publisher on board, which is a major challenge with a manuscript this long. I am on track for about 1,000 pages, and even if I go back and cut 10% of that during the editing, we're still looking at a massive book you could use to anchor a small ship. Further muddying the waters, a lot of self-publishers top out at approx. 800 pages, as well—something to do with the binding process on the spines. So. Anywho, here is a sneak peek at my progress chart; never mind all the color-coding; all you need to know is that every box is a chapter, and the numbers are my word-counts for those chapters. The most important part are those two empty boxes in the bottom-right—the only chapters left to write.
That blue number is my total word count. For an idea of how long a 300,000 word book is, consider:
- To Kill A Mockingbird: 100,000
- Moby Dick: 206,000
- Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix (the longest one): 257,000
- A Game of Thrones: 298,000
- Lord of the Rings Trilogy: 455,000
- War and Peace: 587,000
- King James Bible: 783,000
To be clear, an astrological word count is not something to brag about; it is almost definitely going to work against me when I try to pitch this book to publishers. When Writers House asked me to trim down the manuscript for Pence, it was only 66,000 words to begin with! A bigger book is more expensive for them to print and harder to market to readers who will have never heard of me before. You don't want to write a never-ending story just for the sake of ringing a bell when you hit a million words; on the flip side, you don't want to cut your story short if your hero's journey simply ain't over yet. Ultimately, you have to put whatever is in your head down on paper, edit it as best you can, then cross your fingers and hope someone out there will like it.
Blah, blah, blah, you're thinking. And you're right! You want the goods! You want to know what the story is about and why on God's green earth it needs to be so long! Sorry—that's all Top Secret.
Just kidding! But where to start...?
Ten-Second Summary: This is the story of a fifteen-year-old girl whose father is sentenced to death for conspiring to kill the king.
Slightly-Longer Summary: Fifteen-year-old Alley a'Door lives at the bottom of a three-mile-high city in the middle of the sea. Late one night, her father is arrested for conspiring to kill the king, sentenced to death, and dragged away up the mountain to be executed at sun-down. With nothing in her pockets and no clue where to begin, Alley knows she has only one day to get to the bottom of the mysterious charges against her father, ascend the mountain, and find a way to break his chains and clear his name.
There are two Big Ideas that spawned this story. One was political frustration with the idea that all these ginormous institutions in our world have gotten so huge and unwieldy that they are beyond the ability of a single person to effect change (which may or may not be a good thing.) I wanted to explore that and question whether one person really can make a difference in a city/nation/world where corruption spreads like cancer. As Alley is making her way up the mountain and diving deeper into the mysteries surrounding her father's arrest, she uncovers a number of unsavory truths about the world she lives in and comes to realize with dawning apprehension that truly saving him cannot simply entail pulling him free from the headsman's block at the last minute, but that the bedrock foundations of the city she calls home must be torn down and rebuilt if her father, her friends, or anyone she holds dear is ever to be properly safe.
The second major concept I wanted to play with stemmed from a 'news' article I read once about a guy on eBay who was trying to barter items with other eBayers such that he always came out ahead in the deal (if only by a hair), but that after innumerable trades he would have amassed a significant profit. Specifically, I think he started out with a giant novelty paperclip worth about 5$, traded up, and up, and up, eventually traded for a snow-mobile, kept trading, and finally was able to finagle his way into a free year's rent in a fairly luxurious house. Long story short, he turned his 5$ into about $20,000 of value just through patience, careful planning, and clever negotiations.
I knew I wanted Alley's arc to be similar. In the first drafts, she literally began the book in a dark prison cell with nothing to her name and her hands tied behind her back, and she had to think of a way out using a dead rat and a bit of straw from her pallet. That all changed, but the emphasis remained the same, and although Alley does not spend much time on eBay in this story, resourcefulness has developed into the dominant character-trait I want her to epitomize. It is not that she 'trades' her way up, per se, but she does have to spin straw into gold as she essentially lifts herself out of the ghetto at the bottom of the mountain by her own bootstraps on her way to the mountaintop.
Excuses, excuses! What is taking so long?
This is by far the most complicated storyline I have ever bitten off, but I don't want to spoil anything by saying why. I have felt from the beginning that in order to pull it off successfully I have to polish each chapter nearly to perfection before I even draft the next one, which is not usually an advisable way to build a book because you risk writing yourself into a corner. Everything has been outlined and carefully plotted from the beginning, but specific themes, running jokes, which characters reveal which clues at which times—all that is so integral to advancing the plot one step at a time that to draft too far ahead was counterproductive. Believe me, I tried, and there is an Olympus-sized mountain of paper on my (metaphorical) cutting room floor.
I have done a TON of behind-the-scenes work on this: my notes Word doc. is 30,000 words, my notes spreadsheet looks like an IRS audit of Al Capone, I built a wiki at one point to mind-map everything and that was 100 pages, I compiled a personal, illustrated dictionary of medieval words and phrases and that is 150 pages, I have spent about 300 hours on the artwork, I have taken about half-a-dozen trial-versions of organizational writer software out for a spin; it's been a long road. Maybe I will post that stuff when the book is done for curiosity's sake; some of it is pretty cool, but it runs right through SPOILER-CITY, so I can't put it up just yet.
You're probably still feeling like you have no idea what this book is actually about. I don't blame you! Like, if I was really trying to sell it to somebody and my whole career depended on it, what would I say? Probably not a diatribe about politics and eBay scams. Again, it is always hard to condense a novel you have poured your heart and soul into down to a bite-size morsel, but if you are going to call yourself a writer, you had better be prepared to try. Let me think... Okay, here goes!
The Alleys of Olde Architecture is a YA Fantasy, although I cringe at this sort of genre designation. This story is so jam-packed with adventure, mystery, humor, horror, drama, etc... It turns out you can fit quite a bit into a 1,000 page book, but people tend to see the word 'fantasy,' picture an elf riding a flying, rainbow-colored unicorn, and move on.
There are a lot of fantastical elements in the story, but they are generally played down because Alley, the main character, is unfazed by the goings-on around her, even though you or I would have our eyeballs popping out of our heads if we spent two minutes in her city, Aurapor, a cultural melting pot of every conceivable mythical creature and race, where blacksmiths and corner bakeries sit side by side with potion stores and fortune-tellers (half of whom are charlatans, like in any city.) You might see a man walking his poodle on one side of the street and a down-on-his-luck minotaur begging for spare change on the other; if you do see an elf riding a unicorn, odds are he is a horse-thief planning to pawn the poor beast to a butcher shop that will sell the meat on the black market. I tried to capture the texture of the city and the tone of the story itself in the illustrations; think Diagon Alley designed by Tim Burton, then make the whole thing three miles high and plop a fifteen-year-old girl who sneaks out every night to run around on rooftops into the middle of it. The city has a Gothic, almost-but-not-quite steampunk vibe, it is most definitely dangerous, but to Alley and her friends, it's home.
It is so difficult to give a good synopsis without spoiling anything or resorting to frustratingly vague platitudes. I will try to post a sample chapter or some non-spoilery excepts soon to give you a better idea of what to expect. Until then, I will be hard at work finishing up the last few chapters and polishing the whole thing until you can see your reflection in it.
I am so excited to finish The Alleys of Olde Architecture, not only because I have been slaving away on it for four-plus years and can barely remember what real-life feels like, but also because I am am dying to get back to work on...
Mystery Project #4
Coming in 2017
The rough draft for this one is done. About a third of it is already edited. I am so excited to get it to you, I know you're going to love it!
This will be the first of a trilogy. I am also planning 8-10 prequel chapters that would come before the first book, and, SURPRISE, three of them are %99.999 done. So I thought, if you are the type of person who has made it to the bottom of this page, you might be the type of person who would like to read them!
There is no particular chronology to these; they stand alone, although whichever order you choose to read them in may shade your perspective on the others in a different light. I don't want to say too much more and spoil anything—you will just have to dive in blind and see what it's all about. Here they be:
Check back later for more. I am trying to finish one every few months in between my other projects.