Tag Archives: Surreality

Why I have a box full of old drafts

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Yesterday I argued that you should throw away your darlings and never look at them again. It will probably come as no surprise to you that I don’t really follow that advice.

In my basement storage area I have a large box that contains old printed drafts of my books. There are early copies of my first novel Atlantia, half drafts from Dark Matter, and of course a ton of Surreality material. In the beginning I told myself I was saving this stuff for “security.” Wouldn’t want anyone stealing my ideas, after all. Later on I decided that these artifacts might be interesting to others if I ever became a big name author, stuff that new writers might even be able to learn from. Now I think it’s just a box I’ll have to run through the shredder at some point.

I have binders full of old stories, notebooks with handwritten ideas, original composition notebooks from 7th grade (first time I ever filled one of those things up with my own work), and countless other bits of detritus. And this doesn’t even begin to count my digital files. I have 6-7 drafts of Surreality each separately saved and available in eBook format. They were helpful when I was moving from draft to draft, and I never deleted them.

I occasionally thumb through this stuff, more for amusement than anything else. Sometimes I worry that I had all my best ideas in high school and that the rest of my life is being spent executing them. Looking back at old work provides pretty clear evidence this isn’t true, but it also makes me realize how long some ideas have been floating around in my head.

It’s interesting to see things you intended to put in a story, and never did. I write notes less because I intend to read them back, but more to move a thought to a different part of my memory. I think all of these details, even the ones that don’t make it to final page, inform the writer’s perception of the character. Keenan might have a weird love of Abba (because he’s y’know . . . human), but it’s a detail that might never be officially stated in a book. And yet I can keep writing him in scenes knowing that “Dancing Queen” is playing in his head.

And old work can reassure you that the core of the story is still there, and that you’ve improved upon it in the final draft. I reread the rough draft of Surreality when I finished my final edit. The process of revision can be exhausting, and often leave you wondering if you’ve really made things better, or if you’ve just changed them a bunch. Because it doesn’t always feel as fresh as the creative process, editing can leave you numb and less objective toward the work. Reading the old draft can be reassuring. You can see clear evidence that you kept the bits that mattered, and cut the junk away. Maybe you’ll find something you took out that deserves to be put back in, but more likely than not, looking back can show you that you’re moving forward in a good direction.

And while many old ideas and passages grow stale with time, others can take on new meaning. An idea I would have written one way a decade ago, might be something completely different now. And the converse is also true, something I thought was brilliant at the time can turn out to be a terrible idea now. Sometimes looking at old material shows us things about ourselves we’d rather not remember, blind-spots in our writing that hopefully we’ve matured enough to fix.

I still don’t exactly subscribe to the idea that saving old bits for later is good for writing new stories, but I think there’s a lot that can be learned from having this trove of old info to dig through. Every now and again I think it’s healthy to “take stock” of who you are as a writer, and where you want to go. These boxes of old material might be just the way to do it.

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Surreality – Arvo Part

Music has always been an integral part of my writing process, whether it’s selecting music to listen to while working, or choosing pieces to specifically reference in the book. Surreality actually depicts several musical pieces including a Massive Attack song for one of Ms. Klein’s performances, but my personal favorite is the choral piece that Keenan hears at the Palace Theater, Arvo Pärt’s Kanon Pokajanen.

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The Kanon is a modern classical masterpiece, but its origins lie in centuries old tradition. The text is taken from the Eastern Orthodox Canon which consists of nine odes centered around repentance (thanks Wikipedia). The second ode, Moses’ rebuke of the Israelites, is often omitted from recitations and is not present in Pärt’s composition (a fact my characters discuss in context with the events of the book).

My first encounter with the work was accidental. I didn’t even learn to pronounce Pärt’s name correctly for many years. It’s ‘Pear+t’ like the fruit plus a ‘T’, not ‘part’ like the widget, or ‘par’ which incorrectly assumes that the ‘T’ is silent. A two-disc copy of the CD was in the library book sale when I worked there my senior year of high-school. I had no idea what the CD was, and it smelled heavily of cigarettes, but for a dollar I sated my curiosity. The first nine seconds of the disc are silent, and I remembering wondering if there was something wrong with it. I probably turned my boom-box (yes I was still using one of those in the early 2000’s) to its maximum setting, only to met with the full blast of an SATB chorus a few moments later.

Pärt’s style is very spare, borrowing a lot from Gregorian chant, and mixing one or two of the parts together in different combinations. Large sections are sung in recitative fashion (meaning one part sings and another repeats). It’s ethereal and reflective. The piece gets your attention, retreats to the heavens, builds to an midway climax, then lets you go gently.

Pärt uses silence to set tone. The initial silence emphasizes the contrast of the entrance, and further silences throughout allow the notes to fill the cathedral space in which it was recorded. I’ve sung in old churches only a few times, the most memorable being a trip to San Francisco in 2004. Notes can carry on for seconds, long after the people have stopped singing. It’s a particular treat to study how harmonies blend and produce all the overtones and magical things that can happen when voices come together perfectly. It’s spiritual, not just to listen to, but to experience when singing.

My character’s not as fascinated by choral music as I am, but I hope that the moment is a nice space to reflect on what’s happened in the book so far, and what’s coming next. It’s still one of my favorite scenes to read, and has been present in the book in one form or another since the first draft (though Pärt’s specific selection came later I think).

My latest book, Surreality, is available on Amazon and Smashwords or wherever eBooks are sold.

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Surreality – The Ohio Union

The Union as I remembered it.

The Union as I remembered it.

OSU Campus is still a big part of my life, and so it makes sense that it would creep into the pages of Surreality. Even though it’s been seven years since I last walked the campus as a student, I only live a couple of miles north and often find myself at some of the restaurants and haunts at the periphery. I went scouting for locations for characters and scenes back in 2013 and spent some time at the new Ohio Union plotting out some of the material for Chapter 15.

I was a student at Ohio State in the last days of the old Ohio Union. My memories of the new building are of a hole in the ground and most of the south oval being fenced off. Ditto for the library. The new Union is very nice, almost like an indoor mall, and is a lot taller and more open than the old relic I remember.

Most of my time hanging out at the old Union was spent in the basement with the lunch group from Men’s Glee. Wiegel Hall is pretty close to the Union, and we would all get food from either Sloopy’s or Marc Pi’s (or even better across the street at actual restaurants on High Street), then hang out with a bunch of tables pushed together. Ostensibly the space was for studying, but no one seemed to enforce any kind of quiet rules, particularly during the day. The campus radio station office was just behind us, though I never saw much activity around it. Maybe thirty years ago, the basement had been a bowling alley, though we only had a couple of old pictures to go off of for that theory.

It was gray, drab and boring, but it was ours. When the building was demolished a few years in we moved to the John Glenn center building (next to the Wexner). It was never quite the same (there were offices and we could only get so loud without attracting undesired attention). Now the basement of the new union is a brightly colored culinary space, with a real kitchen. Hanging out at the Union now is confined to the above ground spaces.

Campus in particular is constantly changing and it was fun to have my characters bump up against some of those changes, both as way to drive the narrative, but also as an excuse to check out what’s happening. So much of the fun of setting my detective series in Columbus has been finding new areas of town to visit, or seeing how old ones have changed.

Surreality, my latest technological mystery, is available now on Amazon, Smashwords, and other online retailers.

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Surreality Released and Your Questions Answered

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My latest book, Surreality, is now available wherever fine books are sold. I thought rather than give you the hard sell again, I’d answer a few of the questions I’ve been getting lately:

Q. Will your book keep me warm during these cold winter nights?

A. If you buy the paperback version I suppose you could burn it for fuel. Though a better idea would be to read it under a warm blanket with a cup of hot chocolate. If you do decide to use it as kindling, you can get the Kindle version for only 0.99 through matchbook.

Q. What’s this Surreality diet I keep hearing about?

A. It would probably be false advertising to call an Irish Eggroll and something called a Gut-Buster a diet, but your tummy will be very happy.

Q. So what’s it like to finally release the book? Is it … surreal?

A. Yes. Yes it is.

Q. Will I like this book if I’m not from Columbus or Ohio?

A. Of course! Even if you’re from … that state up north.

Q. No seriously, I’ve been reading your blog for four years, how do you say your name again?

A. True-bee. On the other hand, if you buy the book, call me whatever you want.

Q. Wait. The dog in the book is named Garfunkel, and you dedicated it to your dog Simon. I see what you did there.

A. Was that a question?

Q. What’s the best pizza on OSU Campus?

A. Fly Pie. Don’t let the Adriatico’s people fool you. Or free pizza. Free pizza is the best.

Q. What if I like this book? Will there be more?

A. Already working on it. I promise there will be another Surreality book before another fractal book. Probably.

Q. What’s next for you?

A. Sleep. Then maybe beer.

Thanks so much to everyone who’s been a part of this book!

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Buy Surreality from these and many other fine bibliotechories:

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Surreality Available Now for Pre-Order, Releases 12/8

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Surreality is coming out in five days!

Just in time for a little cozy winter reading (if Columbus finally decides to pick a temperature and stick with it).

After a whirlwind couple of weeks of formatting, proofing and making various grumbling noises at my computer, I am pleased to announce Surreality will be released 12/8. The eBook version is available from just about every online retailer imaginable, including many I hadn’t heard of. (Might want to do a post on Blio at some point, since a certain Mr. Ray Kurzweil apparently has a connection to it).

You can find links to many of the online book stores to your right or you can click here for:

If you buy from Smashwords, you get the book in mobi (Kindle), ePub (Almost everything else) and PDF (Literally almost everything) DRM free. If you’ve followed the blog for a while, you know I’m a fan of actually owning my eBooks, and Smashwords is one of the best ways to do it.

The print edition is being published on CreateSpace and is actually available now if you buy direct, and in a few more days on Amazon. I just got the proof a few days ago, and opening that box was pretty exciting. Thankfully, producing a print edition of a fiction book is actually pretty easy and affordable. I remember calculating for the fractal book that I would have to cut 100 pages and sell the book for $60 to break even (unless I went for black and white I guess).

Thanks again to everyone who supported the Kindle Scout campaign and this book throughout its production. Your support helped with motivation to get this done in the final crunch weeks.

 

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Surreality – Latest News

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As many of you know, last week Surreality was not selected for publication on Kindle Scout.

First off, I want to thank everyone who nominated the book, shared the campaign on social media, and just expressed your overall support. I got some very nice notes on Twitter and e-mail commiserating with me after the campaign ended. Overall I feel good for having run the campaign, and am excited to continue down the publication path for Surreality as originally planned. I’ll write a more detailed retrospective on Kindle Scout in the coming months.

So, the big question: When will Surreality be released and where?

Short answer: 1-2 weeks and just about everywhere. Pre-orders may become available sooner than that, so stay tuned.

I’m working on putting together eBook versions for Amazon, BN, and other channels through Smashwords. (Yes, John, that means you’ll be able to buy a copy through the iBookstore). Smashwords in particular is very exciting as buying from there gives you the book in all of the myriad formats, meaning you really own it.

For those of you looking to do your Christmas shopping, I’m also releasing a print edition through CreateSpace. I intend to enroll the book in MatchBook as well (meaning you can get a cheap eBook version if you buy the physical book).

Anyone who voted for Surreality on Kindle Scout will get a notification that the Amazon version has been released. All of the other editions should launch at the same time, so if you prefer to buy for the Nook, the iPad, the Kobo or the hootinannie, you’ll find the links on the blog (and probably all over Twitter and Facebook as well).

I’m really excited to finally be getting this book out to you (just in time for cozy winter nights, and actually a little faster than if it had been selected).

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Surreality Kindle Scout Campaign: Last Day

Just a quick note before spending the rest of the day hanging out for my wife’s birthday. This is the last day of the Kindle Scout campaign for Surreality. Thanks to everyone for their support so far. I’m not sure how things are going to go, but either way there have been so many of you who have sent their well wishes and nominations, and that means a lot.

If you haven’t voted, there’s still time. Go to https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/2VSHAGFXNJ50T and nominate Surreality. If Amazon decides to publish it, you get a free copy. Remember to vote before midnight tonight.

Thanks so much to everyone!

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