by Todd

Happy birthday, Donovan Candle.

September 25, 2009 in Blog by Todd

In light of my decision to gut Part 1 of the new book before moving on to Part II, I spent some time reading over old notes from earlier this year.  That led me to flip through an old notebook, and I came across an entry that made me laugh.  You’ll have to pardon the chicken scratch:

Maybe 2k, possibly less.

If you can’t read it, the entry is dated 9/25, and it says “‘A LIFE TRANSPARENT’ – Man wakes up to realize he can see through himself. He’s not dead, not invisible. He just feels like he’s fading away, like there’s nothing left of him & so he’s slipping away into obscurity. <– Maybe 2k, possibly less.”

The year was 2006.  Three years ago today, as a matter of fact (the 9 in the image was cut off by the scanner).  You could say today is Donovan Candle’s third birthday (even though he’s more like 39).  I remember walking back from the restroom with that idea in my head, scribbling it down on paper, and mulling over it the rest of the day.  I’d just finished the first draft of a long novel and had a couple of false-starts with some shorter stories.  I was convinced I could squeeze out that story in 2,000 words or less.

Sixty thousand words later, I had a short book on my hands.  And now, three years later, here we are.  The book seems to be faring well with reviews and, though it’s not selling a million copies, it jumped 1.5 million spots in Amazon’s sales rankings thanks to steady word-of-mouth promotion.  I knew it wouldn’t be a huge thing right away.  I’m just one guy with limited funds, after all.  But I knew that, if enough people read it, it would spread from person to person.  Call it viral fiction.

I’ve uploaded some more notebook scans – one is from the ALT journal and the others are from the TLM journal:

Copyright © 2009 Todd Keisling

Copyright © 2009 Todd Keisling

Copyright © 2009 Todd Keisling

Copyright © 2009 Todd Keisling

Copyright © 2009 Todd Keisling

Copyright © 2009 Todd Keisling

Now I’ll close by wishing Donovan Candle a happy birthday.  Happy birthday, Don.


by Todd

Stepping back and moving forward.

September 22, 2009 in Blog by Todd

Most folks who come here know I wrote ALT.  What most folks don’t know is that it’s not my first book.  There were four books before ALT.  Of those four, I’d say three would be worth anything if I took the time to go back and completely rewrite them.  Of those three, only two would have any real merit and chance of being published – even with rewrites.  Writing books is what I started doing when I was seventeen years old.  Before my first book, I wrote a novella.  I did not start with short stories.  I started with the longer stuff.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s in my blood.  Who knows.

I guess the point here is that writing books came easier to me than any other form of narrative.  That’s what I thought, anyway.

I’ve been working – taking notes, plotting, outlining, and actually writing – on THE LIMINAL MAN for almost 8 months now.  To be fair, if you count instances of sickness, personal issues, a full time job and other various real life things that needed my attention, you could probably say it’s more like 5 or 6 months.  In any case, I once wrote that the book would be written this year.  Well, I was wrong.  The book became something bigger than I anticipated.  It grew, and grew, and grew, until it almost surpassed the length of ALT in the first third of the book.

After I finished the first part, I took a few weeks to get my bearings with the story, and a firm idea on where it’s going to go.  Then I sat down and started writing.  I was maybe half way through that chapter when I began to wonder why it wasn’t happening quite as easily as everything else.  So I stopped writing and started thinking.  I came to the conclusion that it’s because I really didn’t care about what’s happening in that particular chapter.  I found I wanted to get to what came after, concerning more important characters and plot points.  I realized what I was writing, and the characters involved in that particular section, didn’t matter.

So, after this extended diatribe, I’ve come to the point:  I’m going back to the first part and removing several characters.  In fact, I’m removing all of the prologue.  It’s not necessary.  Something I seemed to forget along the way was that this story is about Donovan Candle.  It grew into something else, concerning a lot of people, and I was constantly having to juggle those people, stressing over whether or not I was giving them enough of the spotlight, and making sure their stories meshed.  It grew into this huge, complex thing, and that’s not what I set out to do.  Is the story longer?  Yes.  Is there more going on?  Yes.  But, when I really thought about it, I couldn’t justify writing about characters I didn’t care about, especially when I knew I’d be cutting them out of the story eventually.

It’s my hope that these cuts will streamline the story, increase the pacing and bring its main character back to the forefront.

And there you have it.  I follow a lot of writers, either on their blogs or through Twitter, and a trend I’ve noticed lately is that no one seems to write about the process.   It’s always about the end result.  I don’t know about you, but as a writer, I’m always interested to learn how someone else did something, what kind of struggles they had and how they overcame them.

I know a lot of you out there are fellow writers.  Tell me about your struggles.  What works for you?  What doesn’t?

Okay – I’ve got a lot of work to do.  It’s time to go back, so I can go forward.


by Todd

The worst thing in the world.

September 18, 2009 in Blog by Todd

Footage from Tuesday night’s show. You can’t really see anything, and it’s all washed in red because of the weird lighting, but you can hear it clearly enough. Kind of surreal to see it, because I stood a few feet back from the guy filming this, and I watched it on his camera’s screen because he had a better view.

by Todd

Mostly translucent.

September 18, 2009 in Blog by Todd

Erica and I ventured into Philadelphia on Tuesday evening to attend a performance of Telefon Tel Aviv.  It was, among many things, a trip of frustration.  What began as a nice, belated anniversary gift slowly turned into a tiring debacle.

The President was in Philly that day.  Motorcade traffic should’ve served as a bad omen.

Mapquest, for the Nth time, failed us, and we spent a good hour driving in the wrong direction.  This, too, should’ve served as a bad omen.

We made it to the venue, though, about an hour later than planned.  We met up with our friend Meg and grabbed a bite to eat at McDonald’s.  Went back to the venue (it was a bar called Kung Fu Necktie), took a seat and waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  Eight o’clock came and went, and the first opener didn’t take the stage until closer to 9.

Long story short, there were two opening acts, who I might have enjoyed had the acoustics in that place been better.  I’m not an audiophile by any measure, but I know you shouldn’t crank the bass in a small area.  The sound echoes into itself and distorts to noisy effect.  Sadly, when Telefon Tel Aviv took the stage, the sound was not corrected.  While I could hear Joshua Eustis sing, the music was drowning in itself.  By this point it was after 11.  Though I’d scheduled off the following morning, I had no intention of being out that late, and Meg had to work the next day too.  After hearing  about 5 or 6 songs, we decided it was time to call it a night.

Before we departed, I left a copy of ALT on our table.  The inscription read “Finders Keepers” along with my signature.  I’d like to think someone – be it someone who works at the bar, or a random patron – kept that book and that it’s not on its way to a landfill.  I’d like to think it’ll find its way into other hands, and so on, and that whoever has it will eventually let me know they have it.  Who knows.  There might be something in it for you if you do.

So, we left.  We said goodbye to our friend, got in the car, and started our trip home.  Except those directions failed us again.  Except there was construction, and closed ramps, and unmarked streets.  I’m not a city person.  I grew up in the country.  Even though I live 20 miles from a city, it’s not a very large city.  Not like Philly.  Big places like that make me incredibly tense.  And I hate being lost.

In the end, after getting stuck in late night construction and narrowly avoiding crossing over into New Jersey, we made it home.  At 3 AM.  While I’d hoped to go into work at the normal time to avoid missing some hours this week, I knew that, if I did go to work at the normal time, I’d be a useless zombie.  So I slept in until about 10:30, got up, dressed and went to work, thankful that I’d requested off that morning ahead of time.

I have to be honest, here.  It was a crappy evening.  I don’t mean that as disrespect to any of the performers or the venue.  It was just a confluence of circumstances that weren’t working in our favor.

We’ve spent the remainder of the week recuperating from that night.  Erica’s sick now, and I’ve been really tired with an upset stomach.  We think it was the McDonald’s that did it.

Last night I sat down to write and do a little preemptive editing, as I received more excellent feedback on Part I.  Apparently I was more tired than I thought.  I woke up about an hour later with a stiff neck.  At some point I wrote “Keep moving forward” in my notebook.  Good advice courtesy of my subconscious.  I guess I’ve no choice but to heed it.

This weekend I hope to finish chapter five.  It’s titled “In the Court of the Monochrome King,” and I’m probably going to have to cut out a minor character.  There will be blood.


by Todd

Happiness: The Flowchart

September 14, 2009 in Blog by Todd

It's a simple question.


by Todd

Cycles; also, Ornery Boy.

September 14, 2009 in Blog by Todd

I forgot to write about this last night.  Here’s a little anecdote that discusses the cyclical nature of things.

Several weeks ago I wrote about ALT’s feature on Book Movement. It was a big reflection on what led me down the road I’m on and, potentially, a glimpse of what’s to come. Well, there was a bit of info I withheld because, at the time, it seemed inconsequential. Now, after a lot of thought, I’ve come to realize what I withheld was actually very important. What led me to this thinking is kind of funny and weird, in its way, and really attests to the idea that there really are no coincidences in the nature of things. (That’s all my opinion of course. You’re free to think what you like.)

I mentioned before that what made me consider self-publishing was the internship I did for my university’s literary journal. That’s truth. What I did not mention, however, was that a month or so before I took that internship, I was introduced to the work of David Moody by a guy I’ve never met.

Moody is the author of the Autumn series who, at the time, self-published his work (he’s since been picked up by St. Martin’s) and garnered a huge internet following. He gave his first book away for free online, and subsequently sold the others to a lot of fanfare. Up until this point I’d never even heard of “self-publishing” a book. The idea of doing it all on my own was intriguing, if not daunting, and I dove into Moody’s first book to see how he did it.

This post isn’t actually about David Moody, though.  It’s about that other guy. The one I’ve never met.

His name is Michael Lalonde, and he’s the creator of Ornery Boy, a comic strip with its own unique following. I discovered his comic way back in ’03, after coming across some neat user icons for MSN Messenger (once a geek, always a geek). Ornery Boy is about its titular character and his daily exploits. He lives with his girlfriend Dirtygirl, their cat Soya Sauce, and their pet zombie Brian.  Ornery Boy is exactly that – ornery, to extreme comic effect, and his dark outlook on various things continue to be something to which I relate on a daily basis.

It just so happens that, one Monday during that ancient year of ’04, Mr. Lalonde mentioned on his site that he was hooked on Moody’s book, Autumn, and had ordered the rest of the series. This is how I learned of David Moody, which led to my knowledge of self-publishing, and so on. The rest, as they say, is history.

Big deal, right? Well, here’s the cool part. I follow Lalonde on Twitter, and a little over a week ago he started following me in return. He tweeted, said he’d started reading ALT but forced himself to stop so he’d order a copy. He said he loved it.

So, in the many ways things come back around, Michael Lalonde is reading a book that may never have existed had he not mentioned David Moody almost 5 years ago. And the best part is, he’s enjoying it. Crazy, huh?

Anyway, I’ve probably embarrassed him by writing this (and I apologize, Michael, if I’ve done so), but I thought it was kind of neat and too good not to write about. So, I strongly urge anyone and everyone who likes web comics featuring dark humor, chronic geekery and zombies, to go check out Ornery Boy.

Until next time,


by Todd

What the hell, Philly?

September 13, 2009 in Blog by Todd

library cat

I learned a little while ago (via The Consumerist) that the city of Philadelphia will close down all public libraries effective Oct. 2nd due to budget issues. I can’t say I keep up with the goings-on with Pennsylvania’s budget issues or Philly, but surely there’s something else they can cut before they take away access to free books.  Right?

No matter. If you’re a resident of Pennsylvania, here’s how you can help keep those doors open and books in front of anyone who wants to read them.


EDIT: Looks like Cory got wind of it too. He makes an excellent point: one banker’s bonus would be enough to save the whole damn thing.

by Todd

In media res.

September 13, 2009 in Blog by Todd

I’ve not written here lately because I’ve been writing elsewhere, and it’s always a good thing when I’m writing elsewhere.

Progress continues on THE LIMINAL MAN. Chapter Five is taking a while because I had to get my bearings. I reached a point at the end of Part I in which things branched off into multiple plotlines, and I had a number of places to serve as possible starting points.  Figuring out which one, though, was the tricky part, and I think I’ve got it ironed out.  I certainly hope so.  I estimate I’m about halfway through the chapter.

In the time I spent sorting out the chapter’s beginnings, I also plotted every chapter in Part II, which will tentatively end with chapter eight’s conclusion (and may or may not be titled “Ghosts”). Beyond that, I have ideas, but they’re not firm.

Things I do know:

  • It will have an epilogue.
  • How it will end.

Things I don’t know:

  • I’m not sure it can be summed up in three parts.  I’ll have a better idea once I get to the end of the second part.

Sorting out a long story’s structure is one of my biggest hang-ups. It’s one of the reasons the imagiNATION re-write hit a brick wall, and why some ideas haven’t got off the ground yet (like the expansion of Migration of the Butterfly). This is the number one reason why this book’s taking me so long. Like I told Erica a couple of days ago, I’m fighting myself every step of the way. I realized, looking back over my notes, that I’d intended to have the book finished by now.  I’m only a third of the way through it.  Early on I think I expected it to be a quick one-two punch like ALT was (less than two months to write that one), but I also didn’t expect this story to grow as it has.

I will say that exploring this story and its many intricacies is proving to be quite challenging and fulfilling at the same time. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And that’s really all for now, as far as TLM is concerned. I didn’t want to leave you folks hanging.

So, until next time,


by Todd

The Discussion Guide

September 1, 2009 in Blog by Todd

It was a first time request from a reader down South in Alabama-land.  A discussion guide for her book club.  Book Movement wanted to charge me $100 for the convenience of having one of their staff write it for me.

I said “Fuck that” and wrote it myself. Seems to have gone over rather well, too. And seeing as how two more clubs have picked up the book, I figured it would be a good idea to make it available for anyone who wants it.

So, the discussion guide is now live in PDF fom. You can find it via the ALT page or, if you’re lazy, just click here.

If you think something shouldn’t be there, or if you have a good question to add, let me know.