No, no—that’s just something in my eye.
It really doesn’t get much better than this: I’m one of three finalists in the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project, which is sponsored by the state’s libraries. Of any contest in which I’ve entered The Journeyman, this one’s the most important to me.
I love libraries. I love librarians.
I was sponsored by librarian Stuart Griner and the Edgewater branch of the Chicago Public Library system. (Worth noting: Stuart agreed to take a look at my book only a week before the contest deadline, which I’d just found out about when I called, desperate, and he happened to be the one who picked up the phone.)
The judges are librarians, whose opinions top the importance hierarchy, as far as I’m concerned. (Little-kid me, headed to the check-out desk with Robert the Rose Horse and The Great Pie Robbery tucked under his arm, would have agreed way back when, too.)
They announce the winner at a reception at the Illinois Library Association‘s offices in Chicago on April 16.
Fingers crossed, please, anyone who’s willing. But even if this is as far as I make it, I’m truly honored to be included with the other finalists.
Just a few random updates.
First off, I’m very excited to finally have the print version of The Commons: Book 1: The Journeyman available. It’s currently on offer domestically from Amazon, but an international paper version is hot on its heels and should be ready in a week or two. Already, those who’ve seen it are asking about the little band of mysterious icons on the back cover, which are tossed in without any explanation.
Those are the handiwork of cover artist and designer Dan Fernandez, who’s done a beautiful job on the full book package. Each icon represents a different character, item, or aspect of the novel. Dan’s created some wondrous abstract art based on those, the first of which plays up the peacock (at the top of this post, full version here). I couldn’t be happier with Dan’s work, and I look forward to unveiling more of it in future posts.
Meanwhile, last week found me signing my first-ever autographed copy. A colleague of mine, Sheneen Landry, asked for it. Another colleague, Susan Hardy, captured the moment for posterity.
Having a print version in hand also allowed me to start peppering my neighborhood Little Free Libraries with copies, the first of which got dropped into a local box this past Saturday night. (I left a note on the inside cover asking my reader neighbors to keep it circulating and to drop me a line if they enjoyed it (and even if they didn’t).
Last, but not least, are a few recognition and review highlights. I’m proud to have received an indieBRAG medallion for The Journeyman, and I’m just as happy to see a couple of generous reviews from the links of blogger Jordan Binkerd and fellow fantasy author Kyra Dune. Reviews are the lifeblood of any authorial effort, so I freely admit I can’t get enough of them.
That is all, friends. Take care, and, as always, thank you for your support and attention.
I’ve been asked what I listen to when writing. It’s pretty much all ambient all the time, with a heavy emphasis on one of my favorite acts, Stars of the Lid. I discovered them years ago when living in L.A., and they’ve fueled my creativity ever since.
I plan on highlighting works from them and other favorites as I bump along with this blog—all of it perfect for getting your think on. And I’m starting with the phenomenal Tired Sounds since the first track on it, “Requiem for Dying Mothers,” is what Annie hears through one of the hallway doors when she first starts her quest to figure out where Zach has gone.
Enjoy (and for an alternate take on “Requiem,” SOTL did a wonderful live version in a show put together by WQXR).
Another day, another offering of treats-for-the-eyes Commons character artwork, this time from pal and lens ninja James Barnett (along with model Enrika Newbury). If you need a wedding or portrait photographer in Phoenix, Tempe, or Scottsdale, James is your man.
An interesting presentation of the addictive pinkies and the fugue state they put Annie in, says I.
Artist extraordinaire and Commoners pal Michael Visnov has been at it again, putting together more character concept sketches for The Commons: Book One: The Journeyman. After whipping up some beautiful renderings of Ken the mummy, he’s back with his take on Po. A couple are an experiment with a full-on David Carradine/Kwai Chang Caine/Kung Fu look (7 and 8), while others give Po a look all his own.
I’m partial to 3, 4, and 9. You?
I’ve been very happy with the generous and kind reviews The Commons 1: The Journeyman has been getting on Amazon and Goodreads, among other other places. But the folks at Awesome Indies have taken it to another level entirely, with one write-up that gave it “an extremely enthusiastic five stars” and another that called it “something truly extraordinary.”
Now they’ve got me dancing a little jig in my living room, having awarded the book a Seal of Excellence.
That is why we write.
My friend Michael Visnov and I grew up trading comics, superhero Slurpee cups, and just about any other comic-related item you can imagine with each other and with like-minded friends. We couldn’t get enough of those worlds and still can’t. So when Mike offered to try his hand at some character concept sketches for The Commons 1: The Journeyman, I was only too happy to set him loose on it.
The best part is that he got started without reading the book and after reading only a few of my character notes, which means that some of his stuff looks nothing like my imagined version of Ken and doesn’t really fit the character. But it doesn’t matter because it’s so much fun, and we’re all left to picture our favorite characters however we like. (That’s one of the reasons I’m always annoyed when book covers adopt the art and cast of their movie adaptations. I like seeing my versions of the characters while reading, and I don’t mind if my imagination alters them as I go.)
I’ll say up front that my favorites are in Concept Sketches 2, seen in the gallery above (click on it for a larger version). I see Ken as number three with number one’s Wayfarers and number two’s eyes when the shades are off. But the rest is a blast. Skeletal Ken (who really would make a great boyfriend for Barbie, no?). Billy Jack Ken. Ben Grimm Ken, even though Ken doesn’t smoke. Just because. And Ken played by Ted Cassidy (who is best known as The Addams Family‘s Lurch, but who will always be treasured for appearing in one of the best fight scenes ever filmed); Abe Lincoln Ken (because I mentioned to Mike that Ken could be thought of as the late president with a willingness to break bones when all alternatives are exhausted), and Liam Neeson Ken (who would crush the role, I think).
Number three comes the closest to illustrating Ken’s character. He’s the philosopher who dispenses relationship advice to a waitress when she wonders if she might deserve better than her current boyfriend. He’s a master of diner puzzles, despite his mitt-sized hands. And when we first meet him and the angry monk Po in a truck-stop restaurant, he does his best to convince the gang of bullying skinheads targeting him and his friend that the brawl they seek will not go well for them. When the skinhead leaders insist, Ken and Po are forced to prove their point with pain.
But all of this art is wonderful, as are the other sketches I’ll highlight in future posts.
What do you see?
‘We are a long way from anything,’ I told him. ‘Up ahead turn left and we’re fifteen or twenty minutes from Cancún. Turn right and you’ve got a batch of sixty miles of nothing. So who are we seeing, where is he and how do you get in touch?’ — John D. MacDonald, The Lonely Silver Rain