On the Shelf: Projects That Didn't Become Books
As much as I try to work productively and not spend time on projects I don’t see going anywhere, that doesn’t always pan out. Sometimes a book just doesn’t go in the direction you hope for, or things refuse to click, and eventually you have to either start over or let it go. I’ve made both calls more than once, for example there are two entirely different drafts of the story that would become Forging Hephaestus, one of them over 50k, that I had to scrap until I found the right approach for that tale. Alternately, I also have 50k of Crestfallen Lane (a title that will be familiar to my Patreon Subscribers) that I let die.
Today I wanted to talk about a few projects that didn’t make it across the finish line, what made them get cut, and whether I was able to salvage any ideas or elements out of the story.
May as well start with the one I name-checked in the intro, right? For those who haven’t read the samples on Patreon, Crestfallen Lane was a Fred the Vampire Accountant spin-off (not the last you’ll see on this list) featuring an apartment building full of various magical beings trying to get by and make rent. While the main characters, Mark and Lyle, would have been involved in lots of action and adventure, there would have also been a good bit of quiet character moments with the people they shared a building with. A comedy-action urban fantasy to launch a new series.
The problem, however, was that every time I try and do a straight-forward urban fantasy, it ends up coming out generic. I’m not sure if I’ve just read too much in the genre or it’s a curse laid upon me by my first attempt at writing a book (before No More Ramen, even) but doing that genre without the satirical slant never seems to bring out my best work. The 50k I wrote was fun, granted, however even that was slightly tinged by the fact that I was making a game out of how many Mario Brothers references I could slip into the book. When the most fun part of writing a novel is a game you’re playing with yourself, that’s usually not a great sign.
I haven’t looted a lot from this work, although I did steal the overall concept of empowered beings sharing a living space and trying to deal with mundane tasks for a future work. To me, it’s still cannon, and so a few characters might pop up in the proper Fredverse, so I don’t want to repackage everyone just yet.
Never had a working title for these, but Regular Gods seems as good a fit as any. Some of these you can actually read on the site under the Short Stories section, although I warn you they were done waaaaaay back in my early career. The general plan was to write a series of the short stories told from the point of view of various gods, all of whom were given their power without explanation. None of them know why the powers come, or leave, or where they originated from. It’s just a story of normal folks being handed near-limitless power and having to fill the role that their new position demands.
The wheels came off this one mainly when I decided I wanted to write about a different kind of pantheon. Now while it’s not always true, generally having multiple series on the same topic is asking for trouble. I bent-over backwards to make it clear that Forging Hephaestus and Super Powereds weren’t connected, and I still get at least one email a week asking me about it. Doing two books about gods with different rules wasn’t something I was looking to tackle in the early days, so I shelved Regular Gods in favor of the sort of incarnation you’ve seen in Pears and Perils, and can expect a whole lot more of when I finally have time to write Infinity Villas.
In terms of what I looted from this one, some character concepts were brought over to the new god-world, although many of them had to be recreated from scratch. There was one particular character who found a new life though. Originally in Regular Gods, I planned to have the god of luck be a shrewd young man living in and ruling over Las Vegas. If that sounds familiar, it’s because after some nips and tweaks, that fellow turned into Nick Campbell of Super Powereds. I even left the fact that his eyes glow gold as a slight nod to his original incarnation, since that’s the same color as divine power in the books that have gods. He lost a lot of power going from god to Super, but I like to think he retained just as much snark.
The Boarback Mysteries
For those who read Fred #3: Bloody Acquisitions, you might have noticed that the town in the second story, Boarback Texas, seemed especially fleshed out. Well, that’s not an accident. Boarback and its citizens were originally created as part of another Fred spin-off idea. It was going to be about the rough and tumble Nax being transported there to stay under Sheriff Leeroy’s supervision, dealing with mysterious deaths, and eventually becoming the deputy we see him as in Fred #3. From there, it would be a mystery series, following the unnatural denizens of Boarback as Nax dealt with crime and murder in a parahuman community.
I still like this idea, and I’d still love to go back to it, but the reason it lives on the shelf is a simple one: I cannot seem to write mysteries for shit. The damn things just don’t want to come to me, no matter how many outlines or writing bursts I try. Maybe it’s an experience thing, and in another decade I can make an honest go of that series. As things stand now though, I haven’t produced anything worth reading in my attempts to make this one happen. Until that changes, Boarback will be a fun blip in the Fred world, but won’t stand on its own.
There wasn’t a lot I could steal from this series, especially after I locked all the characters into their current incarnations in Bloody Acquisitions, although creating the ideas for it did have serious impact on the Fred world. It gave me a better concept of some of the law systems, ideas for new parahumans, and solved a question I’d been wondering about for a time. So while the core cast was left untouched, Boarback itself gave me a lot of smaller ideas to help flesh out the Fredverse. Which, if you ask me, means it was time definitely well spent. Not every project will turn into a book, but there’s almost always some gain to be had if you shift through the remains and find the parts that really work.