Jake Smith, a book smart loner hiding in a dead-end welding job, is thrown for a loop when his fifteen-year-old brother Ben shows up on his doorstep after outing their father for molestation.
Broken Parts is the first full novel in a series exploring how two brothers evolve socially and emotionally in the aftermath of their father’s abuse and in the face of life’s never-ending ordeals. This dark, emotional tale full of grit, humor, and the spark of survival will keep you turning the pages and wanting more.
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The Story Behind Broken Parts
While I often claim that Broken Parts was the first novel I wrote, it’s really the second. The first one was me figuring out how to write a document containing enough words to be classified as a “novel.” Broken Parts, however, was where I figured out how to get it right.
The earliest beginnings of it began as rant writing. I was in a bad headspace and poured it all into a fictional character and spilled anguish all over the page. Shortly after I started crafting that anguish into the beginnings of a story, adding in other characters and a central conflict. It was around this time I joined the online Cult Writers workshop on ChuckPalahniuk.net and it so happened that was the year they were doing the anthology contest. If I’m remembering correctly, basically each month a handful of pieces in the writing workshop were nominated and sent to author Chuck Palahniuk. Chuck would provide feedback and critique those works (or a subset of those works?). At the end of the year, he selected his favorites and they were published in the Burnt Tongues Anthology. My very first month in the workshop, one of the early drafts of the beginning of Broken Parts was nominated and critiqued. This was a boost and gave me confidence to continue the project. (Later on a short story of mine, “Paper,” was also nominated and critiqued and ended up in the actual anthology.)
In that workshop, I cranked out the entire first draft of the novel with the help and feedback of many, many awesome writers. What I also learned there was how to turn off my inner editor–that part of me that wanted to hold back and not go “all the way” into the story out of fear of what “other people” would think of me. When the subject matter of the book became what it was, a good friend in the workshop with similar life experiences to my protagonist let me ask him anything, shared his own personal stories, and encouraged me to make everything as real as possible.
Then came the submitting-to-agents process. I managed to snag one pretty quickly, and with her help, went through a few more rounds of revisions. But then things got weird. She was difficult to contact, took forever to finally start sending it out. Didn’t always tell me where she was sending it. And then seemed to have a series of personal problems that made her even more impossible to work with. In the end, when I gave my 3 month contract termination notice, she tried to claim rights to my work, but never followed up when I called her on it, pointing out how that was strictly prohibited in our contract. But it was during that multi-year process that, in order to keep myself getting overly anxious about it, I just kept writing.
There was so much more to these characters, and stories just kept spilling out. I’ve written a second full novel, a novella, a third novel is almost completed, a fourth novel is half drafted, a graphic novel is half drafted, a short story prequel has been written, a ten minute play was written and performed, and also turned into a short film. I wrote a longer version of the play, and then a TV pilot script and 5 season show bible. I guess you’d call that “momentum.”
After having spent fruitless years with the first agent, I ended up landing a second agent shortly after the Burnt Tongues anthology came out. This agent sent it to a handful of places, but we weren’t getting much traction. After several months, she too fell off the face of the earth and that relationship ended. While I had gotten another agent offer while I was under contract with her, I didn’t pursue it because I was getting a little done with the whole “agent” thing.
In some sort of overly ambitious streak, I started a small press with some writer friends in 2014. Through that press, I ended up putting out both the prequel novella, Blood Gravity, and the first novel, Broken Parts. But the small press project was trying to be a million things at once, and bit off way more than it could chew. People kept dropping out of following through on projects and eventually I was left standing alone with this whole big thing on my hands, but also 3 kids and a day job, so it just died, and I put all the books out of print.
Thus began my period of disillusionment with the literary scene. Though I’d written many other things, had stories win contests and get published, and even penned a few more unrelated novels, I just kind of stopped for a while. Instead I got involved in writing short plays, which was satisfying since I was able to see them through to performance in front of an audience every time.
But now I’m back! And being back, I’m re-releasing my babies and plotting ways to get the whole rest of the cannon out into the world. For now, Blood Gravity and Broken Parts are available in ebook or print through amazon, and the short story The Optimist can be read for free on this site. My goal is to publish the next novel in the series in about 6 months time and continue on from there.