Just like movies, not everything that goes into a book makes it to the final page. Sometimes this happens during the editorial process, where an editor will point out how a story angle isn't working or could be reshaped to come across more strongly. Other times (most of the time, in my case), it's stuff that's cut and reworked during the first draft or even during the outlining stage. It's interesting to look back over my old notes and think about what might have been, if I'd made different decisions along the line.
To that end, I thought it might be fun to do a periodic series where I reveal some changes from past books. Before we start, I wanted to give a quick shout-out; Maggie Riley Harper is my steadfast assistant (who you can see thanked as Maggie Faid in the afterword of all my novels). She also writes poetry, and she's started a Patreon -- so if you like good poetry, check her out.
So, without further delay, here are five items from my cutting-room floor.
1. There were two Daniel Faust novels before The Long Way Down.
The Long Way Down was roughly my seventh completed novel. The first six were practice and don't count, nor will they be seen by the light of day. As much as I cringe, looking at some of my earliest published work (and still do now, but I keep working and trying to improve), these were -- as most writers' first books are -- just plain lousy.
That said, two of them were proto-Faust novels. They were set in Chicago (the city I was most familiar with, and research was just a car ride away), and Daniel actually worked for the Mancuso Family (who would eventually find a place in print, opposing him and the Vegas crew in The Castle Doctrine). When I decided to take some of the basic elements of the books for the first "real" Faust novel, the setting was the first thing to change. As Maggie pointed out, "You're writing a first-person novel about a modern-day magician who does detective work. No matter what, people are going to accuse you of ripping off the Dresden Files. Why make it harder on yourself?"
Of course, that turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the Vegas setting fits the characters and themes far better than Chicago ever could have. I also had to laugh when I later watched an interview with Jim Butcher and he revealed that the Dresden Files were originally going to be set in St. Louis, but friends told him he was already going to be accused of ripping off Anita Blake, so why make it harder on himself?
Everything is a circle.
2. Daniel Faust had a familiar.
This was an element from the proto-novels that almost made it into the real series. Daniel had a familiar, a feathery floating serpent-spirit that, when it wasn't following him around, lived in a wax dinosaur souvenir from the Field Museum. It was interesting, but not much of an actual character, and its only real ability (shorting out electronics by flying through them) turned out to be seriously overpowered.
The power issue could be easily fixed, and there was nothing horribly wrong with the concept, but the end of the day, I couldn't really come up with a reason for it to be in the story. So, out it went.
3. In the Revanche Cycle, the witches' glade was in New Jersey.
When Mari is brought to the coven glade in Terms of Surrender, her first reaction is one of horror: Nessa has been teaching her the stars by night, and the stars over the glade aren't the ones she knows. The Dire Mother's cairn is clearly Elsewhere, maybe very far elsewhere.
Maybe...the New Jersey Pine Barrens?
The original draft did, in fact, strongly imply that the glade was right here on our Earth. There was even a bit, outlined but never written, where Mari saw the shadow of a plane passing overhead (and lost her shit, as one would). This was a case of a change made because of the rules of the fictional universe. Readers have noted that despite being set in the same multiverse, magic doesn't work in Revanche like it does in the Faust/Black novels. It's markedly more powerful, and users have to guard themselves against Shadow-sickness (a concept that mages from our Earth aren't even aware of).
There's a reason for that, one that will be explored in next year's Wisdom's Grave Trilogy. Suffice to say, though, the differential made it impossible that Nessa's coven would hold their gatherings in Jersey. Everyone would have noticed the bizarre shift in the currents of magic (and the Dire Mother, held together by sorcery and hate, probably wouldn't have even been able to exist in our world). So, that was an idea I really liked, but it had to go.
4. There was a longer My Little Pony reference in Double or Nothing.
I try to avoid using too many pop-culture references in my books; they can date a manuscript fast, and come off as jarring or worse, pandering. And of course, the craze that everybody knows about today is a "huh?" to tomorrow's reader. (Remember when Harlem Shake videos were all over the internet? That was huge. When's the last time you even thought about the Harlem Shake?)
Of course, sometimes they still slip in there. When Daniel brings Circe to his apartment in Double or Nothing, she discovers the wonders of television along with "the cartoon with the singing horses." There was originally a bit, cut for the above reasons, that took it a step further. Daniel, distracted, tells her "I think you'll like the pink one best." Then later in the book, once Circe regains her grasp of language, she tells him: "Your assessment was incorrect. I did enjoy the antics of the pink pony, but I prefer the purple one. I find her situation...relatable."
5. Harmony Black was supposed to be a dragon.
Yes, a freakin' dragon. This was another element from the proto-books, which didn't make it into the final story because... c'mon. Because she was supposed to be a dragon. That's why.
Seriously, though, the Faust series originally had a completely different cosmology and backstory. God and Lucifer weren't missing and the Kings didn't exist, nor did the endlessly reincarnating characters of the First Story, or even the idea of a multiverse of parallel worlds. It was, instead, a kitchen-sink "all the gods and monsters of every culture ever are real" kind of thing, tied in with a mystery about a cataclysmic event that drove most of them underground centuries ago.
It was pretty boring.
When I started serious work on the "real" books, I wanted something weirder, scarier, and tighter. More Twin Peaks than the D&D Monster Manual. So, everything changed, the old cosmology went out the window -- and with it, the dragons.
And that's it for the cutting-room floor! Thanks for taking a trip down the halls of What Might Have Been with me. If folks dig it, we'll do another of these soon. Now I'm back to work on the first draft of The Neon Boneyard...and I can't wait to tell you what changed between the outline and the story this time around, but I'd better wait until the book comes out.