Tag Archives: Sad Jingo

Post #88: The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing is a self-interview project where writers with projects in the works or books coming out answer ten questions about what they’re working on, then tag other writers. I’m thrilled to be participating. Many hugs and hurrahs to my dear friend, and fellow Bread Loaf alum, Kara Waite, for tagging me. Read Kara’s interview here!

Now…here goes.

What is the working title of your book?

Izzy’s Intervention.

Where did the idea come from?

Honestly, the confluence of inspirations and false starts has put the multiple entry points (re: ideas) into a blender and pressed “Pulse.”

But since that’s a lame answer. Here. This sticks out.

After my grandfather died, they divided up his stuff. I got a pocket watch, and a few articles of clothing. Though I wasn’t in the room, the image of my father and his sisters going through their own dead father’s possessions has stuck around, even haunted me a bit, as have those few treasures I inherited. In my novel, the protagonist is the eldest of three children, and his deceased father’s belongings have been collecting dust in his basement for three years.

What genre does your book fall under?

Literary Fiction

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m seeking representation, so hopefully, eventually, the latter.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I could see a late 90’s Ethan Hawke playing Izzy. Or maybe a long haired, + 30 pounds Paul Rudd.

Julian, the protagonist, I could see being played by someone handsome but kind of non-descript. Peter Krause maybe.

Darcy, their sister, is Gwyneth Paltrow all the way.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

How do you stage an intervention for someone when you could use one yourself?

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I write quick, so, like, six or eight months. But the rewrites? Whole different story.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always been fascinated by stories with compressed time frames. Wonder Boys. Saturday. Mrs. Dalloway. Ulysses. Izzy’s takes place over a single weekend and I liked the challenge of drumming up enough conflict to sustain a narrative over a short time span. The movie The Big Chill was hugely instrumental, too, and the theme of a collection of people coming together in the wake of death was pinched from Kasdan’s movie.

Beyond that, I also wanted to see if I could find homes for a number of themes I’m interested in: interracial marriage, African refugees living in Vermont, and famous fathers.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Here’s a few…

There’s a lot of booze and pot (and sex) in the book, but it’s really a story about two brothers affected in very different ways by their father’s suicide. One has gone internal and remained stoic, hiding his growing list of problems. The other has turned to drugs and is coming unraveled in a very visible way. Though the novel is centered around a family coming together to rescue one of them, in truth, they both need to be saved.

It’s a novel I intended to be thoughtful, funny, and fast paced. The kind of book you might get carried away by and read in a single sitting.

Throughout the book, the protagonist carries around a perhaps magical squash ball that used to belong to his father and goes by the name Othello’s Testicle.

And here’s a final tidbit that you totally don’t need to know: in the novel, the deceased father was a famous fantasy author, and the series of books he’s famous for are books I actually wrote in my twenties when I thought I wanted to write fantasy.

Thanks for reading!

I’m tagging these fantastic writers:

Alan Stewart Carl–My great friend and former Bread Loaf & AWP Boston roommate. Alan is a phenomenal writer, has published a heap of short fiction, and is about to start seeking representation for his debut novel.

Mary Albee–Mary is a dear friend and poet from Burlington, Vermont. Mary recently released her debut collection of poems, Bewildered Obsequies.

Ron Dionne–Ron is a fellow NY Pitch and Shop alum who last year published his debut novel, Sad Jingo. It’s available on Amazon! I thought it was boss, and so will you.

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Post #54: The Path to Publication, Part 2

THE GREAT FREELANCE EDITOR ROUND-UP (guest post by author Ron Dionne)

So I had accepted the offer from Delabarre Publishing to publish my novel SAD JINGO as an ebook, and had withdrawn it from consideration at Akashic Books.

I had chosen the Wild West that book publishing had suddenly become, over the gentler precincts of traditional publishing.

Did that mean I just handed over the manuscript to Delabarre for formatting and slapping on a “cover” and posting to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the iBookstore an hour later?

It could have. We’ve all seen it done. I, for one, often cringe at the results.

No, my publisher and I decided that we did not want to rush a sloppy product out there. Yes, we’d almost sold the book (back when I was operating fully under the traditional publishing model, with an agent, and a well-regarded editor at a big publishing house on the hook), but that did not mean it wouldn’t take some work after the sale, if that sale had occurred.  (See my previous guest post for details on how the book almost sold, once upon a time, to HarperCollins.)

One of the drawbacks of taking the bracing, inspiring plunge with an entrepreneurial new publisher operating on a shoestring budget is that you can’t pay editors with shoestrings. Delabarre had no paid editors on staff. It was up to me, if I wanted to sleep nights, to hire professional editing done.

It sort of is, in a comfortable armchair way, like setting out into the frontier in search of that one quirky gunslinger that has just the right skills to catch the bad guy who’s made your life a shambles.  In this case, I needed a wily master of plot, pacing, and taste to help me sort out which of the two versions of my book was better, which revisions were improvements and which were not.  I needed someone to help me find the best Jingo there could be. And, as it turns out, to save me from myself.

How do you find such a person? Unfortunately, you can’t put on dusty boots and a cool-looking duster and saddle up a quirky horse for a ride through gorgeous back country that would look great shot with the Libatique lens and Blanko Freedom film in the Hipstamatic app on your iPhone.  No, you need to research developmental editors, freelance editors, and book doctors, most likely on the internet. You have to talk to as many people as you can, and listen hard. Some folks you like and want to agree with. Others you’re not too crazy about but you respect their opinion and you have to guard against dismissing any wisdom they might impart because, say, they voted for the other guy in the last election.

You kind of have to drive blind, and trust your horse sense.

I talked to folks I knew who had published. I studied web pages. I queried folks with fancy web sites. I queried folks who did not seem to be all that on-line at all, ironically enough since I was embarking on an ebook-only (for starters) adventure.

And that bit about horse sense? Hey, I’m the writer who had a serviceably good book almost sold to an editor so beloved by the industry they named an award after him when he passed. I’m the writer who, despite that pinnacle of near-achievement, decided I needed to revise the thing and make major changes to it. “Update” it.  Horse sense? Not my forté.

But it was all I had to rely on.

Eventually, I narrowed down my choices of prospective plot wranglers — I mean freelance editors, to two.  I sent the book to both.

One was an eminent West Coast editor with an impressive web site and lots of videos on Youtube of presentations he had given at writers’ conferences. I sent him my revised, updated version. He told me my book had potential but wasn’t ready for submitting to publishers yet because it had some plot issues and, “you must admit, lacks a satisfying denouement.”

I consulted the ghost of Mr. Ashmead and imagined a friendly scowl. Not really. I don’t truck with ghosts, but I thought about it. And I thought about sometimes folks needing to hear what they didn’t want to hear, that strong, evil-tasting medicine can sometimes be just what you need.

The other editor had actually worked with Larry Ashmead at HarperCollins, the editor to whom my now publisher had almost sold the book in the 1990s. I found her through Publishers Marketplace, where a testimonial quote from Mr. Ashmead on her member page caught my eye.  I sent her my original version, and explained I was unable to judge the merits of the revisions in my updated version.

When she and I talked, it became clear right away that the book needed a comparative read of the two versions. The elephant in the room was the fact that I’d revised a finished work finished long enough ago that the writer I was then was a significantly different person that the writer I am now.

How to decide? One editor said the book had merit but needed significant change. The other said the book had merit but she wanted to see how I had changed it and take the measure of those changes with the original spirit of the book in mind.

The first had more novels under his belt, as displayed on his web page. The second had more nonfiction listed among her credentials, but she also had the Ashmead connection.

I went with the second editor, Alice Rosengard. And I am not sorry. She read the original carefully. She took her time, spotting some things that needed fixing. Then she read the revised version, noting a few improvements but more importantly some changes that marred the original intent of the book, and detracted from the strengths that almost got it published in the first place.

I am convinced she helped me make the book the best that it could be. For me, the editing of it was validation. Validation by a stranger with whom I developed a rapport based solely on the content of a piece of writing I sent her. That means a lot to me.

I realize this is inside shop-talk before reality hits. Now it’s up to readers to decide if they like the book. And me to promote it. More on that later.

Post #50: The Path to Publication, Part 1

DR. EBOOK, or, HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION (guest post by author Ron Dionne)

Thanks, Benjamin, for inviting me to post on The Almost Right Words about the publication of my book, SAD JINGO. It’s an honor and a privilege, and I’m grateful.

You mentioned in an earlier post that my book took a nontraditional path to publication. You are right. But also wrong. Let me explain (don’t worry, I hate riddles, too).

I wrote the book in the late 1990s and with it was able at last to secure an agent. The agent was an eager young fellow named Jeff Rutherford, who at the time was a junior member of the Denise Marcil Literary Agency. He repped the book long and hard, and nearly sold it to HarperCollins, where Larry Ashmead, an eminent editor who has since passed away and has had an annual editing award named after him, wanted to buy it for the hardcover side. But HarperCollins at the time had a strict “hard/soft” policy, meaning it only bought books for hardcover that it also was willing to reprint later in paperback, thereby foregoing what could become expensive crapshoot auctions for reprint rights (not that I’m presuming anything for JINGO, honest). Unfortunately for Jeff and me, Mr. Ashmead’s counterpart on the softcover side didn’t like the book so much, so there was no deal.

Some time passed. I wrote another book that Jeff didn’t like as much, and neither did editors. I got discouraged. My wife and I had two kids. I stood on a street corner across the street from the World Trade Center one September morning and watched the world change. Time passed.

I guess you could call it a midlife crisis, or maybe the kids got old enough that I could no longer blame them for not having the time to write, but eventually I got back in the writing saddle and began working again, on novels and short pieces. And in the background, SAD JINGO still loomed, sort of a 65,000-word version of The One That Got Away.

Fortunes changed for my former agent, but still friend, Jeff Rutherford, too. Agenting didn’t pan out, and he moved on to form his own PR agency, and kept in touch.

And then the ebook revolution happened.

My erstwhile agent Jeff Rutherford started up an ebook publishing company. He asked me if he could publish SAD JINGO.  I demurred for a while, fearing it was a friend feeling sorry for another friend and doing him a favor. He insisted that was not the case. I tried Two Dollar Radio. No luck. Hard Case Crime — Charles Ardai said send it in, but I decided not to, as it really isn’t crime and I don’t want to waste people’s time (I know, I’m nuts). I went to the Algonkian Pitch and Shop and heard lots of feedback about the book. The instructor wanted me to change the title to SYMPATHY FOR A PSYCHOPATH. The nice folks who wrote YA books and urban fantasy smiled politely and endured my turns in the discussion groups. The editors invited to hear the pitch all passed, but one.

I sent my sample and synopsis to Akashic Books at that kind editor’s request.

Months passed.

Jeff called. How’s it going, he asked. Fine, I told him. Still interested in publishing SAD JINGO, you know, he said. Thanks, I said, but you’re not just doing me a favor, are you? No, man, I think it’s good.

So after the third or fourth email correspondence with Akashic about how the editor still hadn’t gotten to the book, I decided to join the revolution and withdraw the book from a traditional publisher in favor of going with my gut and the enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit of my friend, former agent, and now publisher, Jeff Rutherford and his company, Delabarre Publishing.

But there was one issue: How to make the book professional. Which means editing. Copy editing.

And there was another rub. In the decade since almost selling it, I’d revised it. “Updated” it. I now had two versions. One of the two main characters was significantly different in the later version.

What to do?

In my next post, I’ll talk about hiring a freelance editor.

Post #49: Sad Jingo

Good news.  My friend Ron Dionne’s novel Sad Jingo is finally available as an ebook from Delabarre publishing.  Ron and I met at the NY Pitch and Shop a few years ago and since I first heard the premise for Sad Jingo, I’ve been dying to get my hands on it.  The wait is over and I’m loving the book so far.  It’s edgy and dark and full of suspense.  You can buy yourself a copy and read more about the book here. Sad Jingo took a rather circuitous and somewhat nontraditional route to publication and in the coming weeks, I’m hoping to get Ron to join us for some guest posts about his experiences in publishing and how he eventually brought his novel to readers.  So be on the lookout.  For now, treat yourself to a new book!