Friday, December 9, 2016

New review of Bomb! from Elizabeth White

Hi folks,

Elizabeth White has just posted a review of Bomb! on her site and it's a doozy! Check it out at the link.



Thanks, Elizabeth!

Blue skies,
Les


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Overlooked podcast!

HI folks,

I have no idea how this happened, but yesterday by accident, I "found" a podcast by the great folks at Booked, Livius and Robb, where they reviewed my novel, Bomb! I have no idea how I missed this, but I did. I'd like to share it with you here, if I may.

These guys are really good and I don't say that because they give my books great reviews, but because they give a ton of writers great reviews. They know their stuff and it's always a great pleasure to encounter reviewers who really do "get it."

Please click on the link and give 'em a listen. Thank you.



Blue skies,
Les

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

First Review for THE DEATH OF TARPONS

HI folks,

Received the first review of my novel, THE DEATH OF TARPONS, just released from Endeavour Books (UK) and their Odyssey imprint, their new imprint for literary works. Hope others will pick it up and take the time to provide a review. This one for sure made my day!



Verified Purchase
The Death of Tarpons by Les Edgerton is a coming-of-age book set in Freeport, Texas in 1955. It tells the story of Corey John, who, on facing his own death, returns to his hometown and recounts the harrowing days of a pivotal summer in his life when he was fourteen years of age. I read this story in one four-hour sitting, and, as a fan of Mark Twain, found it absurdly enjoyable for the similar tone and styles Edgerton employs. The voice is almost autobiographical, and the prose is evocative and rich without ever being stilted. The story itself appears simple at first, but the minute I read a few pages I was drawn in by the character of young Corey and the world and times of the setting.

Corey John lives in a house where his mother is slowly losing her mind to religion and his father physically abuses him. Despite this, Corey is desperate for his father’s love, and dreams of doing anything to become the man his father wishes he were. There’s such an obvious mismatch between father and son, and the conflict that arises from this is both brutal and painful to read. Every time the young boy attempts to please his father something happens to drive them further apart, and the violence that erupts is vicious at times. Even though the logic and worlds of Corey and his father are completely incompatible, you always have this hankering for them to unite. This constant push-and-pull created a tug of war in my head. The way Edgerton wrote this, I couldn’t help but side with both the kid and dad at various times, and as such it made for an uncomfortable read. But this no negative. Certainly not. It is what makes it so sweet. The story pulls no punches, showing parents and kids as real people with a bit of good and bad in them and all the bits in between. Edgerton presents the world as it is without any of that saccharin sweetness that seems to pervade literature and film these days.

The structure of the book is also worth noting. The first and last chapters are set in present day, book-ending the main story-line to create a very satisfying conclusion. By setting the book up in this manner, the tale of fourteen-year-old Corey appears to be no more than a fleeting thought in the older man’s mind. And yet we get to spend time in Freeport with the Texas sun and Jax Beer and Corey and his friend Destin and their maid Inez and it all feels wonderfully real.
In the end, The Death of Tarpons is about a boy on the cusp of manhood, finding redemption and strength in himself amidst a world full of violence and good. It may be set in older times, but it’s relevance is timeless. For all these reasons, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it to all.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

PUBLICATION DAY FOR THE DEATH OF TARPONS!

Hi folks,

Just found out Endeavour Press (UK) and their literary imprint, Odyssey Press has released my first novel, THE DEATH OF TARPONS, for sale as an ebook. This is the first time it's been available as an ebook, previously available only as a hardcover edition.


It's priced very equitably at $3.99 in the U.S. and the equivalent in the UK. Not only am I stoked that it's now available as an ebook, but that it's one of the first to be published on Endeavour's new literary books imprint. As Endeavour is Europe's biggest publisher of ebook titles, I'm hoping it gains wide sales. If you purchase a copy, please consider leaving a review on Amazon and Goodreads and other such venues.

I'm really proud of this book. It's largely autobiographical and was written before I ever took a writing class of any kind. It's my wife Mary's favorite book of those I've written. I have to thank my agent, Svetlana Pironko for selling the ebook version. She's also placed the paperback version with Betimes Books and that'll be forthcoming soon.

A bit of history--in the mid-nineties when I sent it out, it went through 86 rejections. This was in the days of snail mail when you had to not only pay postage to send it to publishers, you also had to pay for return postage in the event of rejection. That was a lot of money, especially for our family which was living day-to-day and sweating out rent. If it wasn't for the faith and support of my wife Mary, I wouldn't have been able to persevere in trying to get it published. Perhaps that's why she loves it so much--she knows the sacrifices we made to get it out there.

Actually, at about the 50th submission, I got a letter from a regional publisher who wanted it and offered a $10,000 advance for it. That was huge money for me at the time and sorely needed. However, I ended up turning it down. The reason? He asked me if it was autobiographical and I told him about 85% of it was but not all of it. He wanted to publish it as autobiography and in good conscience, I couldn't do it. The real clincher for not taking his offer though was that he wanted to cut several scenes, notably one in which the young protagonist's father beats him with a live king snake. This was in the days before even the term "political correctness" had been coined, so I'm proud to say I had good instincts about this odious concept, even then. He wanted to cut it because... ready?... it might offend the snake lovers... Which must be what? Five or six people? That kind of did it... (Very) reluctantly, I withdrew the book from him. Then, as now, money has never been my goal.

For a long while, it looked as if I'd made the dumbest mistake of my life. We went through dozens and dozens of other rejections after that. In fact, it was the  87th submission that finally got taken.

And, that was the result of two fortuitous events.

One: A couple of weeks before it got taken, I was privileged to have the mss of The Death of Tarpons accepted for a workshop in Indianapolis to be held by Mary Evans. Mary is an Indy native and was back home to give a talk and to conduct the workshop for five of us lucky writers.

During the workshop, Mary pulled me aside and told me it was a truly brilliant novel, but that she guessed I was having trouble selling it. Surprised at her insight, I told her it was and she explained why. She said her own client, Michael Chabron, had experienced the same thing she figured I was going through with his own first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburg. That publishers assumed it was a YA just because it had a teenaged protagonist. I was shocked. "But, Mary," I said. "I've never thought of it as a YA at all. Any more than I would call John Knowles' A Separate Peace a YA novel." She agreed, but then gave me a bit of priceless education about publishing. She told me that editors and publishers weren't always the smartest folks around. She said that as soon as they saw a teenaged protagonist, their limited imaginations just automatically put it into a category. And, not only were they seeing it was a YA, they were seeing it as a book aimed at the single worst category for readers--teenaged boys. It's the worst demographic in literature--or, at least it was then in pre-Harry Potter days--as teenaged boys didn't read. While they were the single biggest demographic for movies, they were the single worst for books.

She then gave me the biggest and most useful piece of practical advice I've ever been given in publishing. She advised me to do what she'd advised Michael Chabron to do in the face of similar pigeon-holing. "Just make it a frame book, and you'll get it published," she said. Being young and ignorant, I didn't have a clue what a frame book was so she had to explain it in baby language. I learned that all I needed to do was to add two chapters, a new Chapter 1 and a new ending chapter. In Chapter 1, I needed to begin it as an adult looking back on his life, and in the last chapter, simply bring the narrative back to his adulthood.

And, that's what I did. I created a new beginning, making Corey John  an adult, dying of cancer, revisiting his boyhood home of Freeport, Texas and reliving a particularly bad memory of one tumultuous summer. At the end, I brought him back to that place. In between these two editions, I just stuck the original novel. That was it. All of a sudden, I'd transformed a YA into an adult novel...

That was the first event.

The second was that I sent it to the University of North Texas Press. This will give you a clue as to how many places I'd sent it to, as I sent it out alphabetically to publishers. A press beginning with "U" is kind of near the end of that list... In fact, I'd already made up my mind to never send it out again once I hit 100 places. I'm not sure there were even 14 places left on my list...

What I wasn't aware of was that the University of North Texas Press had never before in their history published any fiction. It shouldn't have even been considered and under normal circumstances wouldn't have been. However, Providence was present that day. The publisher, Fran Vick, had come into her office to begin going through the mound of manuscripts on her desk. As it happened, mine happened to be on top, the first one. Coming through the door to bring her her morning coffee, her assistant tripped and spilled the cup. She apologized and went out to get her another cup.

During that two or three minutes, with nothing to do, Fran idly picked up my manuscript and began idly reading. Well, one of the first things she encountered on the page were the words "Freeport, Texas." This was in my new version with the new frame chapter. Seeing those two words gained her interest. That was simply because that's where Fran was from--where she'd grown up.

She told me all this later. She said she began reading the next page and then the next and before she knew it she was hooked and knew they had to publish it. She gave it to her editor, Charlotte Wright, who liked it as well as Fran did. And, they published and it went on to garner a Special Citation from the Violet Crown Book Awards, a big deal in Texas literary circles. And, nominateed for a hunch of other great awards. Got to attend the First Annual Texas Book Festival and sit with Laura Bush and a bunch of really cool Texas writers and dignitaries.

The point is, absent a chance meeting with probably the only literary agent who had had experience with my kind of book and the kind of problem it was facing, and without a clumsy secretary's spilling coffee (thank you!), and without a publisher being from my own home town and seeing that on the first page, this book would have died. You just never know what little twist of fate will occur that aids in your work being seen by the right person.

Anyway, this kind of the story of this novel and I hope you at least found it interesting if not informative.

Thanks for considering buying my book!

Blue skies,
Les

P.S. One more anecdote... my original title was "Spatterdashers" and it killed me when UNT Press insisted on not using it. Particulary, since the term was the reason I'd even written the book! I'd come across the word in a Paris Review interview and loved it from the initial encounter. Literally, it denoted an item of clothing men used to wear; a legging that "prevented spatter from dashing their trousers." Over time, usage reduced the word to "spats." The reason Fran told me they wouldn't use it because people wouldn't know what it meant. Reluctantly, I bowed to her and she was gracious in letting me pick the alternative title, The Death of Tarpons.

A few months after it came out, Gore Vidal published a book titled, "Palimsest." "Hey!" I asked Fran. How about this? Vidal has a book out titled Palimsest. That's even more obscure than Spatterdashers." She looked at me cooly and said, "Well, he's Gore Vidal... and you're not."

She had a point...

Monday, October 31, 2016

William Joyce honored me with a poem...

Hi folks,

Two days ago, William Joyce (also writing as Guillermo O'Joyce) wrote a poem for me. I can't begin to tell you how honored, humbled and thrilled it has made me. William wrote a book, that for me, was the best novel I've ever read. He's one of the true rebels in literature and in life. He walked with the kings of literature and was one of royalty himself.

Just want to share it with you here. Of all the awards and honors I've received this ranks up there at the top, along with Anthony Neil Smith's book dedication and Joe Lansdale naming me as his favorite crime writer.


William Joyce



Poem

                                        Poem for Edgerton

                               There's you, there's me,
                               there's Crotty.
                               That's it
                               in the whole world.
                               Fire, water, wind.
                               You, me, Crotty.

                               But say this 
                               to anyone
                               they will get angry, 
                               scalding angry, 
                               some will want to fight. 

                               People think they have 
                               options,
                               lots of options
                               that keep them 
                               free
                               of the treadmill.

                               In 1928 it was the same.
                               all sorts
                               of voices
                               Pound, Hemingway, Fitzgerald,
                               Thomas Mann,
                               Pearl Buck and Huck
                               Finn, Little Sparrow,
                               The Duke, the Count, the Satchmo.
                               Culture was everywhere
                               as Germany paid off
                               its premium
                               to the victorious nations.

                               Oct. 24th, 1929, the bottom
                               fell out of currency
                               and not even
                               J.P. Morgan cranked up
                               his victrola.
                               No one read
                               anything.
                               They just screamed
                               at their mates.
                               Oct. 24th, 1929, a lot more
                               than currency
                               got ditched.

                               Three years later
                               there was Celine
                               romping
                               like a feverish gazelle
                               over the broken belly
                               of Europe,
                               and Miller leaking
                               out of a tiny bookstore
                               in Paris,
                               then Chaplin delighting
                               in the catastrophic
                               breakdown
                               with "Modern Times".

                               Now it is 1928
                               all over
                               and people are still
                               running in place
                               in over-priced 
                               weight-control centers.  
                               In 100 years 
                               they haven't learned
                               a thing.
                               Haven't learned 
                               there's fire, wind, and water,
                               there's Edgerton, Crotty, and me.


Thank you, William.

Blue skies,
Les

P.S. Crotty refers to a close friend of his and mine, Ger Crotty, an Irishman who toils mightily to get William's work read and appreciated.

This is the novel that Neil Smith has dedicated to me. If I die tomorrow, these three honors will be more than enough...


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

OPENINGS IN MY ONLINE NOVEL-WRITING CLASS

Hi folks,

Well, we’re just finishing up our final week on the current session of my online novel-writing class, “Les Edgerton’s Bootcamp for Writers,” and find ourselves with the rarity of a couple of openings. Our next session will begin on October 30 and consists of a ten-week session, with the probability of taking a week off sometime during the term to recharge batteries.
With some of my online writing class members in Arizona.

This is a call for new class members. Not sure how many openings we’ll have as we offer vacancies first to our auditors.

The basics are the course costs $400 and it’s limited to ten people. The $400 is nonrefundable, as if a person quits during the session it would be impossible to fill that vacancy. As this is my primary source of income, it would be detrimental for myself and my family. It’s very rare that anyone opts out once begun, however. In over five years, there have only been two.

We’ve had a remarkable history of success. Nearly everyone over the past five years who has become a part of our class has gone on to being legitimately published and/or secured a good literary agent. In fact, that is our only goal—to become legitimately published.

Below is a letter I posted from a student who has since gone on to publish her fourth book to critical acclaim, impressive sales, and award nominations. Her first three novels were written in class. Her words are as true today as they were several years ago and will give you a former classmate’s take on the class.

From a student:
We just started a new session for my ongoing internet class on novel writing. We’ve got a couple of new students this time—most writers keep re-upping each time but occasionally one or two will drop out for various reasons: demands of a new job not allowing them to commit the considerable time that is required to participate, needing time off to address the notes their new agent just gave them for the novel he signed, and so on. Most just keep on, even after they’ve gotten an agent and/or sold their novel, and begin writing a new one. Almost all who stick out the entire session come back. The ones who quit usually quit fairly soon into the class. It’s not for everyone. Nobody holds anybody’s hand and every single one of us is focused on but one thing—helping each other write a novel that’s publishable. It’s a tough game and not for everyone.

From Les:
I try to warn people who are thinking of joining us, how tough the class is, but I know from past experience that even so forewarned, at least some are going to be in for a shock when they see that we really don’t hold hands, pat people on the back for minimum efforts, or overlook writing that doesn’t work. I’m not cruel (at least I don’t think so) nor are any of the oldtimers in class, but most new folks haven’t been exposed to a class like ours. The truth is, most writers who haven’t had a class like ours have been praised in other classes or most likely, has been in classes that use the “sandwich” method of teaching. You know—that deal where the teach applies a bit of praise, then a bit of criticism, and then a bit of praise. Well, that ain’t our shtick. Not even close. The comments we all provide on everyone’s work fit one definition only. They’re honest.

This isn’t to be mean or to act like we’re the only folks around who know what good writing is. Except… we do know. I’m not aware of any other class out there with the kind of track record ours enjoys. Virtually every writer who stays the course with us ends up with a top agent and/or a book deal. That doesn’t happen in a single ten-week session. About the earliest anyone has earned an agent or book deal in our class has been about a year. And, that’s reasonable.
The thing is, our writers don’t expect things to be easy.

From a student several years ago:
Hi ________. Since Les opened the floor for comments from the "class veterans" I'm chipping in with my two cents. I have a file cabinet filled with stuff I sent Les and then needed asbestos gloves to take the paper off the printer. When I started this journey, I'd never taken an English class past high school. (I was pre-med in college) I figured I love to read, so how hard can it be? Okay, quit laughing at me. Clearly, when I wrote my first version of my first novel, I had no idea about story structure, POV, any of that. I figured I'm pretty articulate and therefore I can write?

Les quickly set me straight. All of this is to point out that we've all been on the receiving end of Les' brutal honesty. I will find some of the comments he made on my work and post them but phrases like "throwing up in my mouth now" and "bury this so deep in the yard no one ever finds it" are seared into my brain and I don't have to look to find those!!! The point is, I took other classes before I met Les and the teachers were kind and gentle and never told me I sucked. If it weren't for Les, I'd still be churning out awful drivel that makes people want to throw up instead of trying not to throw up while I wait to see if my agent is able to sell my book. I would never have gotten an agent without Les. So hang in there. Listen to everything he says and if it doesn't make sense, ask away.

The novel that I am currently trying to sell has been a work in progress since 2009. The first time Les saw it he sent it back and told me to re-write the WHOLE thing!!! My character was a wimp. She sat back and let things happen to her. I argued a little, rewrote a little and then moved on to another book. After a year, I went back and reread it and saw the truth. It was awful. So I took a deep breath and started over. Page one. First sentence. Re-wrote the entire thing. It took a full year and then I revised it again. It's definitely a process. But once you get the Inciting incident and the outline steps down pat, it's a whole lot easier. Trust me!!! And you'll never graduate completely. A few months ago, Les and I went head-to-head on one single passage. I was trying to be lazy and take the easy way out. He called me on it and I resubmitted three or four weeks in a row, revisions on the same passage. I was sure my classmates were so sick of it they were going to stick needles in their eyes rather than read it again! But in the end, the passage rocked!! So hang in there!!!! It'll get better. (Note: This novel sold and the writer is currently working on her fifth novel.)

From Les:
I figured I’d let some of the class members give you their take on our class. They don’t hold back and they all have tough skins. They will all tell you the same thing. It isn’t a class for sissies or for those who need their hands held or lots of pats on the back. Becoming published is hard, hard work and isn’t an undertaking for sissies. To get there, our students know they have to put on their Big Boy and Big Girl pants and expect to work harder than they ever have in their lives—and to never, ever “settle” their standards of excellence.

Class members come from all over the globe. We’ve had students from the UK, Ireland, Taiwan, Spain, all parts of the U.S., Canada, Australia, Luxembourg and many other places. We work with writers in virtually every genre on the bookshelves.

The way class works is that the class is divided into two equal groups. We used to have just one group, but it got to be too much for many students. In the past, everybody in the class was required to read everybody else’s work each week and provide in-depth comments on everyone’s work. That meant they had to read nine other class members’ work and deliver intelligent commentary on each one. We’ve since evolved to a more manageable number where now each class member reads and delivers comments on just four other classmates’ work. I provide comments on everybody’s work and that’s why the class is limited to only ten. With ten writers, I can give each person the quality of time and analysis each deserves.

Each week begins on Sunday evening, when people can begin submitting their weekly pages from Sunday until Thursday. If it’s a new writer to the class, they are allowed to submit their first five pages of their novel, plus an outline which consists of five statements and a total of 15-20 words. Oldtimers in class call this “inciting incident hell.” If the outline isn’t working and their beginning doesn’t represent the inciting incident as provided in their outline, they are required to keep submitting each week until it does. Our feeling is if they haven’t thought through their novels sufficiently and provided a publishable novel structure (evidenced by the outline), then they most likely don’t have a novel ready to be written and to simply plunge ahead will almost invariably lead to an unfinished novel. We don’t want that.

Once they’ve been okayed for the beginning, from thereafter they can submit up to eight pages per week, along with the others in class.

Time zones don’t matter. Everybody’s work, including everyone’s comments and my own comments on each person’s work each week is posted on the class site and folks can go to it any time of the day or night. Class members can begin sending back their comments on each others’ in their group from Sunday through the following Sunday, when it begins again. Although, in practicality, most members send in their work each week on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It’s like being in an “on-ground” class in that everything said or done in class is seen by everybody.

We do have a chat function and people use it all the time, even though they’re in different time zones. One of the best things about this class is that we have lots of oldtimers who know from their own experience what works in a novel and what doesn’t and more importantly… why it works or doesn’t work. It’s like having a group of seven or eight other professionals helping you with your own novel. Probably at any given time in class, there will be four or five who already have had a novel or several published as a result of being in class, so it’s a really rarified group. And, if you think that you couldn’t operate in a situation like this because you’re a beginner, that simply isn’t the case here at all. Nearly every single person in each class began just the way you did, as a rank beginner. And, they remember and they have complete empathy for your situation, if you’re a beginning writer.

It’s not a situation of simply saying, “This doesn’t work.” Myself and others in class will surely say that, but we then let you know why it didn’t work and give you solid suggestions on how to make it work. We collectively have a nurturing nature and all of us want the newcomer to succeed just about as badly as that writer wants to.

If you are still interested but still feel intimidated, I think if you simply look at how the class works, you’ll quickly see how you’ll fit in comfortably. Since we’ve got one week left in class, for anyone who would like to see up close and personal how we work as a class, I’d be delighted to give you auditor status for our last week. Besides class members, we also have an auditor function which works the same as it does in a “regular” college class. You’re admitted to class and can view every single thing we’re doing and the entire class session is archived and easy to access. Normally, the cost of auditing the class is $50, but for our last week, for those interested in simply getting a look at how we work, just email me at butchedgerton@comcast.net and let me know and I’ll have our class administrator, Holly, get you on board asap.

I know there are no doubt a lot of questions you may have. Please feel free to contact me at any time and ask me anything you’d like.

From past experience, when we’ve had openings like this, they go quickly, so if you are interested, please get in touch, okay?

For those interested in such things, here are a few of my own qualifications to teach writing.

MFA in Writing from Vermont College
Taught writing for the UCLA Writer’s Program
Taught writing via Skype for the New York Writer’s Workshop
Writer-in-Residence for three years for the University of Toledo
Writer-in-Residence for one year for Trine University
Taught writing classes for St. Francis University
Taught writing classes for Phoenix College
Taught writing for Writer’s Digest Online Classes
Taught writing classes for Vermont College
Published 18 books, including craft books on writing, novels, sports books, YA novel, historical nonfiction book, humor nonfiction, black comedy novel, noir, thrillers, literary and existential fiction.
Dozens of short stories published in such publications as The South Carolina Review, High Plains Literary Review, Aethlon, Flatmancrooked, Murdaland and many others.
Many private clients who published books I worked with them on, including such writers as Robert Rotstein, Michelle Corasanti, Janey Mack, Maegan Beaumont and many others.
A lot of living… much of it as an outlaw…

Blue skies,

Les

 Debut novel from Gerald O'Connor one of our class members from Ireland. Comes out in the spring--look for it and buy it!