Wednesday, June 29, 2011
GUMBO YA-YA TAKEN BY SNUBNOSE PRESS
Well, this is turning into a banner year! Two days ago, I received an offer from Snubnose Press to publish my new short story collection, titled GUMBO YA-YA. This makes the fifth book placed this year. I'm starting to get dizzy...
Snubnose Press is the new ebook press founded by the prestigious Spinetingler Magazine http://www.spinetinglermag.com/ and it’s a distinct and singular honor to be published by them. I was alerted to them by two of my heroes, Paul D. Brazill, one of the top noir writers in the world, and by Jack Getze, Fiction Editor of Spinetingler and author of the Austin Carr series. I met Jack a couple of years ago when we were both appearing at the Writer’s Retreat Workshop in Kentucky and became instant buddies. Turns out we both share a love of good writing—in particular, crime fiction—and Mr. Jack Daniels. I was introduced to Paul by Robin Billings, a terrific writer in her own right. The moment I first read his work, his particular genius was evident and I became a huge fan. If you haven’t yet read either of these guys, I’d recommend you glom onto their work. You can check each out on their blogs—Jack at http://austincarrscrimediary.blogspot.com/ and Paul at http://pdbrazill.blogspot.com/. Tell ‘em I sentcha!
Jack gave me a heads-up on Mr. Lindenmuth’s tastes, saying, “He goes for very edgy, nourish stuff. No happy endings, you know?” Do I know?! Jack just described my twin from whom I was separated at birth! He described my own tastes perfectly and I started feeling good about my chances with him. None of my stories will ever be considered by the Disney folks. Reminds me of something my wife Mary said recently. She said, “Okay. How am I going to recommend my husband’s books to my friends? They’re titled THE BITCH and THE RAPIST!” I answered by saying, “I understand. How about if I change them to ‘The Hardy Boys Visit the Playground Slide' and ‘The Sugar Creek Gang Catches Flies’.” She felt if I did so it would make it somewhat easier for her to recommend them…
I do understand Mary’s concerns. I encourage her to voice her feelings. After all, she only fell in love with me because of that Stockholm Syndrome thingy and we’re trying to work past all that business and ancient history…
It pays to network. However, while knowing prominent people in the business is extremely helpful, it still all comes down to the work. No matter who you might know, if the writing isn’t top quality, your work will get rejected the same as anyone else’s who doesn’t measure up. Thankfully, Brian Lindenmuth, the editor of Snubnose Press and nonfiction editor and awards director at Spinetingler Magazine saw GUMBO YA-YA as a quality work. Brian’s wife, Sandra Ruttan, was the co-founder of Spinetingler Magazine, along with her former husband and along with Jack Getze. Check out Sandra’s books on the website—if you like dark crime, she’s your writer!
I always try to practice due diligence and research any press before I submit. Before I queried Brian, I purchased and read their first published book, Speedloader, a collection of six stories by six different writers. An awesome collection! Not a weak story in the lot! Simply a gathering of six extremely good writers. As soon as I read this collection, I knew this was a press I wanted to be published by.
As of this writing, the collection consists of 14 stories and two essays. I’ll be adding one more story to it as Cort McMeel and Eddie Vega, publishers of NOIR NATION are reading five of my unpublished stories to pick one for the inaugural issue, and as soon as that’s determined, that story will be added. It could easily end up with fewer stories, as my experience with collections is that the editor will most likely delete a story or two from the final version if he feels it might not be as strong as the others. Or, maybe not. I’m glad I don’t have to make that decision as I like all of them—they’re my babies!
I love writing and reading short stories. Collections, as a rule, don’t make publishers or their authors rich. But, I have reason to believe we may do well on this one. My other collection, Monday’s Meal, has sold all but about 100 copies of its print run, and garnered rave reviews, including this one from The New York Times:
The New York Times Book Review
The sad wives, passive or violent husbands, parolees, alcoholics and other failures in Leslie H. Edgerton's short-story collection are pretty miserable people. And yet misery does have its uses. Raymond Carver elevated the mournful complaints of the disenfranchised in his work, and Edgerton makes an admirable attempt to do the same. He brings to this task an unerring ear for dialogue and a sure-handed sense of place (particularly New Orleans, where many of the stories are set). Edgerton has affection for even his most despicable characters—"boring" Robert, who pours scalding water over his sleeping wife in "The Last Fan"; Jake, the musician responsible for his own daughter's death in "The Jazz Player"; and Tommy in 'I Shoulda Seen a Credit Arranger," whose plan to get hold of some money involves severing the arm of a rich socialite—but he never takes the reader past the brink of horrible fascination into a deeper understanding. In the best story, "My Idea of a Nice Thing," a woman named Raye tells us why she drinks: "My job. I'm a hairdresser. See, you take on all of these other people's personalities and troubles and things, 10 or 12 of 'em a day, and when the end of the day comes, you don't know who you are anymore. It takes three drinks just to sort yourself out again." Here Edgerton grants both the reader and Raye the grace of irony, and without his authorial intrusion, we find ourselves caring about her predicament.—Denise Gess. The New York Times Book Review, November 16, 1997
Monday’s Meal also earned a starred review from The Library Journal, along with great reviews from “Studies in Short Fiction,” The School Library Journal, The Port Arthur (TX) News, Texas Monthly and blurbs from such writers as Dr. Francois Camoin, Diane Lefer, Vince Zandri, Melody Henion Stevenson, Carol Anshaw, and Gladys Swan. It was also a Finalist for the Violet Crown Book Award.
And, I think this collection is even better. It ought to be—hopefully, I’ve become a better writer since that book came out!
What’s really cool about Snubnose Press is that because of Spinetingler Magazine’s outstanding reputation as a publisher of top-notch fiction, their books are going to be treated by reviewers, bestselling lists, and awards organizations the same as print books. That’s a huge advantage over many ebook publishers.
This marks the fifth book either my agent Chip MacGregor or I have placed this year—it’s without doubt my best year as a writer! Kind of makes up for the lean times
Hope you find this interesting! And, those who’ve known me for awhile know I’ve had some really, REALLY lean years, so I hope this gives my fellow writers who are undergoing dark times now hope for their own futures. As that great Canadian philosopher, Red Green says: “Keep your stick on the ice. We’re all in this together. I’m pulling for ya!”
How I came up with the title "GUMBO YA-YA" is a story in itself. Story collections are supposed to fit into a theme. When my first collection, MONDAY'S MEAL was taken by the University of North Texas Press, the tales in it didn't fit much of a theme. They were kind of all over the place--kind of like me about whom folks say I'm like "a fart in a skillet." While this collection is a bit more focused, theme-wise (all dark), they still cover lots of areas. I came up with "Monday's Meal" as a southern institution that fit the body of work. In the Deep South where I grew up (Texas and Louisiana), Monday was traditionally wash day. That meant the wife not only had to take care of her kids and husband and do the regular chores, she also had to do the weekly wash. There wasn't much time to make a meal, so the traditional meal became gumbo or a stew--something the woman could stick on the stove and, when she had a spare minute or so, run in and throw in an ingredient as it simmered all day. There were a lot of ingredients, that, at first glance, didn't seem to go together, but when it was finished and served her hungry brood, turned out delicious.
I grew up in a bar and restaurant in East Texas that my grandmother owned, and she had one wood stove in the kitchen that was reserved strictly for gumbo. Nowadays, restaurants serve gumbo by particular names, i.e., "shrimp gumbo," or "chicken gumbo," or "crab gumbo," or whatever. Oldtimers just made... gumbo. It could have any number of ingredients and usually did. (The one ingredient that almost always was in it was okra, and of course, to begin with, "first you make a roue.") For instance, in season, one of the best ingredients would be crab eggs. They're delicious and have a wonderful texture and flavor! She would simmer the pot all day long and when she got a minute, throw something into it. We just called it "gumbo ya-ya" as every day there was a different mixture. Again, often including ingredients that you might not think would go together, when you tasted it, it was wonderful. Ergo... the title GUMBO YA-YA. My hope is that when you read the gumbo assembled in my collection, you'll think it's delicious as well...