Thursday, January 12, 2012

GUMBO YA-YA

Hi folks,

I'm still glowing from the Best Thriller Award from the Preditors and Editors poll! Again, thank you, each and every one who voted and got your pals to vote--what you did for me was the real award.

And... it doesn't stop. I was just informed by Brian Lindenmuth, my editor at Snubnose Press, that my short story collection, GUMBO YA-YA, will be released within the next couple of weeks. He told me I could show y'all the cover... which I LOVE!

Here it tis...





I love it!

Watch for it--I'll be announcing it the instant it becomes available.

The title came about in the same manner as did the title for my first collection MONDAY'S MEAL. There are a couple of requirements traditionally for short story collections. One, at least half should have been previously published in prestigious literary magazines. This collection satisfies that requirement as all but a couple were published in such venues as High Plains Literary Review, Houghton-Mifflin's Best American Mystery Stories, Murdaland Magazine, The Analecta, Blue Moon Literary and Art Review Magazine, Imaginary Friends Anthology, Flatmancrooked, Aethlon, Noir Nation International Crime Magazine, On The Record anthology, and an essay in it was published in Circle K Magazine. A couple of the stories were nominated for the Pushcart Award and Edgar Allan Poe (short story category) Awards. So, that requirement was satisfied. Although, increasingly, collections aren't requiring prior publication as much these days.

Two,  short story collections are traditionally supposed to be centered around a theme.


Which was a problem with MONDAY'S MEAL and I faced the same problem with this one. There just isn't a theme in either collection. And publishers decided a long time ago that readers wanted to know what the stories were about. They didn’t feel readers would buy otherwise. If the reader was into crime or noir, they wanted the stories in a collection to be about… crime or noir. If they wanted to read tales about romance, they wanted to know that’s what they were buying. If they wanted horror… well, you get the picture. The problem was in MONDAY’S MEAL was that the stories included in it were kind of all over the map. No “theme” involved. Just stories. So I came up with what I felt was the perfect solution. I titled it MONDAY’S MEAL.

In the South, where I grew up, Monday was traditionally washday. In my youth (back when dinosaurs first went on the endangered list) Monday was the day when the wife took care of her brood of children, did the week’s wash, cleaned the house, did a host of other chores, and still prepared a hearty meal for supper. Because of time constraints, that was the day most women prepared a stew or, where I lived, on the Texas Gulf Coast, a gumbo. It was the perfect meal for Mondays, because the woman could run in whenever she had a spare moment or two, throw in an ingredient, and go back out and hang out another load on the clothesline and yell at the kids for fighting amongst themselves. What happened was a lot of ingredients went into it—ingredients that, upon first glance, looked unrelated and even questionable as to how they’d work together—but in the end, when she ladled it out to her husband and kids, turned out to be a delicious combination.

And that was how and why that collection came up with its name.

I faced the same problem with this collection. Stories without a theme. This time, the answer came to me much quicker. I grew up in a bar and seafood restaurant in Freeport, Texas. My grandmother, who owned the business, had a wood stove she reserved for one dish only. Gumbo. Only Yankees cook gumbo on electric or gas stoves. True Southerners use wood stoves. And Grandma Louise Vincent was, if anything, a “true Southerner.” In fact, she wouldn’t serve a Yankee in her establishment. Kick ‘em right out. Some who were booted threatened to go to the law as their civil rights were being violated and she told them to go right ahead. It wasn’t a problem for her as the county sheriff was a daily customer… And didn't care much for Yankees either...

She had a real problem when her daughter—my mother—married a Yankee, but that’s another story…

Anyway, nowadays if you go into a restaurant that serves gumbo, it’ll reflect a theme, same as short story collections. “Shrimp” gumbo. “Okra” gumbo. “Crab” gumbo. “Crawfish” gumbo. (Or, as we called it, “Mudbug Gumbo.”) Whatever. In our restaurant, Grandma Vincent made the same kind of gumbo most oldtimers made. A concoction we called “Gumbo Ya-Ya.” It had different ingredients in it, depending on the season and depending on the availability of ingredients. Ingredients, that when considered separately, didn’t always appear to be compatible. But… they were. Once cooked together, the meal ended up absolutely delicious.

My own favorite ingredient—in season—was crab eggs. I absolutely love the orange, gummy texture and flavor of crab eggs. Probably an ingredient that Yankees would turn their delicate noses up at…
Anyway, that’s how this collection of stories got its name. Thought you might be interested in the genesis of the title.

And, I really hope you like the stories in it! There’s a bit of a bonus. Besides the stories, there is an essay I’m very proud of, titled “Censorship and Why I Love Charles Bukowski.” This essay has a history. I wrote it as my graduating address for my MFA degree at Vermont College and delivered it to the single largest crowd at graduation in their history, according to Pam Painter, well-known author and one of my advisors, who’d been on the faculty since the program began. It was later published in Circle K Magazine. In it, I rail against what was a new phenomenon at the time—a concept called “political correctness.” At the time, I saw it as one of the biggest threats against freedom of speech ever propagated. Today, more than 15 years later I see it as… the same thing.

There’s also a bit from a memoir I’m still writing on that I think folks will enjoy. It’s centered around my son Mike and me when he was a little guy and I was coaching his youth baseball league team.

Anyway, I’m pumped up that Snubnose Press has seen fit to publish this work. Just a few years ago, it had become increasingly difficult to get a collection published. Most publishers wouldn’t touch ‘em for a simple reason. Sales usually didn’t justify the publishing expense. Thanks to ebooks, that’s changing. And, that’s a good thing, in my mind.

I hope you’ll agree.

Blue skies,
Les

P.S. Here's a hint for Yankees attempting to cook their first gumbo. Well, two hints. First... you make a roue. Many otherwise good cooks can't make a roue. My mother can't and she's a born and bred Southerner. I'm proud to say that I make a great roue! Second, and most importantly--never put your spices in until just before it's done cooking. Otherwise, all the flavor "cooks up" and you'll be left with a tasteless, bland meal. Just sayin'...

And, if you can glom onto crab eggs, throw 'em in...

7 comments:

dawnall said...

The collection sounds awesome, Les! Congrats!

Les Edgerton said...

Thanks, Dawn! Hope you get a copy when it comes out and enjoy the read.

Brian Elsasser said...

Great Gumbo!! Les, you've motivated me to read some no doubt close-to-the-edge Edgerton short stories. (In the '80s I spent a couple summers on Florida's redneck riviera, got a taste for stew that simmered all day, with additives thrown in when the timing seemed right or the flavor "needed something." We lived next door to a preacher who'd practice here sermons out back by our pea patch, nuthin' like pickin' peas to the music of fire and brimstone, haha)
Brian, a not totally, I hope, damn Yankee

Les Edgerton said...

Brian, you crack me up! I'm a half "damn Yankee" myself! The "Redneck Riviera" when I was a kid was what everybody called Panama City--now they've got hotels and stuff there, but when I was younger it was the biker beach and mostly blood 'n guts bars. The beaches there were terrible--you had to walk out half a mile before it got over your ankles and all kinds of crap was always washing up. Brought back memories! Now, people pay money to go and stay there and have t-shirts and the whole nine yards and don't have a clue why the natives think they're nuts...

Speaking of Yankees, when I was a kid growing up in Freeport, Texas, we used to go out to Bryan Beach and laugh at the Yankee tourists there. They were easy to spot. They were the ones who parked their cars on the beach. Not knowing about tides and that later on that night they'd be calling tow trucks to retrieve their vehicles from the Gulf... Memories...

Brian Elsasser said...

Actually, I lived inland in Marietta, but we regularly motored down to Panama City to bar hop along the sand. I remember one fly-by-day drinking establishment that was just bamboo poles stuck in the sand, palm fronds laid on for a roof, some picnic tables up on cinderblocks with kegs behind. Very haute cuisine fer shez.
That's funny about the Yankeemobiles getting towed. We had a gas sometimes zipping back from the beach at like 90 along two lane roads which we never got run off of...that's a whole different scene from n. Calif. where I live now, though among the midwestern yankee colonists there are a few berkeley hillbillies stirring things up occasionally.

Brian Elsasser said...

Sorry, misspell: that was Marianna, Fl.

Brian Elsasser said...

Les wrote: "Just a few years ago, it had become increasingly difficult to get a collection published. Most publishers wouldn’t touch ‘em for a simple reason. Sales usually didn’t justify the publishing expense. Thanks to ebooks, that’s changing. And, that’s a good thing, in my mind."

I've looked into selling single short stories and it looks promising. Thanks, Brian