So I wrote this book a few years ago for my MFA thesis project called The Ballo Brothers. I thought it was pretty good. In fact, an agent thought it was pretty good too, and signed me up for representation. But then his bosses disagreed with him, and then he got sick and died, and after that no other agent wanted to sign me, or it.
I’ve since revised it like eight times, and changed the title to Curtain Calls, but haven’t had any luck getting it published.
The book is a historical fiction, a combination of my grandfather’s career in vaudeville, coupled with some rather astonishing events from the beginning of World War I. Since my grandfather died in the 1970s, I had only a scrapbook of photos on which to base the first aspect of the story, so that’s complete fiction. The other part, a fictionalization of the last days of French statesman Jean Jaurès, follows the events of his life fairly accurately.
It’s not widely known in the U.S., but Jaurès almost single-handedly kept WWI from starting in 1912. He tried to do so again in 1914, but the force of events by then was too much to stop.
I’ve sat down with the story and read it again, and although I’ve changed (and hopefully, grown) as a writer since I wrote it, it’s still a ripping tale. I placed Grandpa Gus and two fellow performers (Kera and Jack) in Paris just as the fighting starts. They fall in with Jaurès and his associates’ efforts to keep France neutral, and are part of the drama that leads up to the great man’s assassination, and France’s declaration of war.
I’ve always wanted the validation of a traditional publishing house, whether it’s one of the big New York firms or a good-size independent, but the book never made it there. I never really queried the small independents, since they don’t typically have much marketing clout. Plus, as a former graphic artist, I can handle all the production aspects myself, so I have to ask, what would they do for me that I can’t do for myself? Apart from providing some independent editing, the answer is not much. But I’ve had several trusted writers go through it, and have incorporated their suggestions so even that aspect is covered.
Normally I wouldn’t give much thought to self-publishing. There is still a stigma regarding the quality of most self-pubbed work, and with good reason—the vast percentage of it is still poorly written, edited and produced. So there are significant barriers to success to overcome.
But 2014-2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the war. And recently, a couple of factors have helped change my mind about the marketing aspect. I’ve learned of some techniques and services available to self-published writers that can raise awareness tremendously. The marketing opportunity is now, so if I don’t get this book out soon I might as well shelve it forever. And since I have been thinking, planning and writing this book since Grandpa Gus was still alive, I’m not going to let that happen.
So here I go. I will self-publish this book and do my best to get it out there.
We (my cover artist and partner at Woodward Press, Dora Badger, and I) have been working on the print version, which includes writing the back cover copy. A unique experience indeed! For once I get to abandon the rigors of legitimate prose in favor of clichés, vague adjectives and general hyperbole. Here’s what I’ve worked up so far:
When three American performers travel to Paris in the summer of 1914, they become caught in the passions and politics of a nation on the brink of World War I. Separated by events, they fall in with factions on both sides of the debate over the conflict, and move ever deeper into a mysterious underground world of political intrigues.
Only one man, a statesman and journalist, has the courage to stand up to the corrupt French government and keep the country neutral. But a madman plots to kill him. As his life hangs in the balance, the three Americans represent the only chance to save him from assassination.
Based on true events surrounding the genesis of World War I, Curtain Calls captures the excitement of the times that changed the course of modern history, in a story filled with power, betrayal, friendship, and love.
Doesn’t that get you all eager to read it? Honestly, all that stuff is really in there, and it makes a helluva story. The true events of Jaurès’s life were just made for a novel.
Soon I’ll post an image of the cover to further whet your appetites. And if you are interested in reading it, I’ll provide a discount code when it’s released that only readers of my blog will have access to.
I guess if I’m going to go this route, I might as well give it my all. More soon.