Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Like Sausage by Andy Scheer

You likely know the quote: “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.”

The person to whom that quote is attributed, nineteenth American poet John Godfrey Saxe, could easily have extended that comparison to the process of publishing.

The strange thing is, I not only like sausages, I also like books. True, I've never worked on a farm or in a packing-house. But I have worked in and around publishing since 1976. And I still like books.  I read them. For fun. In my spare time.

Even after a week spent sorting through queries and proposals. Even after myriad fiction first chapters burdened by exposition and excess adjectives. Even after an intense two weeks in a “virtual mentoring retreat,” working one-on-one with a relative neophyte to help her prepare her first book proposal.

This morning I hope to be standing outside my nearest bookstore, checking my watch, when they open the doors. For perhaps six months I've known this will be the novel's release date. I've discussed this with a friend who introduced me to this author's novels.

That was three books ago. Since then I've read the first three novels in this series, and perhaps another eighteen he's written (three under a pseudonym he's used to brand himself in a different sub-genre).

All going well, I'll have finished the book by Friday night, when I hope to attend one of this author's rare signings. That shouldn't be hard. It's easy to suspend your critical, editorial instincts when the author knows his craft. When the story, the characters, the conflict, and all those infinite details of the art of fiction fall into place and allow you as a reader to submerse yourself in the tale.

And then it doesn't seem anything at all like sausage.


Rick Barry said...

I particularly like the choice of words in your final line: "...submerse yourself in the tale." When I'm into a truly gripping novel, it's not that I'm here at home and I've added this story to my environment. Just the opposite. It's more like leaving my normal environment and submerging, delving down into an alternate reality that seems very plausible due to an author's skill.

As long as there are writers who can take us from where we are and plunge us into new realms and exciting adventures, then there will always be stories, in one form or another.

Jeanette Levellie said...

I like the taste of sausage but not what it does to my arteries or my waistline.

Are you going to tell us the book you stood in line to buy, or is this an example of a great hook?

Andy Scheer said...

Some of my biggest concerns as I edit or evaluate a novel involve those elements--often clunky, redundant dialogue tags--that subtly bounce people out of the world of the story and remind them they're only reading a book.

Andy Scheer said...

Here's the book's opener:


A tall drunk danced alone in the gutter, singing a Stephen Foster song loved by the Anti-Saloon League. The melody was mournful, reminiscent of Scottish pipes, the tempo a slow waltz. His voice, a warm baritone, rang with heartfelt regret for promises broken.

"Oh! comrades, fill no glass for me
"To drown my soul in liquid flame ..."

Yes, I read the next page--then stopped because I had work to do. I'll see how long my willpower lasts.

-- Andy

Jeanette Levellie said...

You still didn't answer my question. Or, was that a "no"?

Andy Scheer said...

I understand that in fiction, when asked a question, characters sometimes give an oblique answer. Maybe in real life, too.

Rick Barry said...

Jeannette, consider it a test of your investigative skills. My friend Dirk Pitt says that the answer is already here; you simply need to race to connect the dots (so to speak).