Monday, February 15, 2010

How Kaboom got Bookified - Part Deux

We last left our hero - the Sultan of Swashbuckle, the Bastion of Brash, the Perennial Pirate - mentally drained and suffering from a severe case of typist’s wrists. Dare we even mention the burnt leg hairs still smoldering from the nigh-constant laptop exposure? Would finishing his tome negatively affect his ability to sire Irish degenerates in the future? He didn’t yet know the answer to that question, but he did now understand the difference between overwriting and overwroting – though sometimes accused of the former, he had never before accomplished the latter. And so …

He slept.

And when he awoke, he wasn’t in Hawaii anymore, and he stopped writing in the third person.

I spent my summer relaxing, decompressing, and adjusting back to the blandness of civilian life. After leaving Hawaii, I spent a few weeks at my mom’s house, in Reno, playing with our old (but still perky) golden retriever, and taking weekly excursions up to Lake Tahoe with City Girl. It was all very idyllic, deserving of a photo montage set to the tune of Louie Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” The bright lights and neon intrigue of New York City awaited at the end of the summer, but in the mean time, I was allowed the opportunity to compartmentalize the events of my recent past as a soldier with an older, more time-stained past of childhood. I assure you, I didn’t feel so blessed about my boyhood during middle school, but after Iraq, even the evils of puberty seemed harmless and sweet in moments of reflection.

Near the end of the summer, Luke, City Girl, and I drove down to Las Vegas to visit my father, stepmother, and stepbrother. Now, the desert between Reno and Las Vegas is vast and mostly barren, eight hours full of old ranch towns, tumbleweeds, and “No Trespassing: Federal Government Property” signs. (Area 51, you dig?) But, after stopping at a McDonald’s in Tonapah, and discovering that I had cell reception there, I chatted with Bob Pigeon for forty minutes about the first draft of Kaboom. He liked it, but as editors are prone to doing, he was going to edit – and wanted me to sharpen it some places, while slicing and dicing it in others.

Although, like most writers, I was convinced I had already completed a manuscript sans flaw, I paused and gave thought to his suggestions. Not only did they make sense, they made damn sense. After all, I thought, he’s a professional and does this for a living. I’m still just some punk kid prone to hero worship seeking out the Hemingway dream.

Then we discussed the issue of the subtitle.

Although Bob and Da Capo didn’t mind the blog’s subtitle, “A Soldier’s War Journal,” they didn’t think it accurately captured the content of the book – while it balanced out the sizzle of the main title, it didn’t really differentiate the book from the litany of other GWOT memoirs out there. This was a big sticking point for them, because Bob wholeheartedly believed (and who was I to disagree?) that Kaboom was different, quite different, in fact, from the products already out there.

We still have a few weeks, he explained, before the subtitle has to be finalized. We both agreed to start mining our brains, and hopefully, someone would strike subtitle gold. Bob then laid out the timeline until publication – a three-step editing process, followed by the distribution of galley copies. Marketing and publicity plans would be developing concurrently.

“Get excited,” Bob told me. “It may not always seem like it, but this process can be pretty fulfilling.”

In all its severe and pronounced glory, the word FAIL does not even begin to describe the subtitle ideas I produced in the coming weeks. Words like “odyssey,” “iWar,” and “counterinsurgent” were tossed around, but nothing ever really stuck. Finally, as the deadline neared, Bob’s assistant editor, Jonathan Crowe, put together parts of separate subtitle ideas to form the winner, winner, chicken dinner: “Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War.”

With a bona fide subtitle in tow, Kaboom continued its evolution from a theoretical idea to something very tangible – and was subsequently assigned a project editor, Collin Tracy of Perseus. Collin would drive the project train for the next couple of months, helping me through three painful editing and rewriting stages. Jen Kelland, the copy editor, did an amazing job sifting through my ramblings and ravings – certainly not a job I envied, but I appreciated it, nonetheless. And then, in mid-December, as an early Christmas present to myself, I finished my last renditions on the proof pages, and expunged any and all grammatical and capitalization laws from my brain.

The book was now baked and ready for the decoration of marketing and publicity – something I’ll cover next time, when the third and final episode of “How Kaboom got Bookified” is posted!

Ahh, I heart me some trilogies.


Anonymous said...

Well told. I'm looking forward to going down to my local bookstore and purchasing a copy of Kaboom when it comes out.


OldGrouchy Doug Wright said...

The thing I've always appreciated about Kaboom the Blog is that I could hear about the "Suck" without being part of it. That's a good thing too.

Michael Yon has said that everyone sees something different in their individual part of the "war," he has used the term "Snowflake," which sounds about right. Your blog was such a snowflake and it's a good bet your book will be one in a different way.

lela said...

I, among many, am very excited about Kaboom....the bookified version and the resurrected blog! I've been a follower and a fan since your beginning, and I plan on following your rise in the literary arena! Good luck and have a great time at the publishing party!

Danny Brothers said...

Very exciting stuff. I am quite jealous. I've read all your blog posts, and have been waiting for your book to come out. This comment is not my first, nor a shameless plug, but I also write a 'war' blog. I am an Israeli infantry soldier, and I've been writing about my experience since I was drafted in '08. I know the catharsis of writing about this stuff, and though I leave out most of the serious events, my perspective seems to pass through the lens of how I would write those events. Your writing style is definitely much more post-modern than mine, and in terms of the way I blog I have essentially made my posts into essays with random literary flourishes, but when I read your posts I get motivated to write. So, as I said, I am jealous that you went right into your blog writing in that style. I felt that I had to be more straightforward since so many of my friends and family want to see exactly what I'm up to (not that I really say...).

Anyway, I'm rambling, but I wanted to say congratulations on the book again, and I'm very jealous. You deserve it though.

Danny Brothers

Mike Schaas said...

Re: Your General Order Number One Comment: What did you mean by "Thanks a lot Viet Nam, you ruined it for everybody"?
I was a Light Infantry patrol leader. I Corps, 1968. We went in to "IT" and there were only 2 ways out, and you know what they were. I don't remember any booze, pornography or any other litany of vices. We had a hard time finding drinking water and when we did, it sure didn't come in a plastic bottle. And our C rations were made in 1946!
The only people who enjoyed vices of any kind were officers and REMFS.
It took 30 days or longer to get a letter from home, if the REMFS didn't tear it up and eat the cookies too. We didn't have GPS, patrol leaders had to know how to read a map, some of the maps had declinations dated 1955. Body armor was a concretion of dirt and body salt. Luxury was a green towel. Instant messaging was when you told your buddy to get the fuck out the way so I can kill the Communist son of a bitch in front of you. No pats on the back when we came home. We got spit on. GI Bill, $120/month, if I went full time. No books, nothing else.
I was a Sgt. E5, RA19857051, the RA meant something in those days. I was 2 years in grade, plus overseas pay, plus hazardous duty pay, plus proficiency pay, I made $320 a month total and never saw one fucking paycheck. NEVER. So thanks a lot, for whatever you meant pal!
Ex Army Infantry Sgt. Michael Robert Schaas