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 …
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.