Earlier today on twitter (@Aaron__Saylor, btw), I posted the front cover for Sewerville and promised to share the whole thing later. Well, now it’s later, and I’m a man of my word. Thanks to the genius of David Denson Rogers, here is the complete cover of my first novel in all its foreboding glory. (You can click on it to make it a littlbe bigger, if that suits you.) So… how ’bout it?
Here’s another place to read “The Sweet Smell of Pine Needles.” This link works well for those of you without an e-reader – just go the web page and the story is right there. Fiction365.com is an interesting little site — a new story every day — and I’ve been impressed with a lot of what I’ve read there. We all know there’s a lot of crap on the internet, but there’s some good short fiction at this site. Check it out.
Here are some awesome, crystal clear, color photographs from turn-of-the-century Russia. Stunning. That’s the only way to describe them.
You’ll notice a graphic update to the site. The new header is taken from the book cover for Sewerville; the background picture is crystal meth. the black and white photo to the right is, of course, me.
It’s interesting to note that in the last few months, e-books have surpassed the sales of more traditional hardcover books. A recent report also showed that on Amazon.com, nearly 30% of the top 100 e-books (in terms of units sold) were published using the Kindle Direct Publishing program, which bypasses the more “traditional” publishing houses and allows authors to collect a royalty rate as high as 70%. (E-books can also be published directly at other high-profile sites like barnesandnoble.coms.)
Sewerville will be published in hardcover, papberback, and e-book, so those of you who prefer to actually hold a book and smell paper and ink and handwrite notes in the margins will absolutely be able to do that. But, I bring up these e-book numbers simply to mention that the tens of millions of Kindles and ipads spread across this planet are without question making it easier for authors to control their own work, and break free from the New York publishing houses that have lorded over the industry for decades. And we’ll see even more of that, as major, multimillion-selling writers choose not to renew their publishing contracts, and instead decide they can handle their own books themselves. It’s already happening in the music industry.
Something to think about, that’s all.
Friends: I’m trying to settle on a short passage to put at the front of the book, so that when someone picks it up and opens the cover, they can read a couple of paragraphs to get a feel for the story. It’s a tone-setter, definitely, but also a bit of a selling tool.
I’ve narrowed it to three choices, but having difficulty deciding. I guess I love them all equally. This, then, is where you can help: any thoughts are appreciated, especially if you’re one of those few people who’ve read the book already. Remember, tone and interest. Tone. Interest.
Could be this, from early on in the story. Boone (the protagonist) is standing atop a hill, looking down at the town below:
“Strange. The images came at Boone in a rush, one clear piece after another, as if he were looking through a telescope and jerking from side to side at the same time. A Baptist church here. A Methodist church there. A BP station on one corner. A Chevron on the other. A McDonald’s to the east, a Taco Bell to the west. A logging truck. A school bus. Children. Old people. A pharmacy. A meth lab. A dealer. An addict. A blonde. A cheerleader. A cross. A coffin.
Boone felt sick.
The pictures in his mind shifted. He imagined everything in Sewardville sliding into the very bottom of the valley. The churches and the gas stations and the fast food restaurants piled on top of one another – sinking, sinking, sunk – as the earth crumbled beneath them. Everything went down, down, down to the bottom of the pit. The rusty machinery slid a little further down the valley, creeping closer towards the mobile homes. The mobile homes sank down the hillsides, headed towards town. The town sank into a black pit, headed towards oblivion, and Boone could do nothing but stand there and watch them go.”
Or, it could be this one, from a conversation late in the book between Boone and his elderly mother. It would need to be trimmed, of course, but you get the idea. *SPOILER ALERT* A primary point is included here. Maybe I’ll cut that part out.
“I want you to look around here,” she said, waving her arm in a short arc above her head. “Look around this house, this house where you grew up. Every night I ask myself, how could a man like you come out of a home like this? I don’t understand it.”
“What did I do wrong?” she continued in the same steady timbre. “Tell me what I did, son. What was it that made you turn out the way you did, with all your wickedness? It just hurts my heart, Boone. I ain’t never told you but I’m tellin’ you now. It hurts my heart. I can’t hardly sleep some nights, I just lay there in my bed prayin’, wonderin’ what kind of trouble you got yourself into now. Are you in jail? Are you hurt? Are you dyin’? Are you dead? I never know. Lord, I just never do know.
“All that evil, all that devil’s work, all those demons that you’ve walked with for these years. All the people you’ve hurt, all the people dead because of you. What number of men have you killed? Don’t tell me. I don’t want to hear. My soul can’t take knowing. Maybe you even killed your own brother. Don’t think I haven’t thought about that on some of these nights, don’t think for one second that I ain’t wondered if you was capable of that kind of wickedness.”
She paused in her speech, breathing hard. Her cold stare tore through Boone’s guts. He knew that he deserved this.
She said, “My Bible tells me that the Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.’ And I know what He was sayin’. Jimmy’s blood cries out to me, too. I hear it all the time.
“He was filled with wickedness, just like you’re filled with wickedness. I realized a long time ago that you chose a life of devils and serpents, son. And I wonder, does your poor brother’s blood ever cry out to you, the way it cries out to me? Does it? Does it? Or do you stay in that house so high up on the hill that you can’t hear anything but them devils and serpents, ‘cause the devils and the serpents are a part of you that can’t be cut loose, just like you’re a part of them that don’t want to be cut loose? It’s all just wickedness. Pure wickedness. Right there. In your heart. In your dark heart, the heart of the devil.”
Then there’s this excerpt. One of the through-lines of the book are dreams and memory, and how the melding of the two reveals information and history, particularly, information that we prefer to ignore about ourselves. (This part is spoiler-y, too, but I tend to think you have to get a little spoiler-y to pique the audience’s interest.)
“He can’t kill her or anyone else. He is not a killer. Is he a killer? He is not a killer.
Please don’t hurt me. Just let me go. I can run away, I won’t tell anyone, I have money.
But they can’t let her run away.
Why is Walt doing this to me?
Because he wants to.
Why are you doing this?
Because he wants me to.
She lays on the ground, begging him for mercy. Begging him to let her go. He can’t do that. He wishes he could but he can’t. He raises the pistol, aims at her head.
He holds the gun on her. He wants to let her go. He can’t let her go. How did he get into this? He is not a killer.
He steadies his aim. He has to do this. Walt wants him to do it. Walt made him some promises, if he does this thing, if he does this one thing he can have Karen and be part of the family.
He closes his eyes because he can’t watch. He will do it, yes, but he can’t watch. She has such pretty silver hair. Her silver hair, tied up in a pony tail. He can’t watch. He closes his eyes and keeps them shut tight. He readies himself for the deed, the terrible deed.
He is not a killer.
He will kill her.”
So, firends – what do you like best? Comments below, or e-mail/Facebook/Twitter me.
Friends: I would be honored if you’d click on one of the images below and preview (sans cover) the first two chapters of my upcoming book Sewerville: A Southern Gangster Novel. It’s well-established that the two hallmarks of any “gangster” book are familial relationships and criminal activity, and without question those two themes wind throughout every word of this story.
Sewerville is set in that lonely corner where so many of us were born and raised, just beyond the fingertips of prosperous America. It tells the story of a man trying to break free from a stark and violent world of crime and political corruption, from meth dealers and prescription drug abuse. I set out to write something thought-provoking, compassionate, and honest above all, and my hope is that I’ve fashioned a literary novel for a forgotten corner under siege far too long — something that peers into difficult shadows but ultimately offers a message of hope for those troubled souls we all know too well.
Come the Fall of 2012, Sewerville will be available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book versions, and I look forward to sharing the whole story with you at that time. A few of you have already graciously taken a look at the finished version, and I am forever grateful for your thoughts and criticism. You helped me get to the finish line!
For the rest of you, here… we… go.
Just a reminder: In advance of Sewerville‘s publication, my (unrelated) short story “The Sweet Smell of Pine Needles” is currently available for e-readers on Amazon.com. Get it here. It’s only $0.99, and all proceeds support Powell County (KY) Cops for Kids, a Christmas charity from Back Home.
If you don’t want to front the dollar, you can read it for free at Crack the Spine, an online literary magazine that I highly recommend. “The Sweet Smell of Pine Needles” leads off Issue 38, but there is plenty of other good work there.