Tuesday, April 10, 2007

creator of buddy don: The Author Is Back

Hello. I'm the author of this mess, the creator of buddy don and everything he makes up. I created "him" so I could practice his dialect well enough to write a novel. It turned into three or more of them, and there is a long way to go before I get to the last chapter, which I've already written.

In the meantime, what has already been written can be broken down into three distinct novels. Last night I had a dream that has led me to try something that has frustrated me all of my life. I'll get to that in a minute. First to the dream.

Unlike many of the dreams I've had since I began taking Depakote for migraines back in October, this one was a good dream, the opposite of a nightmare. In the dream, I was hiking in the Smoky Mountains with Luther Vandross and Tom Waits. Odd company, I know. During the hike, Luther got way ahead of Tom and me.

I took the opportunity to tell him how much The Heart of Saturday Night had meant to me, which led him to ask me why I had never published anything. He said he'd admired my work and considered me a "pure artist" for not marketing my work, but he pointed out that the result was that I'd died without sharing it with the world. There was more to the dream, but when I awoke, I realized I had been dead in the dream and his words rang in my ears (as did the title song of that great album).

So this morning, I decided it was time to write the hardest thing I know of, a query letter. It should be a little easier for me since the agent I'm writing to is a good friend of "miz bd," but for some reason, marketing my work has been the most disagreeable task I know. But I made myself write one and hope that I continue doing so until I find a publisher.

So here, with the identities "redacted" (indicated by square brackets: []) is the query letter I wrote:
Hi [],

I’m []’s husband []. She’s been urging me to write you regarding a novel I’ve written.

Shoot the Devil is the first part of the “life n pinions of buddy don, hillbilly.” It opens in 1970 as Buddy Don Duncan drops out of his east Tennessee high school and runs away to California. His purpose is to avoid repeating his father’s life, but he soon finds himself back in Tennessee, married to the first girl he’d ever kissed, and living the very life he’d hoped to escape. By the novel’s end, he has divorced, survived his own suicide attempt, confronted many of his and his generation’s demons, and begun understanding how hard his task really is.

One of the things that makes this novel different and fun is that it’s rendered entirely in “hillbilly” dialect. This causes the reader to hear the music of the language and duplicates the story-telling methods my elders used when telling stories after dinner in the hills of east Tennessee. A couple of paragraphs will demonstrate best what I mean (and warn you of what you’d be getting into should you be so kind as to read a sample of the novel):
we made it to texarkana by nex mornin. by then id made friens with sum of them other folk on the bus, n one verr frienly feller bought me a cup of coffee. twuz the furst id ever drunk n i wuz so grateful i dint think to ask fer innythang in it. been a'drankin my coffee black ever since.

i calld mama with my last 80 cents n she cried n wunderd why n all, but twuz the way the worl wurks n she knew it deep down inside so she never yellt nor sed inny discurgin wurds tho she did wunder wuther id stole the moon pies, witch funny thang wuz, i wuz tempted to lie bout it, but i cum clean n had to listn to how that mint my bruthers n sisters wood have to do without n bout then my money run out so the conversayshun ended without us a'sayin good bye n all or even i luv you.
As for me, I’ve been writing as a “writer” since I wrote a poem almost by accident at age eleven. That started a life-long habit that has led to only one “success,” assuming you measure success by publication or production: a play I wrote, [], was produced as a one-act comedy twice and as a musical twelve times, including two off-off Broadway productions.

I have experimented with almost every form (poems, stories, plays, screenplays, songs, essays, and forty years of a journal). The one form I seem to stumble over is the query letter. Though I have completed several novels, when it comes time to write a query letter to sell one, I turn to writing the next chapter instead.

I hope you will allow me to send you a larger sample of the novel, whether in printed or electronic form. I understand from [] that this is not the kind of work you normally handle, but I hope you might be able to steer me to an agent who would be willing to take a chance on it.

Thank you for your time,

(ifn ye wonta make a comment, ye gut to click on 'link' below.)


red molly said...

Wow! This is very exciting, buddy don, very exciting. I just know your book will be published. You are a very talented writer and an amazing storyteller.

Buck said...

It is going to be great to one day be able to say that I was reading Buddy Don long before the rest of the world was.

Keep us posted.

Anne Johnson said...

I have walked this lonesome highway and actually got responses from some agents who didn't know me (and still don't). I have some suggestions for your letter. Can you paste a copy in an email to me? In the meantime, I'll send you a copy of the query letter I sent out that got nibbles aplenty, but no one wanted to move on to the main course.

Tennessee Jed said...

Bravo! I am very excited for you. Your dream buddies were right it does need to be out there for the world to sample. You will have an ISBN number for the books soon, now you will need to start thinking about the screenplay and actors who would best fit the buddy don!

Anonymous said...

... good luck, Hillbilly.... your work is wonderful......

... and as for Tom Waits, I hope that you mentioned how much I enjoy his music as well...