Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The all-consuming

Loyal readers may (or may not, as the case may be) have noticed an irregularity and sparsity of blogging from myself of late. This is due to the utter and complete takeover of my every waking moment by the Chicken Ranch project. Didn't see that coming, did you?

Right. So I'm consistently and persistently giving myself bouts of nausea whilst poring through old newspapers on microfilm (you who've done this in the past know of what I speak), tracking down obscure academic journal articles and screaming out in anguish when I discover relevant interviews have long since been destroyed and discarded. Oh, and I'm also beating the bushes for interview subjects and cajoling them to sit down with me for hours at a time for first-hand interviews of my own. Busy doesn't begin to describe it.

I have this paranoia about falling short in this project, producing a book that people say, "It was okay, but it didn't really address X." Everyone knows the general story of the Chicken Ranch thanks to "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," but the play/movie bears as much resemblance to the actual events of 1973 as "Inherit the Wind" does to the original Scopes Monkey Trial. That is, there's a lot of creative license. What's more, with the Chicken Ranch, there's a tremendous amount of folklore and stories about the place that is taken as fact by Texans with little evidence to either prove or disprove said assertions. Try asking Darryl Royal if he took his football team to celebrate at the Chicken Ranch after the Thanksgiving game for close to 20 consecutive years. Try it. I'll wait.

But, by golly, I've made progress. Particularly in the past couple of weeks. The book outline and annotated chapter summary is nearly complete. This is a monumental accomplishment for me, as outlining is not something that comes naturally to me. In this case, there is so much raw information, so many sources, that I simply didn't have a choice. But that's nearly done, and with it, the final, formal, book proposal. This is what I'll be sending to agents to get them to rep me and land a publishing contract for tens of thousands of dollars and solve my financial worries for all time when HBO options said book after a fierce bidding war against Showtime for an ongoing series produced by the same folks that do "Friday Night Lights." That's my plan, and I'm sticking to it.

The one small thing that remains to do is write a sample chapter to include with the proposal. With as sparse a track record as I have--particularly in the realm of historical non-fiction--there's no way around it. Speculative fiction short stories don't equate, and although Voices of Vision gives me some degree of credibility, a collection of reviews isn't quite the same. The sample chapter has been a major concern of mine, because while I have tremendous amounts of research material hoarded, most chapters have significant gaps that need filling in (ie more research) before I can comfortably work on them. Then, last night as I was laying down in bed around 2 a.m. in a futile attempt to get some rest, I had a minor epiphany. I knew which chapter I could write, should write: Chapter 11: Hell To Pay. On reflection, it's the perfect sample chapter, covering the over-the-top events immediately following the closing of the Chicken Ranch which kept the story in the news for another year when otherwise it would've faded into history. The inevitable clash between Sheriff Flournoy and Marvin Zindler is the stuff of legend. I have interview subjects who witnessed it first hand, and helped pick up the pieces afterwards. There are readily available media accounts. There are lawsuits and countersuits. It's generally a well-known story, both through the distorted mirror of the stage play and also through Texas folklore. It doesn't need additional context to work. I get to introduce some new information to the story that isn't necessarily earth-shaking, but still presents a fuller picture of what actually happened. And, to top it off, it's damn funny.

The plan is to hammer out the sample chapter throughout the month of August so that the entire package is ready to be sent out in early September. Allowing for the variances of the U.S. mail and agent negotiations, I expect to be rich by spring.

That's my plan, and I'm sticking to it.

Now Playing: Andean Fusion Sonidos Andios Para el Mundo


  1. Scott Cupp12:59 PM

    Go for it, Jayme!!!

  2. BTW, Scott, it looks like your proposed title will win out. Lisa prefers it as well. Mine may be more poetic and ironic (re: better) but Lisa reminded me most book buyers aren't poetic and search engines don't do irony so well...

  3. When you get the TV series and all that dough, don't forget all us little people you stepped on to get to the top.