I have been participating in the beta version of a website called Authonomy. It was created by the publisher Harper Collins UK and its aim is to give aspiring writers a place to put their work out in front of God and Everybody in the hope that at least one Person of Consequence in the Business will take notice. There are lots of places on the good ol' internet for writers to post their stuff, but with the exception of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award fiasco (Grand Prize: publishing contract with Penguin) that played out to what I think most savvy observers would say was a fairly unsatisfactory conclusion a few months ago, Authonomy is the first effort of this kind to be the brainchild of a major player in the industry. So naturally it has attracted a lot of attention from people who are afflicted with the belief the good Lord put them on the Earth to WRITE. And make a buck or two along the way. People like me.
Like I said, Authonomy is in the beta stage, which means participation at this time is limited to invitees. So what we are seeing now is a bunch of work--mostly partial manuscripts (the whole of Boomerang is there)--being posted, authors reading other authors' stuff, notes being passed back and forth (mostly complimentary, but a few with an instructional tone, leavened with patient tolerance), and a fair bit of jockeying for position at a gate that hasn't yet really been created or even defined. When or if the non-competing Readers and especially the Editors and Agents are going to show up is a question that hangs over the whole proceeding, but for now there is mostly hope.
This morning, when I logged onto the site I saw that after a drought of several days a comment had been left about my entry. Splendid. I clicked it on to the screen and read. It was from a fellow whose work I had complimented a while ago and I was fully expecting gushing reciprocation. For the most part I was not disappointed. He seemed to like my work but there was a word that niggled. Why, he wondered, did I choose the word "cowpie" to describe a problem that had just been handed to a senior official in the United States Intelligence community? Surely a stronger, more contemporary word or phrase would be better suited. "Shit" or one of its many derivatives, perhaps. That would be more real, ring more true.
Perhaps, but in Boomerang--which is the new version of my self-published book Close Enough for Government Work, still available from any reputable bookseller and a practically guaranteed collector's item!--I am not aiming for Real. The characters are all human, the places do exist, the situation has at least as much likelihood of happening as many of the scenarios today's popular thrillers like to use to scare the s_ _ _ out of us. But I am not aiming for real, or gritty, or Ripped From the Headlines. The world of Boomerang is just a little different. And that could be where I lose some readers, shame on me. Give them Mr. Pratchett's Discworld (a concept born of absolute genius) and they know the rules can bend just a bit. Give them a story that has dwarves or space aliens or talking bunny rabbits and the expectation will be that one can deviate a bit from the Everyday. But make your characters' playgrounds Washington D.C., San Francisco, Martha's Vineyard and my hometown of Mesa, Arizona, and put it in the present day and you will encounter readers who will put it to you in all sincerity that "cowpie" just doesn't fit.
I cannot argue with them. All I can say is Welcome to My World. I hope you enjoy. But it is my world and in it grown men use the word "cowpie". Perhaps one of these days I will find a world with dragons in it. If I do I have every reason to suspect that the grown men who inhabit the place will say "dragonpie". Their creator will make them that way and they won't be able to help themselves.
Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.