Tag Archives: shawn inmon

New release: Second Chance Valentines by Shawn Inmon

The e-version of this short story is now available. I did the editing.

What impressed me about the ms on the cold read was Shawn’s ability to generate new characters. Most of his work so far has had an autobiographical lean, and this is neither rare nor necessarily unwelcome–but one day, it comes time to fledge. I see him doing that as he gains confidence in that ability.

My part of the work was relatively modest, because with each new ms I find myself doing a little less surgery. He learns and grows, which some authors do not. We had to work over a few plot issues, seeking to avoid contrivance and create an effective and credible event flow. Those are sometimes hard for editors, or at least for me, because there is a continuum ranging from proofreading (you just look for errors) a full rewriting (few sentences may remain intact, and one may add or remove significant content). The various editing modes fall somewhere between those two, but for me the question is never far away: if I alter the story too much, will it cease to be the author’s story? There is no answer that fits all situations, but the author is the author, and I am the editor, and I have no fundamental yearning to encroach upon the author’s purview.

My usual method is to do a cold read, assess the ms and come up with some feedback and commentary prior to proceeding. There can never be two most current copies of the ms, so Shawn and I refer to it as ‘handing off the football.’ On the cold read, I think it essential to identify story inconsistencies, contrivances, credibility issues, or anything that I think a reviewer would one day pan. I would rather offer the author the opportunity to address those with his or her own ideas, so that the story remains as much his or hers as possible. I’ll offer suggestions if I have any (and I consider it my duty to arrange to have some), discuss ideas back and forth, evaluate ideas the author presents.

It went that way this time. Shawn’s a hardworking author, and was still taking time to work on the ms while he was supposed to be enjoying an idyllic getaway at the coast. I found some stuff that I felt he should rethink, and he did so. I got the football back and went to work, and I believe he accepted most of my edits.

The result is, in my opinion, a deft short story that has Shawn starting to fledge. The experience of reading his work is growing richer, and I foresee that growth continuing as his mastery of the storytelling art increases in breadth and depth. It is a pleasure to work with him and watch him succeed.

So what’s the lesson for aspiring authors? The guy is selling a lot of writing. If you want to do that, there are things you can learn from him.

  1. He isn’t touchy, either during the process or with the public. The gracious, approachable Shawn you see responding to his readership is the same Shawn I deal with. I’ve never had to tell him something sucked, but if it was the only honest way to convey my opinion, I could safely do so. He would ask the right questions: why does it suck, and how should it be fixed? Because if I’m saying that, I had better have some ideas, or I’m not much use. Shawn’s a friend, but this is business, and he’s a client who deserves to be treated like one.
  2. He takes full advantage of every service I’m offering him, which gets him the best value I can offer for his money. I told him to get in touch any time he wanted to discuss anything, from a potential project to a character that isn’t quite clicking. He believed I meant that. I want to help him, and he gives me every opportunity to do that. When you stop to think about it, I’m also helping myself, because my work will be easier later.
  3. Growth. It gets better each time. I may never break him of a few habits, but I have a few of my own I may never break. He incorporates feedback, and I see the results next time around.
  4. Marketing. Your work will not sell itself; that’s only true of endcap auto-sellers, whose series tend to jump the shark after a time. (W.E.B. Griffin, got my eye on you.) I’ve read dozens of excellent books that never sold well. If you think marketing is yucky, and you want to imagine that you can stake it all on your epic writing talent, you’re standing in your own way. Shawn can and will market his work, and that causes more people to buy it. A good product is the beginning; the next step is to bring the product to the attention of people with the power to click ‘Add to Shopping Cart.’

If you commit to those things, your chances leap skyward.

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New release: Christmas Town, by Shawn Inmon

Shawn decided to release two new Christmas-themed short stories this year. Christmas Town is the second.

Now, working with Shawn is a little different than working with most writers. A Falstaffian figure and somewhat of a mad-literary-scientist idea generator, he has a great deal of self-confidence. He also likes marketing, and does it very well. His storytelling skill is catching up to both of those important qualities. It is beginning to feel very much like working with baseball great Bill Veeck–and those who know me very well, and who don’t throw up at the mention of sports, will know what a compliment that is. Like Veeck, Shawn knows that it’s all about the public. Veeck didn’t watch baseball games from box seats or owner’s luxury seats. He used to sit shirtless in the bleachers with the fans who had bought cheap tickets. He would drink beer with them, talk baseball and boo the umpires. If Shawn drank (which he does not), and if he owned a baseball team, I suspect he’d do the same.

As an editor, I tend to evaluate a writer by how s/he reacts when you tell him or her of a serious flaw. The less confident and successful writers aren’t sure whether to cry and give it up, or fire me and seek someone to tell them how great they are in all areas. If I tell Shawn that something just doesn’t work, he fixes it. Sometimes I don’t know how to fix it, but he will figure it out. This is why he is making major strides as an author.

His newest release is a winner because, in addition to a good story, Shawn is developing an excellent sense of the moment–and how to handle it. With every new work, there is more show and less tell. Endings become much more difficult to predict. My job is getting more involved, because most of the low-hanging editorial fruit is going away. The task before me grows more invigorating. With most of Shawn’s books and short stories, my initial feedback is qualified praise. Not this time. Christmas Town came to me with great fundamental merit and no tremendous issues to resolve. I trust I helped a bit in resolving the minor ones, but I had good material to work with. If you have a dollar to spend on a very worthwhile Christmas story, this is an excellent choice.

Newly published: Both Sides Now, by Shawn Inmon with Dawn Inmon

Shawn is the author of the true-life romance Feels Like the First Time, the story of his lost-and-found high school romance. I was his proofreader there, and he asked me to edit the sequel Both Sides Now, available for sale today. This book examines the same events from his sweetheart’s perspective.

When Shawn first contacted me about the project, I thought it had potential, but I also saw him facing some powerful challenges. This was to be Dawn’s story, not his. It should be told in her voice, not his. Shawn is extroverted and given to a lot of superlatives, whereas Dawn is more laconic and introverted, with no tendency to exaggerate. What would jump out at Shawn, Dawn might not notice, and vice versa. Shawn’s basic character runs counter to the gender stereotype of masculine emotional stolidity, so he was well equipped to consider some differences in how she might see the world, but it was still going to be a hard go.

Another challenge for him: pry the details out of Dawn.  Shawn can and will talk one’s ear off (and it’s usually insightful, puckish and entertaining). Dawn isn’t a Vulcan or anything, but she learned in life to keep things inside–if you read the book, as I hope you will, I promise you’ll learn why–so she is not prone to waste words, and unsolicited elaboration does not come naturally to her.

I felt very handicapped by not having met Dawn, and both of them saw the potential value in a meetup, so they graciously invited me to their home. I also felt somewhat of a duty. I’d seen sensitive parts of both their lives close up, yet neither had yet had any chance to size me up in person. Dawn in particular had not; to her, one presumes,  I was this eastern Washington guy Shawn worked with on the first book and his novella. Shawn turned out to be just as advertised: as Falstaffian and fun-loving as one might expect of a fifty-year-old man who still participates in a KISS tribute band and would have to look up the word ’embarrassment.’ Dawn was a lady of relatively few words and a steady gaze. Her natural shyness was easy enough for me to accept, because I’m similar. So, my task: in limited time, sit down on the couch and begin asking my hostess about the events of FLTFT as she remembered them, posing very personal questions of a woman I had just met about some of the most painful and difficult times of her life. No pressure.

That isn’t easy for me, because it’s not my nature to pry even with longtime friends. If all my posts about privacy issues tell you nothing else about me, that would be your one sure takeaway. I had to force myself. This was work, my job; without knowing Dawn’s voice, how could I edit it? So, with Shawn whipping up spaghetti in the kitchen, listening in with an invigorated smile, I began to ask Dawn to tell me about her life. One suspects that watching me gave Shawn some interviewing tips, but I had a natural advantage. I hadn’t been emotionally involved in anything that had occurred, nor had I seen it firsthand, thus I didn’t have my own memories intruding. I had no first-person perspective to break out of. I’d obviously read FLTFT exhaustively, to the last comma and loose space, but that’s not the same as living the story.

When one considers that she was speaking to a stranger about life events of the sort that most people would like to forget, I found Dawn a very calm, candid subject, even brave.  What she was feeling inside, I didn’t know and didn’t ask; maybe I should have, maybe I did rightly not to. I also got an answer to one question I didn’t pose, but that lurked in my mind: would she be shy about having her story printed to stand before the public? Dawnconically: no. I also saw strong hints of how she had gotten through a lot of life’s trials. As I said to Shawn over spaghetti, “there’s steel in there.” What Dawn made of me was difficult to say, though before the visit was done, I saw signs that she’d warmed to me. For the record, Mr. and Mrs. Inmon are wonderfully kind hosts, accommodating without hesitation my need to perform physical therapy exercises which somewhat disrupted their home arrangements. Anyone who gets the chance to hang out with them should take it.

I’d also like to drive a stake through one ill-begotten comment I saw in a couple of reviews. Anyone who imagines that this story is embellished or invented can take it from me: while I didn’t suspect that at all, I was doing my mental due diligence by force of habit. There is no way Dawn could have answered me so readily and frankly about the story without having lived it. Often–and especially when I got a brief reply–I’d ask a quick follow-up question for more details; a deceptive subject trips on those, which is why all police use the technique. Dawn did not trip. The historian in me is satisfied that events in both books are accurate to the best of their recollections and note comparisons.

The resulting ms impressed hell out of me, because my biggest question had been whether Shawn could Dawnninate his writing voice. He could and did. The voice read like the lady I’d interviewed. I had to fix some wordiness (which I think was far more Shawn than Dawn, as ‘wordy’ isn’t how I’d describe her), and I took a few firm stands on what content best fit where. If you read the prologue and find yourself yelling “That’s all I get? Damn you! Now I have to read it!” then I guess you can thank me. Or cuss me a little.

It’s a better book than FLTFT (which was quite good), and I wasn’t even close to the main reason for that. The ms came to me more polished than had the former’s edited version. Shawn Inmon is one of the quickest studies I’ve had the pleasure to work with. If I don’t keep upping my game, I’ll become less useful to him throughout his career, so that pushes me to improve. If you liked Feels Like the First Time, it’s a lock that you’ll like Both Sides Now, and you may well like it better still.

I did. I do.

Newly published: Lucky Man, by Shawn Inmon

My most recent editing project was Shawn Inmon’s spanking new short story, Lucky Man. The Kindle version is available as we speak. While I categorized this with book reviews, that’s just for organizational purposes, since obviously no one can purport to present a review of a book on which he worked.

Upon my initial read, I liked Shawn’s story concept. One thing that really gripes me in fiction is predictability, and the story remained unpredictable all along. Shawn is growing rapidly in the craft of writing, because this is my second go-round with him on a project, and I didn’t have to deal with any of the stuff I caught last time. We were on to new, subtler changes and storyline considerations. Most writers just don’t absorb things as fast. It’s like a baseball coach teaching someone the virtues of opposite-field hitting, and the hitter starts knocking doubles off the opposite field wall. Well, yes, in fact, yes, that will do nicely.

If you don’t have a Kindle, Amazon will happily let you download emulation software for your machine. Thus, if you can read this post, you can read Lucky Man. I think you will find it of value well out of proportion to the $0.99 Shawn wants for it.