I sat down recently to speak with Christopher Pascale, the author of War Poems: A Marine’s Tour 2003-2008, published by Merriam Press.
Christopher Pascale was 19 when he wrote his first novel manuscript, which was later self-published. He sold, per his estimates, 700 copies.
“The industry is very prejudiced,” he joked, “against books that aren’t very good when written by someone no one has ever heard of."
Over 500 Rejections
By this point, Pascale was 26 with a wife and two children. In 7 years, he had failed to have 2 novels published, as well as 2 books of poetry. Each time he tried he would pitch them to about 100 agents and publishers, making 400 rejections, plus the 125 bookstores that said no when he asked to do a signing.
Then fortune struck. From 2005-2007, Pascale wrote another full-length novel. The next year a businessman in Wilmington, North Carolina said he liked the story and would publish it “…but he went bankrupt in the housing crash.”
Believing this novel was the ticket to his success and independence, it was pitched to everyone as had been done before, and the results were the same. With 600 rejections logged in, he had the book professionally edited, then went over it again, then pitched it again in 2011 – making it now 700 rejections.
“Taking this same book, I did a small market research study, offering $20.00 to anyone who would read it and then fill out a small questionnaire. I had few takers, but incorporated their feedback. Then I pitched it one last time.”
In 2012, while working as an accountant, Pascale decided to start trying to publish whatever he could, wherever he could. He sent hundreds of poems and stories to magazines, websites, and contests. He’s not sure how many were rejected, but the one that was accepted is called “Eulogy,” and can be found on a site called FoliateOak.com.
“It’s not my best work,” Pascale said, “but it’s among my safer ones.”
I forgot to mention, Christopher Pascale is a poet, but he doesn’t sculpt his pieces with gentle caresses, or carve out the intricacies with a scalpel; he smashes them with a variety of hammers. At some points while reading his work, especially the poems “Falling Down” and “Memorial Day,” I felt like a stick of dynamite was thrown in.
It was in 2012 that Pascale compiled the definitive body that is War Poems: A Marine’s Tour 2003-2008. He sent it out to the publishers and agents again.
“I began ghostwriting. Mostly shit work,” he confessed, “for lazy bloggers.”
From the ghostwriting, Pascale stumbled upon a unique look at the world of online writing. It seemed that nothing he wrote was ever fact-checked.
“It started when I was writing a piece on retirement and saw I could legitimately plug my uncle’s book.” Dr. Rob Pascale is Christopher’s uncle, and his book The Retirement Maze was published in 2012. “After I plugged it once, I took a risk and plugged it again. No one noticed, so I kept plugging it every chance I could, even if it didn’t relate to the content. Having gotten away with that, I began testing other things, and eventually just started writing pieces that were absolutely ridiculous.”
Pascale contends that of the roughly 750 pieces he ghosted, maybe 150 of them are false in some way, and some have no truth at all, including information about A-list celebrities. From that experiment he wrote a book about cheating, corruption, and the experiment he did during most of 2014.
“I was reluctant to pitch this book. I considered all the lies I’d pushed onto others (the clients), and then all the blowback I’d get because of the chapter I wrote about the media working on a daily basis to screw everyone out of their valuable time and money.” But something happened, he said. “I heard an interview of John Oliver, the comedian. He was asked if he was afraid to say mean things about dictators, and make fun of them. He said, ‘if you live in America you have free speech,’ and hearing him talk about this, and thinking of everything I intended to expose – including my own sins – I felt ashamed, and knew that I had to try and publish this book.”
But no one was interested.
Exhausted, depressed and still married, but with 4 children now, Pascale considered to stop writing.
“It doesn’t make sense to keep doing something you’re bad at. I couldn’t publish a book in more than ten years, but two semesters into my time at Stony Brook I had gone to the state finals,” [Pascale was part of a team of engineering students that went to the NY State Finals for a technology competition] “while simultaneously getting an MBA in Accounting, receiving a promotion at work, being named CFO of a fairly large non-profit, and working remotely for a company in San Francisco. It should have been enough. But I looked out at the rest of my life, and thought, ‘what the hell am I going to do? Just work?’ Because that’s all those things were – work. I had to publish something. I took the poem Memorial Day and decided that if it couldn’t get published somewhere, anywhere, then it would be impossible for me to publish anything I wrote.”
As mentioned earlier, “Memorial Day” is a poem you read and feel like you just got blasted by a bazooka. In it, Pascale equates being sent to Iraq under false pretenses to being a “willing lover” who is tricked into getting AIDS, which he describes far more graphically than expected. If that wasn’t enough, he calls a troop’s cemetery plot a “pauper’s grave.”
And on this poem, he pinned his hopes, pride, ego, and self-worth as an artist.
But no one wanted it. So he kept trying to get it published. If a website or magazine rejected it, he tried again. If they didn’t respond, he followed up. This piece, his second published work, can be found on the website for Forth Magazine, published in 2015.
And during this time he was also working again to get his compilation of poems published.
“Every publisher and agent said no again. So I went through The Writer’s Market one more time and saw this publisher of military history called Merriam Press. I had gone through basic training with a guy named Merriam who said his family was in publishing (different family) and thought I’d give it a shot. For 15 years, everyone said no. And then Ray Merriam said yes.”
As a reader, I am grateful thay Christopher found Ray Merriam. In my opinion Christopher Pascale is a good writer and I hope that War Poems will be read for years to come.
Another 1,000 Rejections?
Pascale’s next books are a novel that is not military in theme, and a collection of true stories from his life, much like those of the diarist David Sedaris, and Fratire writer Tucker Max.
“When they are complete, I’ll send them to Ray Merriam first,” he said, “but they are likely too far outside his interests.”
I asked him if he’d be willing to go through another 15 years before publishing another book.
He said, “If that’s what it takes."
In the interim, he’s still taking heavy hits of rejection. On March 9, 2017, he had a piece published in the Journal of Accountancy’s “Tax Advisor” section. Since then, he’s written 2 other technical pieces he feels are too important to go unpublished, and they have been rejected by dozens of law, accounting, and business journals. He clarified that he’d have had more rejections, but publications like The Harvard Law Review and The Houston Business and Tax Law Journal request exclusive access to the pieces submitted for a minimum of 2 weeks.
“But I believe in this work, and it’s important to me," he said.
Now Christopher Pascale gives his book for free. Click here for a FREE Copy PDF of War Poems
But you can still support by purchasing the book on Amazon.com