Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, August 14, 2006

Bad News Good News

Funny how what seems like bad news at the time often turns out to be good news. My eighteen year-old daughter and her best friend took an end of summer trip to California. Her friend had never been to the ocean, so they went to Monterey, Santa Cruz, Big Basin, San Francisco, and to visit my sister near Yosemite.

Sunday night, about two hours before they were due to arrive home, I received a call from my daughter, telling me that my car (I loaned them mine instead of having them take my daughter’s car) had broken down in Wendover, NV. So, off my wife and I went to pick them up. Now I have to admit that I wasn’t real thrilled about this for a couple of reasons. #1 I’d have to take a day off work to get the car fixed. #2 Wendover is having its annual Speed Days, where racers come from all over to set land speed records on the salt flats, so every hotel was booked solid. Meaning that while my wife drove the girl home, I got to spend the night in my car, so I could get it fixed in the morning. #3 I’d just finished a nice big Sunday dinner and wanted to relax.

But a funny thing happened while I tossed and turned in the front seat of my car last night. I thought about how fortunate it was that they broke down where they did. When the belts came off the car everything basically went out—power steering, alternator, A/C, etc. Had they broken down 15 miles later or earlier they would not have been able to call us from their cell phones. Had they broken down 5 miles later or earlier they might have had to walk or hitch a ride into town. But the belt broke exactly as they were getting off the freeway (although, they didn’t need gas, weren’t hungry, and were anxious to get home), so my daughter—who is not real big—could muscle the car into a nearby fast food parking lot and wait safely for us.

Of course, on the way to pick them up, the back tire blew out on our van. Bad huh? Except it blew out only a few miles from home, so I could get a spare on and borrow my dad’s car to get them.

Then, on the way back from Wendover this morning, the car overheated. I’d just paid $200 to get the tension pulley fixed, and $180 for new tires for the van. I was imagining huge bills for something like a bad water pump. Only it ended up being a $10 part, and all was good as new.

That’s kind of how I feel about my writing career to date. It’s been a constant case of good news bad news. You’re finally published, but the money isn’t what you expected. Your second book is better than your first, but doesn’t sell as well. You get published in HB, but DB won’t carry the HB in their stores so you go back to PB. You get a great national agent for your first horror novel, but the publishers pass on it.

Only the thing is, looking back at my previous writing, if I’d had instant success—meaning a big national publishing deal—it would have been the worst thing that could have happened to me. Even a couple of books ago, I wasn’t ready, either writing wise or marketing wise. I didn’t have the skill to win over a tough national market and I probably would have sat on my rear wondering why I wasn’t selling better.

Am I good enough now to succeed in the national market? I guess the only way I’ll know is to try. And like Sariah was saying, I suspect that I will find I don’t know near as much as I’d think, and am not as prepared as I’d like. Of course I get a little envious when I see other authors succeeding where I have only failed to date. But maybe they aren’t failures at only, only preparation?

Or possibly, (beating Rob to the punch line) I just stink.

Okay, here is a snippet of dialog between Weston (the boy who wants to be a horror writer and his friend.) Warning, I use the words hermaphrodite and homoerotic.

* * *

What I Did on my Summer Vacation
Westin stared at the computer as if, through sheer concentration, he could force more words to appear on the screen. He checked the clock. A quarter to five. Over an hour he’d spent sitting in front of the keyboard and seven words were all he had to show for it. It was an hour he could have spent working on his latest novella about intelligent carnivorous vines invading the dorms of a girls-only school.

He glanced at the bedroom door through which he could hear his mother beginning dinner. His hand slid to the PC’s mouse. It was tempting to click on the file menu and open the other document. But his mother seemed to have a kind of sixth sense about these things. As soon as he started doing something he shouldn’t, she magically appeared. That would actually make a pretty cool story. About a kid whose mom has special powers and can—

“I don’t hear any typing,” his mom called out—proving his point.

“I’m thinking!” he called back—not elaborating on what he was thinking about. He let go of the mouse and placed his fingers over the keyboard.

On my summer vacation I . . .

He searched his mind for something good. Something even Ms. Penhammer couldn’t complain about. But his mind kept returning to the killer vines and what they would do to the snotty class president once she finished tattling on the other girls to the headmaster.

“Come on, concentrate,” he whispered.

On my summer vacation I . . . went out the front door of my house and . . .

He felt as if his mind would explode.

On my summer vacation I . . . went out the front door of my house and . . . it was summer.

He stared at what he’d just written, unable to believe the sentence had actually come from his fingers. This was the end. He’d spent so much time trying to write the crap Ms. Penhammer wanted, that his mind had officially turned into mush. He selected the whole text—including the title—and hit DELETE.

Running his hands through his hair, he despaired of ever being able to get through the school year. Fortunately, he was saved by the ring of the telephone.

He snatched up the receiver. “Hello?”

“Where have you been, loser?” It was Thad Brooks—his best friend—who lived a couple of miles away. “I thought we were gonna—”

“Shhh,” Westin hissed, glancing toward the door. A second later the phone picked up and his mother’s voice came on the line.

“You know you’re not allowed to be on the phone until you get that paper done.”

“It’s Thad. He forgot to write down today’s math homework. I’m just looking it up for him.” He heard his mother sigh, and closed his eyes tightly, praying she wouldn’t stay on the phone.

“You’ve got two minutes,” she said. Westin listened to her return the phone to its cradle, then waited another couple of seconds to make sure she didn’t pick back up.

“Geez, you just about blew it,” he whispered.

“Math problems. That was a good one. How’d you come up with that?”

“A brain the size most men can only dream about.”

“Whatever,” Thad laughed. “Too bad it’s the only big thing you’ve got. If you ever meet a girl maybe you can impress her by whipping out your giant brain. While I, on the other hand, have my name written on wall of the girls’ bathroom, as a man among men.”

“I think you mean a man who likes men,” Weston said, and they both busted up.

“So are we still going out tonight?” Thad asked after they’d finished laughing. “I snagged a couple of my dad’s flashlights. And my sister’s camera in case we actually see him.”

“I can’t. My mom grounded me until I redo my English paper.”

Thad grunted. “I told you Ms. Penhammer wouldn’t like a story about corpses. Even if one of them does fall in love with a live girl. You’re such a dweeb.”




“Homo-what?” Thad asked cackling. “That’s good. I gotta look that one up.”

Weston glanced toward the door. “Listen I have to go. My mom’s pretty ticked.”

“Alright, but I’m going tomorrow after school whether you come or not. Sooner or later he’s going to realize that a tree knocked down part of his fence, and then we’re screwed.”

“I’ll be there.” The phone picked up and Weston hurriedly rattled some papers. “Okay, if you have any problem with number seventy-two just give me a call.”

“Right. ‘cause you’ve got such a big brain.”

“’kay, bye.” Weston hung up the phone on his friend’s giggles, and began hitting random letters on the keyboard. “Writing,” he shouted. “Hear me? I’m writing.”


Post a Comment

<< Home