The harsh wind whipped through the desolate streets as I walked along the sidewalk, sending chills coursing through my body as it cut through my layers of protection. My shoes crunched the snow beneath my feet with every step I took. My gloved hand grasped the black handle of a briefcase that held my most precious documents. Today was the day when I would face my destiny and become a published author.
I walked into the lobby of Modern Day Publishing and looked around. Every tile and pillar and panel had been painstakingly polished causing the reflected fluorescent light to be blinding. Potted plants were meticulously maintained, trimmed into decorative designs. A young woman, her blond hair framing her face, sat behind an oak desk. She tapped her pen on the desktop and cleared her throat as she stared at me through her gold horn-rimmed glasses. I walked over to her and set my briefcase down.
“Do you have an appointment?” she said, stifling a yawn with a manicured hand.
“David Wiley here to see Mr. Helvetica,” I answered, handing her a business card. She set it aside without glancing at the card and then motioned for me to sit down in one of the luxurious brown leather recliners.
She made no indication of alerting anyone to my presence. Five minutes passed and I stood up, but she motioned for me to sit and reassured me that Mr. Helvetica would see me shortly. Another ten passed and my foot began to fidget, tapping the floor repeatedly. She peered at me from behind her spectacles and shushed me and I begrudgingly complied.
A restless hour was spent in the lobby, waiting as patiently as possible. No one else entered or left the building or any of the offices behind the receptionist’s desk. At long last she stood up and motioned for me to follow her. She pulled open a large mahogany door and I stepped into Mr. Helvetica’s office.
Stacks of loose papers covered his desk, most of them stacked as high as my chest. A paperweight rested atop each pile, marked with either the word “Slush” or “Reject”. A small pile sat in the far corner with a paper weight marked “Accepted”.
The man behind the desk rose to his feet as I approached. His face looked to have been permanently sunburned and his black hair was peppered with streaks of gray. The sleeves of his white shirt left several inches of his forearm exposed as he extended a hand. I shook it and sat down, noting he was completely concealed behind the papers.
“Mr. Wiley,” he said as he shuffled enough papers aside to allow eye contact, “I hear you want to become a published writer.”
“Yes sir,” I said.
“I’ve looked over the samples you sent me from your blog,” he said, frowning with the last word, “And I think you have potential.”
“Thank you,” I said before being cut off by the publisher.
“But there is one major problem with what you are writing: I can’t sell this stuff,” he said, shuffling through some papers. He holds up a printed story and slides it across. “For example, what on earth is this thing?”
I glanced at the story and shook my head. “Don’t you recognize an Omnidirectional Symetricum when you see it?”
“I can’t even pronounce that,” he said with a scowl, “and neither could a reader. This story isn’t marketable, nor is this one about the paradox thingamajig.”
“Problematic Paradox?” I asked and he nodded. “What is the problem with that story?”
“This theory of compoststability or whatever you call it. No one will know what that is.”
“They can Google the Theory of Compossibility, or even look on Wikipedia if they had to,” I said. “It is a real theory about a possible side-effect from time travel.”
“It doesn’t happen to Doctor Who,” he replied, “and people would read a story based on Doctor Who. They won’t read this.” He pulled out another paper and slid it across the desk. “This one won’t do, either.”
“What is wrong with The Unobliging Princess?”
“Don Quixote lost its popularity centuries ago. The old man should be diagnosed with dementia or something and restrained in a nursing home, not parading around on farcical adventures with his grandchildren.
“I need something that people will want to read, like a love story. Those are popular right now.”
“I can write love stories. Did you not read Brief Chance Interaction? Sunrise Revelation? Those have love.”
“Not the kind of love these people want to read about. It needs to either have whips and chains or else humans loving werewolves and vampires. Not this PG garbage.”
“Okay, what about my novel-in-progress, The Curse of Fierabras?”
Mr. Helvetica sighed and shook his head in frustration. “Robert Jordan is dead now, and with him the demand for the epic fantasy book series. They don’t want tales of war and the hero’s journey to overcome evil. Besides, we don’t want something ‘in-progress’. We need a finished product.
“You blogger types go and parade incomplete works in miniature installments and think people are going to want to read it. Well they won’t read it, and if they do they won’t pay for something they have already read.”
I could tell that I was wasting my time with this guy. He had no interest in publishing anything I had written, but had instead brought me in to discredit everything I had labored over. I still had one last story to pitch.”
“Monster Hunter,” I blurted out. I could read in his eyes that I wasn’t going to like his response.
“Who is the main antagonist?” he started in, his face turning a brighter shade of red. “You made her walk away from the dinosaur-”
“Dragon,” I corrected.
“Whatever. You made her leave behind a possible nemesis and head off to find some dinglegang-”
“Whatever,” he said as he slammed his fist on the desk, shifting a multitude of papers in the process. “Not only is there a lack of a major villain, but you also chose to write a strong female lead. People won’t read stories with female leads, especially not in fantasy.
“If you made Ava into a young male knight who was tragically in love with a vampiric princess, I might be able to sell it. What you have here has no chance of being on the New York Times bestseller list, much less the bookshelf of a Barnes and Noble store. You will never make a living as a writer with these.”
I stood up, fists clenched as I looked Mr. Helvetica in the eye and replied, “If my writing isn’t marketable with the stories I enjoy writing, then I don’t want to make a living as a writer. I wake up every day to ideas swirling in my mind and love sitting down to put these stories down on paper.
“I don’t need your stamp of approval, nor a spot on a bestsellers list, to be a writer. I want to be published to allow a greater number of people to read and enjoy them, but if you can’t take them as they are then I will pack up my paradoxes, robots, ogres, heroes, and dragons and take them somewhere else.”
“No one else will-” he cut in but I refused to let him interject his entire thought.
“If no one else will, then I will do it myself. I will remain in my corner of the blogging world, sharing a million stories without being paid a penny. Because I am doing what I love and no sum of money could make me write anything that I don’t enjoy.”
Tonight’s post was courtesy of a writing prompt, as well as inspiration from one of the Ray Bradbury quotes I shared the other day. I tried to have some fun with this, yet at the same time sharing my love for writing. Even if I never “make it” as an author, I still enjoy writing the things I like for this blog. And I hope you enjoy reading some of them, too.
For the Scriptic.org prompt exchange this week, Eric Storch at http://sinistralscribblings.com gave me this prompt: “Don’t you recognize an Omnidirectional Symetricum when you see one?”
I gave Lance at http://lancemyblogcanbeatupyourblog.wordpress.com this prompt: He closed his eyes, hoping to wake up suddenly from this nightmare.