Let It Go

I’m gonna take a break from what I’ve been working on to work through some baggage. And much like a lunatic in an airport, I’m gonna dump it all out on the floor in public. So here we go.

I don’t know what my life is going to look like in two weeks. I’m probably going to need a lot of distractions as I ignore my depression until it recedes to a manageable level.

Everything is changing. I’m moving, and while that may not seem earth shattering, for me it feels like it is. I’m moving away from what I thought my life would be. Away from some of the people I thought would be in it. Away from the dream I used to have. The hopes I used to harbor.

I’m officially going to be a single dad. I’m not going to see my boy every day. I’ll see him a lot, sure, but it’s never going to be the same again. It feels like the only person who has loved me every day is only going to be in my life half of the time. That scares me. That makes me sad. It hurts me.

Moving represents so much this time. Two years ago, I was moving into a family. I had people I loved around me, a baby on the way…life seemed beautiful. But somewhere along the way, things soured. I tried to hold everything together. I tried to find the problem and fix it. But there was no problem. There was only this…chasm…between me and the life I wanted.

I feel like I failed. I failed the person I loved because I was not…something. Whatever it was I was supposed to be, I wasn’t that. I failed my son, who now has to grow up in a broken home. Not the worst thing in the world, necessarily, but so much more difficult than it could have been. And I failed myself. I had everything lined up, everything ready, I was almost there…and it crumbled. I don’t know why. I can’t find a reason. It just did. And I pissed away my chance at being happy in that way.

I feel like the moment I move out of this house, my life is over. I will never be me again. Not that I’m me now. I’ve been spent. I’ve used up all I was to just get here. I bet it all on this place, on these people, on me…and I made a bad bet. Every ounce, squandered.

I feel like it’s over after this. My heart feels stopped up. Frozen in time. Stuck in that moment where it all came crashing down. Hoping for change. Wishing for reversal. Knowing that this is my new normal. Realizing it’s just me and my boy from now on. And when he’s not home…it’s just me.

I haven’t felt this alone in a while.

In context, it’s been eight months. Eight months ago, everything changed. And I still can’t deal with it. I can’t let it go. I can’t let her go.

I want to live my life. I want to be normal. I want to be happy. I want to move on. But I’m stuck. And I don’t know how to fix it.

It’s not even just the person I can’t move past; it’s the idea of being happy. I feel like I won’t ever be happy again. I laugh all the time, but I’m not happy. I wanted to love someone, and have a family, and fight over stupid stuff, and apologize at the same time, and watch my son grow up, and go to bed each night knowing that I would see everyone I loved most in the world when I opened my eyes again…

But that’s not how this story goes. And I have a lot of trouble letting that go.

But I have to. If I don’t, I’ll fester even more. I’ll become toxic. I have my toxic moments; I think everyone does. But if I don’t find a way to heal, and fast, I’m going to be toxic all the time.

Honestly…moving will probably do me some good, in that regard. Getting away from the memories and all that will probably help. But I’m afraid of what happens if it doesn’t.

I don’t have a hopeful image of my future anymore. I see a fat, unhappy, single dad who can’t get past his past, and who misses so much of his present.

Cuz let’s be real, that’s the real consequence. I’m so caught up in my sadness, I’m going to blink, and my son will be moving out on his own.

I’m going to miss it. Whatever life is ahead of me, I’m going to miss it. Because it’s there. There’s probably not a love interest for the rest of this journey, and that’s fine, but there is a life.

I don’t want to miss it.

I want to be better, so I can see it. I want to see my son grow up in person, and remember it when he’s older. That’s all I have left.

I can’t miss it. I can’t let it slip. I need to be there for him, and therefore, I need to find a way to be there for myself. No one else can do this for me. No one can really help me at all. Listening, agreeing, giving advice, and whatever else people do…it’s all hollow. It does absolutely nothing.

I have to let go.

I have to move on.

I have to be someone new. I need to shed this skin and grow into my new one. I am like a hermit crab. I am moving from one home to the next. This one has become to confining, and I need room to grow. Space to think. Time to heal. Distance to forget.

I need to forget how I feel. I need to forget that it hurts. I need to forget that everything I wanted is gone. I need to forget those things…until they are not true anymore.

Letting go is a curious thing. It is not a one time event. You have to let go every day. Sometimes multiple times a day. Because it’s so easy to pick that thing back up.

I’m letting go. Tomorrow, I’ll still be letting go. I’m hoping I can let go enough days in a row to not feel the need to reach down and pick it back up again anymore.

So…yeah. There. I said it.

Chapter Five: Contracts and Cannibals

I printed up and signed the contract, mailing it off the next morning, just like I had told Jake. I emailed Marisela, letting her know the contract was in the mail. She responded later that day, saying she was excited to start working with me and that big things were in our future.

A week later, I got an email requesting a few small edits before the manuscript was shopped around to the major publishing houses. It was just some polishing work, with grammar and punctuation being the primary focus. The body of the work was left alone. I should nor have been surprised, but I still was.

Not long after that, I was standing on my patio with a cup of coffee, trying to come up with a witty ending to the article I was working on, when my phone started buzzing. I pulled it out of my pocket, rather confused; my phone didn’t ring very often.

It was Marisela.

“Hey, I would have emailed you, but I was too excited to wait for your response. We have an offer on the table.”

I blinked. That was the moment it became real. Not when I finished the manuscript or when I got the agent. It was when a publishing house decided to commit to the project, to me, that it became real to me.

“Really? W-who is it?”

“Harper Impulse. The Romance branch of Harper Collins.”

“That’s…that’s huge.”

“They’re one of the biggest. And one of the best.”

“What’s their offer?”

“Pretty standard, for the most part. 35% royalties, full edits, press tour, the works. The bonus stuff they’ve put in is all good, though. A few tv interviews, including one with Ellen, and one with Wendy. Oh, and the advance is really nice, too.”

“How much is the advance?”

“$25,000. about ten grand more than average. From my estimates, they are expecting you to be a pretty decent hit; somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 copies in your first year. You’ve got NYT best seller potential with those numbers.”

I almost dropped my phone. twenty-five grand. Holy cow. That was more than just a big break for me. That was life changing. That was more than half a year’s pay.

I must have gone silent for longer than I thought, because as I imagined myself swimming in Scrooge McDuck’s vault of gold coins, Marisela’s voice came over the phone again, bringing me back down to earth.

“Uh…Dave? You still there?”

“Oh, uh, yeah, yeah.” I cleared my throat. “Sorry. That just caught me by surprise.”

She laughed.

“I’m guessing that means you want me to send you a copy of the contract to sign?”

“Oh, definitely. I mean…it would be stupid not to…right?”

Marisela sighed.

“Okay. Well, professionally, I’m conditioned to tell you to negotiate this, to counter offer and see if they bite. The upside is that you might get more money. The downside is that they could rescind their offer altogether. Personally, I think you should sign the contract that’s on the table. It’s a big enough advance that it tips their hand a bit. They know you’ll be successful, but they aren’t expecting windfall. They have their eyes set on pushing for the best seller lists, but it’s doubtful they are looking at film or tv for this. So this is likely to be the best offer you’ll get. If our roles were reversed, I would take it. But, obviously, if you want to counter offer, that’s your call.”

I nodded to myself.

“Yeah, I want to sign. Send over the contract, and I’ll fill it out right away.”

“Will do. Keep an eye on your inbox. I’ll forward it to you in a minute or two.”

So that was…cool. More than cool, obviously. But cool was how I was feeling. I shuddered. An old timey ship captain’s voice was echoing in my mind.

“There’s a change a-brewin’ on these winds, laddie. Changes come, indeed.”

I chuckled, and turned my eyes back to my desk. My copy of my book sat opened to the middle, heavily marked in red pen.

I’m guessing you want to know what was on page 163…

He smiled down at me, as he covered my bare chest on bleu cheese dressing.

“Pleasures grow exponentially when you combine them with other pleasures. Just as I hunger for your body, to consume you, I also hunger for…these chicken wings.”

He reached over to the nearby coffee table and grabbed a plate of boneless buffalo wings thatI had not seen and, even more surprising, had not smelled when we began. My stomach growled. I was starving. I hadn’t eaten in, like, an hour. And since my metabolism ran like a fine tuned machine and I was boning like it was my job today, I needed to replenish my energy. I reached up to grab one off the plate, and he pulled them away, frowning at me.

“These are mine. If you were hungry, you should have brought your own.”

He dipped the first one into the dressing he had poured on my body, savoring tit like a delectable chocolate.

“Mmmm…like I said, combining pleasures is delightful. So much better with a boner.”

“Do you always get boneless wings?”

“Oh, yes. Why?”

“I don’t know. I was just wondering. Aren’t they basically just chicken nuggets?”

“No, they are wings. boneless wings. It says so on the menu.”

“But…they aren’t shaped like wings. They aren’t made from wing meat. They are just chunks of breaded chicken. So…….chicken nuggets.”

“That’s…that’s not…there’s…they…” he sighed, unsure of how to continue.

“Fine. Maybe they are chicken nuggets. But they are chicken nuggets for pleasure seeking adults such as myself, and you can’t take that away from me!”

“I wasn’t trying to; I was just making an observation. I thought we were having a conversation. Geez.”

He shook his head. 

“I’ve heard enough from you. The time has come. Get in the pot.”

“What pot?”

“The giant pot that’s been in the corner this whole time.”

I looked over to where he pointed, confused and surprised.

“You really are not very observant. You didn’t notice the wings, you didn’t notice the bubbling cauldron, and you didn’t notice that¬† I was dicing up carrots, onions, and celery the entire time you were talking about the difference between wings and nuggets.”

“Hey! Were you listening to my private inner monologue?! That’s an invasion of privacy!”

Perhaps; but still, it is time to get in the pot. I am still very hungry, and you are on the menu tonight.”

I walked over to the cauldron and climbed inside.

“So, you’re a cannibal then?”

“Indeed I am,” he said.

“How does that work? Are you born craving human meat, or are you raised by other cannibals, or…how…how does that work, exactly?”

As I rubbed carrots and onions on my body, still covered in bleu cheese dressing inside the giant pot, the door burst open as he was mid-sentence, as my other lovers burst into the room, as if on command, as if my rescue were planned, as if it were timed, as if…the cannibal had been set up…

 

Chapter Four: Read it to Me Slow

“You’re joking.” I could practically hear Jake shaking his head incredulously through the phone.

“Swear to god. Twenty of them. I settled on one, obviously, but I felt like I should lead with that information.”
“I hate to say I told you so…ah, who the hell am I kidding. That’s my favorite thing. I. Told. You. So.”

I sighed as he laughed. I had made a big swing on this bet, and I had lost spectacularly. I would be hearing about this moment from him when we were eighty. He finished giggling.

“So, what’s the offer?”

I scanned the email once again, even though I had read it so many times by now I had it memorized. “From what I see, and what I’ve read online from other authors, it’s a pretty standard contract. The agent and the agency get their commission from net sales, I don’t pay out of pocket, and if they don’t find a publisher within a certain amount of time, I can shop the project elsewhere with thirty days notice.”

“Cool, cool. So, I have one burning question. Well, technically, it’s two questions. You said that you have to send in sample pages for most of those queries, right?”

“Yeah…”

“I gotta know: what did you use for your sample?”

“Stuff from the beginning.”

“No, no, no. I need to know, verbatim, what it is that hooked twenty different agents on this project.”

“Ugh. You just want me to read to you again.”

“That is definitely a plus. Hearing you awkwardly read sex scenes out loud has brought me a level of joy I did not think I could reach in this life.”

“Fine. Give me a second to pull up the email.” I scrolled until I found the original message. “Here goes.”

“Steve slid closer to me, his arm just barely touching mine. The hair on our forearms intertwined as if it knew our bodies would be joining later.

“‘I hope you don’t mind me being forward, Anne, but…as a special agent spy masterclass four elite general, I travel all over the world. I meet lots of women, but…none…of them…are quite as…intoxicating as you.’

“I felt myself blush on all four cheeks. My heart beat faster, as if it wanted to reach out of my chest and touch him. Every cell in my body wanted to touch him, for him to touch me, for me to touch him while he touched me. But we had only known each other five and a half minutes. I knew, because there was a clock on the wall across from me. Unless it was broken. But then it wouldn’t change at all. In fact, it was a digital clock. When digital clocks are broken, do they even show numbers? Or do they just constantly blink at midnight?

“Regardless of what kind of clock it was, it led me to believe that we had not known each other long, and that I had to play this slow. I couldn’t give into my body right away. He may have been a super special agent spy masterclass four elite general ranger, but…what if he said ‘irregardless’ or didn’t recycle? I could not forgive myself if I opened my bosom and my lady happy place to a man who frowned at babies. I needed to be sure I could trust him.

“‘Steve, if that’s even your real name, take me! Take me now!'”

“I ripped open my shirt, buttons flying everywhere. One hit Steve in the eye. He began to sob uncontrollably.

“Why would you hurt me like that?!”

“It was an accident, my love! I promise! I would never hurt you! Unless that was what you were into, and you told me you wanted me to! Then I would hurt you as much as you wanted, because we are on our way to Paris, and who am I to judge how someone wants to be loved in the city of love?”

“He continued to sob, and I held him. His vulnerability stirred something deep inside me. Very deep. So, so, so, so, so very deep. It sent shivers down my legs. I knelt down and untied his shoes. Then I pulled off his socks. I looked up, with every ounce of sultriness I could muster and locked eyes with him.

“‘This is where our night begins. Don’t cry anymore. Or do. That actually turned me on a lot. I’ve never felt like a tough guy until just now, so on second thought, keep crying while I take off your clothes. Then I’ll give you a reason to cry.”‘

Jake laughed until he was out of breath.

“I gotta give it to you, buddy. You got picked up by an agent for that? Holy cow. That is atrocious. Are you sure they don’t think it’s a comedy?”

“I don’t know, man. Honestly, at this point, I don’t think I care. They are the first people to pay me for a novel, so I’m coming around to the idea of making some dough off of this before it’s all said and done. I still don’t want this to be what I’m known for, by any means, but if this helps launch my career into novel writing, I suppose I can kiss your ass for a while and tell you that you were right. It’s a small price to pay. Relatively.”

Jake snorted. “I guess. Still…that’s incredible. That’s really what you sent them? Like, all of them?”

“Every one.”

“Geez. That’s something. So…when do you pull the trigger?”

“I’m thinking I’ll sign the contract tonight, mail it in the morning, and email Marisela when I wake up with my decision.”

“Cool beans, man. All jokes aside, congratulations.”

“Thanks, buddy. Maybe this time next year, we can celebrate me finding an agent for a book I’m actually proud of.”

“Shoot, Dave, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if this is as popular with the public as it has been with the agents, you’re gonna have to find some pride for this here smut.”

I took a long, slow breath. Dammit, dammit, dammit. He was right. Again.

Chapter Three: Sense of Agency

Like I said before, the querying process is emotionally and mentally taxing. You write up your best hook for the story, try to find some way to bond with the agent you are submitting to, and you tack on a few sample pages from your work, and you email it out. In order to get it juuuuuust right, each one of those emails can take twenty to thirty minutes.

Typically speaking, I do my querying in spurts or rounds. I send out ten or twenty over the course of a week, and then sit back and wait for the inevitable rejections, then start back up a few weeks later when everyone has passed on the project. That’s what I planned on doing with this novel. I’d sent out a few extra queries, around 30 in total, for that first round. I never intended to send out a second round. I was trying to make a point, after all. I took it seriously enough during the querying process, picking out agents and agencies specifically geared towards what I had written. I was afraid if I didn’t do this right, I might get blackballed for the rest of my work. You know, because THAT was doing so well.

There’s no twist here. You all know how this story ends. I was sitting there, smug in my certainty that this manuscript was going to tank, and it would be something I would take out at parties and read to my friends so they could laugh at its outrageous nature. But then…then, my inbox started filling up.

After about ten days, the emails started coming back. The first was a rejection. The next five were requests for full-manuscript submission. When an agent asks for a full manuscript, you hooked them. Most agents, or so I’m told, know if they are going to represent you from reading the query. They ask for the full project just to be sure, but there’s an eighty percent chance you’re going to the negotiation phase.

Five requests for full manuscripts. Then a day later, three more. Two days later, six more requests. I just about pissed my pants. I sent out the manuscripts, letting each agent know that there were multiple people looking at the project.

The return emails came in twice as fast as the manuscript requests. Agents offering contracts, telling me they were the perfect people for the job of representing me, that I had a gold mine on my hands. I was suddenly in over my head. I’d never had an agent even wink at me, but now I had to choose between twenty different ones clamoring at my door. My phone was ringing nonstop. My inbox was full of agents offering me their very best. I had no idea what I was supposed to be looking for. I’d never gotten this far before…

I could not believe this was the project that was getting attention from agencies. It astounded me. I suddenly was unsure if I even understood what a bad romance novel would look like. Was I a secret genius? On top of that, was I such a secret genius that even when I tried to make something terrible, I spun gold onto the page?

I looked over to the copy of the manuscript I had printed at the library. I always like to have a physical copy of my work lying around. Since I had never published anything before, it was probably a way of compensating. I squinted at it, trying to imagine what anyone saw in that pile of nonsense. I picked it up and flipped it open somewhere in the middle.

“‘Banitu, I don’t care! I don’t care, can’t you see that? I love you for you! Just like I love Orphlegle, and Maekitoshi, and Slarf, and Ackackack, and Faribon…and Steve! I love you all for who you are on the inside! I don’t care about the other stuff.”

The seven foot tall robot turned away from her in shame. If he could have cried, he would. But his designers knew better than to design a giant circuit board with the ability to feel emotions AND to soak itself in tears.

“No…no, NO! No, Anne, can’t you see? My erectile dysfunction means we can never be as close as I want us to be…AS I NEED US TO BE! Go on, find some other robotic man to love. One better suited to fulfill your desires than I. I cannot engage in carnal activities. My makers, in their cruel sense of poetry, programmed me to love, to be in love, but never…to make love. My bones are made of steel, but there is one bone that will never be hard enough to satisfy you.”

Anne violently shook her head. “You listen to me, you big, dumb oaf. If it means that much to you, we’ll find a programmer who can give you a boner. Hell, we’ll find a programmer who can make you hard all the time. Even when you don’t want to be.”

Banitu smiled a sad smile. “That sounds terrible. I don’t think I would like that at all. But even though you’ve told me you don’t need a physical relationship with me…I think that would make you happy. If you say it can be done, let’s go. Do you know any programmers?”

“No; do you?”

“No. Well, I guess there’s no hope, then.”

I guess not. Goodbye, Banitu. I’m sorry, but now that there really is no hope of us fixing your penis, I am afraid I don’t love you anymore. My love octagon is now…just a love polygon.”

“Heptagon,” the robot whispered. “You are now a love heptagon, and I…I am…leaving.”

I put the page down. It was absolute bull. This. THIS is what people wanted from me all along? God, I hated people right then. But after a few minutes of stewing on the stupid irony of it all, the call of the royalties and that elusive title of “published author” beckoned me back towards my laptop.

I scrolled through the emails from agents. I carefully went over what each one was offering, and looked up what they had represented before. By the time the sun set that evening, I had made a decision and responded to an agent named Marisela. She had been an agent for nearly ten years, and apparently had represented some rather successful works along the way. And not just romance stuff, either. She represented stuff in the other genres I wrote in, too. I crossed my fingers and hoped that if she picked up this project, maybe she would pick up one of my other novels down the line.

I sent her the full manuscript for consideration. It only took her two days to confirm that she would take on the project, and with that, she emailed me a copy of a contract. She told me to take a few days to look it over, and to let her know when I made my decision. I had obviously already made up my mind, but I didn’t want to seem too desperate. I also appreciated the time to look over the contract. I didn’t think an Association certified agent would try to screw me over, and even if she was, I wouldn’t know what to look for, but I would still feel better after I looked it over.

It occurred to me that I hadn’t told Jake about any of the recent developments. I was excited, kind of, to tell him I was about to be published, but…hot damn, it burned me knowing I was going to have to admit he was right. Jake was absolutely insufferable when he was right. When we were in college, he told me I couldn’t pull off a mustache. Three weeks later, I was arrested for fitting the description of a guy who robbed a liquor store two towns over. The description? White guy, creepy mustache. Yeah, Jake still never let me live it down. The bastard brought it up a few days ago. But I’m getting off topic…

 

Chapter Two: Backfired Wager

I spent the next few days setting my outline. Boring stuff for anyone but me. I was tickled pink by the sheer absurdity of the entire tale I was weaving. Whenever I would get stuck, I would think of something absolutely bonkers to pull me back into it. Was there a lull in the romance? I’d add another love interest. Was there a lull in the action? I’d write up an intergalactic incident. By the end of my outline phase, I had the most convoluted, illogical, space-odyssey-on-a-train story that could ever be told. I was excited to get down to the actual writing.

I have a habit of hiding myself away when I really get into a project. I write as a freelancer for a few different websites, so I’m able to do most of my work from home. Even though I wasn’t able to get my novels published, I was still able to make myself a decent living my doing work for a review site and a couple pop-culture sites. As long as I wrote sixteen articles a week, I was usually fine. And since it generally only took me about an hour to write each article, I could crank out a few more than that each week. But that also gave me the freedom to pour myself into my personal stuff, since even during a busy week, I had a lot of free time. I decided I was going to average twenty articles a week, and I was going to put in twenty pages of “10:45 to Paris” per day.

Basically, I would be writing articles from the time I poured my first cup of coffee in the morning until just before lunch. I would stop for lunch, relax for a bit, then get back to my desk. I would put on the cheesiest, sexiest music I could find to set the mood, and I would spend the next five or six hours plugging away at this abomination of word sludge. As soon as I got into the actual writing process, I kind of started seeing it as a comedy piece rather than a romance novel. I got super into it, and it became my passion for a few weeks.

I didn’t go out for drinks, I barely saw my friends, I didn’t play video games. I was totally consumed by this crazy book. There were a lot of nights I would even eat dinner and go back to writing until I went to bed. I was averaging nearly seven or eight hours a day on it, and my progress showed it. Normally, it takes me two or three months to finish a novel. I had the first draft of that bad boy wrapped up in three and a half weeks.

It was during my first round of edits and rewrites that Jake called to check in on me.

“Dave. Buddy. You alive out there, man?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m good. I’ve just been busy writing for the last few weeks.”

“I figured you were down the rabbit hole; I was just starting to worry, since it’s been a while since you’ve dropped off the map for so long. So, how is your bestseller coming along?”

“It’s finished.”

Jake choked on the other end of the line. “W-whAT?! What do you mean finished?”

I laughed. “I’m done. I’m editing right now. That’s what I was doing when you called me.”

“No kidding, huh? Well, how did it turn out?”

“It’s amazing. and by ‘amazing,’ I mean it’s absolutely terrible. There is an alien invasion at one point. And after a really steamy intergalactic arrest, a super spy is taken off in to Florbian custody for war crimes under the Andromeda Accords.”

“Wait…I thought you were writing a romance novel?”

“I did.”

“Then how…how does…where the hell does all that stuff come into play?”

Guess you’ll just have to read it to find out,” I chuckled.

“I’ll be damned. You’ve got me hooked. This is going to be the very first, and hopefully last, romance novel I ever read.”

“Glad to be of service.”

“Now: how about you read me an excerpt.”

“Why? It’s awful.”

“Because I want something to whet my whistle. To keep me interested until you get published.”

“Okay, I guess that makes sense. Um…should I start at the beginning?”

“Oh, no,” Jake said emphatically. “Open it to a random page and read from there.”

I scrolled through the manuscript, stopping at a random spot. The page started on a new sentence, conveniently.

“She gasped exuberantly as the Florbian drew it’s two tongues up her leg. Starting at the inside of her knee and slowly tasting her inner thigh. Her legs shook, and her shoulders quivered. She didn’t even know that shoulders could quiver. They seem so stationary and unquiverable. It was strange, but she liked it. Just as the Florbian’s tongue reached the space where her thighs met, the door to the traincar flew open.

“‘Halt your progress, criminal! You would dare defile this woman?! Disrespect her?! You know the law states that no female is to approach orgasm with less than four tongues on her body, and two members pleasuring her. If you wish to avoid forty years locked in the frozen doushlags, you will allow me to join you.”

Jake was silent on the phone for a second after I finished. He cleared his throat.

“That’s, uh…Is the whole book like that?”

Every damn word.”

“I mean, it’s definitely weird. But…it’s not half bad, man. I know you think this is a joke, but, dude…you might really have some success on your hands.”

“Ha. Yeah right.”

“I’m serious! Hurry up with those edits of yours and get to querying. I want every waking second of your life to revolve around becoming a millionaire smut writer.”

“I don’t know if I could live if that happened.”

“Oh, you’ll live. And when it does happen, I better see a cut of your royalties.”

“Sure, Jake. Hell, I’ll buy you a new car with my big, fat advance.”

“I accept. It’s gotta be within two years old for the deal to be valid.”

“Hey, I said NEW car, didn’t I?”

Jake laughed, and we hung up. I sat back down in front of my computer. Now the difficult part began. Editing is mind numbing, and querying is a harrowing process. Trying to get people you know to watch a tv show is hard enough. Emailing strangers and trying to get them to read your writing is even harder. It definitely keeps you humble.

This time, though, things were different. Once I got through my edits, I heard back from the agencies much quicker than I was used to…

Chapter One: Smut Sells

“I saw him the second he stepped into the traincar. His wide shoulders and strong, broad chest pressed against his shirt, straining the buttons that kept his torso covered. I knew that by the end of the trip, I would press my lips against the flesh that currently hid from my eyes. Yes, I would possess this golden Greek god by the time we reached Paris.”

These are the opening lines of my first success. I didn’t want to be famous for these words. However, in a horrid twist of fate, the world will not let me forget them. In fact, they are clamoring for a sequel.

It all started two years ago, during a phone call with my best friend. I had been unsuccessfully trying to publish a few novels for a while. I consider myself a decent writer, but getting published takes a special kind of skill: the ability to make yourself seem like a star. Your work has to speak for itself later, but at first blush, in order to get an agent, you need to really learn how to market yourself. I am not good at this…as evidenced by my hundreds of rejection letters, across three different projects.

“I don’t know, Jake, I almost want to give up on this and start something new. I’M interested in the stuff I’ve written, but maybe I’m the weird one. Maybe what I have to say here isn’t interesting enough to publish.”

Jake responded through a mouth full of his lunch on the other end of the phone.

“I don’t think that’s it, necessarily. You’re just…” he swallowed and continued, “not known. You don’t have a following or any work to prop you up. It’s like you’re applying for a job that requires experience, but no one in that field will hire you so that you can get experience. You just have to pitch the right project to the right person.”

I sighed. “Yeah…yeah, maybe. I just feel awful. I mean, I’ve written three novels, in three different genres, and no one has even sniffed the stories.”

Jake laughed. “You could always write a romance novel. Those don’t even have to be any good to get published.”

“I hope you can hear me roll my eyes from here. There is no way I am going to be known for writing smut.”

“Hey, maybe that’s your way into the industry. Plus, you could make some decent money off a steamy novel. I think you should give it a try.”

“Dude, I’ve never even had a steamy relationship. How on earth would I write about something I don’t know? Isn’t that rule number one?”

Jake scoffed. “Dave, do you think Stephen King knows what it’s like to be a post-apocalyptic cowboy? Or that Tolkien knew what it was like to be a talking tree? Come on. You’ve got an imagination; use it.”

“I promised I’d never use my super power for evil.”

“Smut novels aren’t evil. There is a lively market for them. People want these stories. Use your super power to make some money, ya dingus.”

“Uggghhh. Fine. I’m gonna write a romance novel, just to prove you wrong. I’m gonna show you that this time next year, I’m going to have four unpublished novels.”

“Sounds good to me. It can’t hurt to try.”

I shook my head and laughed. “I’m going to name the main character after you, just to make this as awkward for you as it is for me.”

Jake chuckled. “Even better. Hey, I gotta get back to work. I’ll call you on my way to the gym tonight. I expect you to have started outlining the next great American romance novel by then.”

I sighed once more. “Yeah, that’s fine. I guess I might as well get this written and get it out of the way.”

With that, I hung up the phone. I finished my coffee and sat down in front of my laptop. I had a hard time getting started. Then again, I always have a hard time getting started. I always get distracted. It took me an hour to think of a premise. I went with something on a whim, getting frustrated that this was looking harder than I had expected already.

“10:45 to Paris.” That was the phrase that came to mind. It’s possible that it was because I was watching Westerns for hours the night before, but regardless, it got the creative juices flowing. I started outlining a tale about a woman who met Jake, a beautiful man who might have been a Fabio stunt double, on a train from Berlin to Paris.

About two hours in, I decided I was going to cheat in my little wager with Jake. I needed to be sure that no agent would even think about picking up this manuscript. My concept needed to be over the top, involving spies and aliens and a love octagon. My dialogue needed to be grandiose and both outdated and uncomfortable. My love scenes needed to be clunky and awkward. I was suddenly getting excited about writing it; it became a comical mental exercise, writing the worst book I could imagine.

Who knew that was the secret to writing a New York Times Best Seller. It still hurts my soul when I think about it. But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit…

What Are You Waiting For

I’m always waiting for something. I’m waiting for the light to change. I’m waiting for my shift to start. I’m waiting for the washer to finish.

I’m waiting for something to change. I’m waiting for the right person to say the right thing. I’m waiting for my mind and my heart to heal. I’m waiting to feel normal. I’m waiting for an apology.

I’m waiting for clarity. I’m waiting for my thoughts to rise and my emotions to recede. I’m waiting for my circumstances to resolve. I’m waiting for the answer to be clear to me.

I’m waiting for someone to call. I’m waiting for someone to ask. I’m waiting for someone to try. I’m waiting for someone to be invested.

I’m waiting for the future. I’m waiting for my now to be a better now. I’m waiting for greener pastures. I’m waiting for my moment.

I’m waiting…until I’m more scared of waiting than I am of moving, of acting, of speaking. I’m waiting for courage. I’m waiting for the better me that must be right behind me.